TRUE TO MY POLICY of introducing fresh material for the benefit of
our readers on little recorded though potentially highly collectable
objects, this May-June 2000 number features for the cover article the
notable Francis and Kay Reif Collection of carved Chinese ambers. Mainly
18th and 19th century, included amongst several other types are vases,
figure and animal groups, mountain forms, immortals and mythical creatures,
snuff bottles, and rather more unlikely, an opium pipe (mainly of amber),
an archer's ring and an incense burner. Like the delightful boat with
phoenix bow, with its women in a canopied enclosure, boatmen and pile
of fish on its deck, I assume that the majority of the carved ambers
in the Reif Collection are decorative and did not have another assignable
use, as is confirmed by their display-type stands. In many cases these
stands are of complementary, beautifully carved hardwoods, though some
stands are also of amber, either separate or an integral part of the
It was in 1998 that the longtime contributor of articles to
ARTS OF ASIA, Barry Till, the Curator of Asian Art at the Gallery
of Greater Victoria, Canada, first wrote to me of the donation
of 131 pieces of carved Chinese amber (with a further forty
to follow) by Mrs Reif of Vancouver. "As far as we know this
is one of the largest collections of Chinese carved amber in
the world. Would Arts of Asia be interested…" Barry asked me.
So writing and putting together this wonderful record on the
subject, and including not only the Reif's superlative late
Qing examples, but also the historical background, has taken
Barry Till rather more than a year to assemble.
It has been well-worth our waiting, as it is much more than
just one dedicated curator's academic effort, for at the conclusion
of his article Barry Till thanks for their assistance two special
people: Paula Swart, the Curator of Asian Studies at the Vancouver
Museum (his wife, who has also written for ARTS OF ASIA on
several occasions, both jointly with her husband and by herself,
but always under her own name); and Yin Zhi-qiang, Director
and Professor at the Nanjing Museum, for sending information
and photographs of rare excavated Chinese amber carvings. As
a result, Barry Till's article is truly at this time an unsurpassed
record, which I am sure, for many years will be a valuable
Leading my Editorial is a photograph (1) of some of the
organisers at the opening night preview of the International
Asian Art Fair, held in New York on Thursday, March 23rd,
2000, at the Seventh Regiment Armory, Park Avenue at 67th
Street for the benefit of the Asia Society. From the left
they are: Khalil Rizk (Honorary Chairman), Vishakha N.
Desai (Senior Vice President, Asia Society), Nicholas Platt
Society), Wendi Murdoch (Gala Chairman), Toyohiko Mikimoto
(Gala Chairman), Henry Cornell (Gala Chairman), Mrs Randolph
Hearst (Honorary Chairman) and Rupert Murdoch (Gala Chairman).
Incidentally the post-preview dinner for collectors was hosted
It is reported that 985 full-price tickets at US$175 were
sold by the Asia Society for the opening night preview (amongst
which were three we ourselves bought for our own ARTS OF ASIA
guests). However, the total attendance at the Gala preview
was approximately 1400. The Asia Society, founded in 1956 by
John D. Rockefeller 3rd "as an educational non-profit organisation
dedicated to deepening the understanding of Asia…, at this
year's Gala raised US$550,000, the highest amount since the
Fair's inception and was chaired by Rupert Murdoch and his
wife Wendi, with Mrs Randolph Hearst serving as Honorary Chair."
That is the official statement. How about my own reaction?
This year, unlike previous years on the opening night, the
ladies were not "dressed to kill". They were there with their
husbands, in a very businesslike way, looking at what was offered
on the various stands very seriously. Both husbands and wives
were interested buyers. When I made my own tour a little later,
already there was a red dot on my favourite piece on John Eskenazi's
stand: an 11th/12th century sculpture of the Hindu god Ganesha
(which is also seen on page 2 of this magazine). Listed at
over US$500,000, it was sold to an American museum, which is
no surprise, as it is in remarkably fine condition with a beautiful
even green patina.
Once again Anna and Brian Haughton,(2)
the organisers, definitely deserve full credit for making
the ambience of the exhibition quite stunning, with
almost a surfeit of yellow orchids and flowering trees,
and comfortable and colourful benches for visitors and
exhibitors to relax and converse spaced along the promenades
giving access to the stands. Doing just this,(3) are
Alan Chait, the President of Ralph M. Chait Galleries,
Inc. and his son Andrew. Another successful stand was
that of the Belgium dealer, Gisèle Croës.(4)
The following day, on my visit, she was as usual drawing
many visitors, although a number of the most important
early bronze and pottery pieces had already been sold
to various American museums, foundations and important
It was an education for me to see her authentic Shang dynasty,
Eastern Zhou, Warring States and Han bronzes in all their force
and splendour. I am delighted to recommend to our readers her
catalogue, "Life for the After-Life, Selected Objects", with
commentary in English and shorter captions in French.
As usual our own stand was packed with visitors during
the Gala preview night as well as during the next six days.
It was generally agreed that the posters and displays of
our magazines were one of our best yet. Of the two pictures
I have room for, the first (5) shows grouped with me my
American daughter-in-law, Shari Markbreiter (my second
son Michael's wife), my dear friend Robin Duke, who I congratulate
on having recently been appointed the American Ambassador
to Norway, and Simone and Alan Hartman, longtime supporters
of ARTS OF ASIA; seen in the second picture, (6) is a happy
Isadore (Izzy) Chait, the founder/owner of I. M. Chait
Gallery, who was first introduced to myself and the magazine
so many years ago by Alan Hartman.
While the ordinary visitor to the Fair could relax and
enjoy it as an exceptional opportunity to see in a single
huge hall an assemblage of top Asian art by selective
Asian art dealers from across the world, for myself,
between talking to the constant visitors to our own stand,
it meant work as well as pleasure and circulating amongst
those of others and recording their owners' opinions,
market assessments and trends. Of the many interviews
that resulted, my son Robin was an invaluable help in
recording the following for our readers, published here
without my own questions, but with the essentials of
the owners' responses.
Alexander Götz (Alexander Götz):
I am more than elated as I sold two important
pieces to two new clients. It is a big coup for
me. I sold my third major piece to an old American
This does not include seven other less important works of
art. It is interesting to note that for the first time three
important stone sculptures from Cambodia, one from Doris Wiener,
one from John Eskenazi and one from myself were sold. The only
complaint I can think of is the vetting was inconsistent this
year. The attendance was good and I like it because there were
many new people coming.
China 2000 Fine Art
(Leon Wender): We did very well.
This was a risky venture. We were not sure how people would
consider what we were showing. Established international collectors
bought things and this was the exciting part. We showed socialist
art with a social purpose as they were hung in the "great walls
of the people" and in books. I am content the way the Fair
is. Every year the Haughtons improve the Fair. The relationship
between exhibitors is a happy one and not at all adversary.
We also had great weather and we are very lucky because I am
one of the few people who enjoy what I am doing. No one forces
me to do what I am doing.
Doris and Nancy Wiener
(Doris and Nancy Wiener): A
very good Fair. It would be nice to see more variety, for example
someone dealing in Anglo-Indian furniture. I would like to
see more tribal. It would be interesting. We did so well on
opening night. That was really astonishing. There was competition
for pieces. People were not dressed up so much.
E&J Frankel Ltd
(Edith Frankel): We did fantastically
this week and we sold a lot of sculptures at the gallery. I
think there is something missing in the Fair. There is just
some excitement missing. It could end on Monday, it does not
have to be as long as it is. It is not the Fair's job to make
the dealers friendly. The Fair is not as friendly as before.
There is a sense of competition.
John Eskenazi Ltd
(Mrs Eskenazi): We sold the Ganesha
on the opening night to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It
has been very successful. Less social but more interest from
the public with more questions being asked about the pieces.
I think it is very well organised, though it may be a little
long. They could cut one day. The first three days are the
really exciting ones. Now the Fair is like an appointment and
in people's diaries. This is important so people get used to
coming. It is just fine the way it is. In New York we are selling
to an American audience. At this moment the American market
is growing and the American museums are so active not just
buying but also promoting art through exhibitions.
Li Yin Arts Co. Ltd
(Li Yin Tsai): Around 19 objects
sold out of 25. This year is better than last year. This year
is the best for me. We can do better because each year we learn
more correctly American taste. This year we focused more. In
the future we should do even better and thank you very much
for introducing visitors to our stand. We sold mostly to Americans
and American dealers. The Fair is too long. The most important
days are opening night, the first and last day. This year more
museum people are coming to see us.
P. C. Lu Works of Art Ltd
(Stephen Lu): I think the
show could be a little shorter. It is the best Asian Art Fair
and this is good. The vetting should be more flexible. The
vetting should be more specialised but it is a thankless job.
(Robert Hall): We have done very well.
It has been good. Last year was probably better. This year
we were doing Maastricht at the same time. We had 120 bottles
in Maastricht. We keep the gallery stocked and we had 120 here.
New York is a booming market. Our display has attracted younger
people. Lots of very good bottles have gone and part of that
has been due to going out to the people not just at the Fair.
We did just a little less business than last year. One thing
did affect us is that we were disadvantaged because of the
snuff bottle sale taking place before the Fair. The organisers
should bring the Fair earlier to hit the auctions and provide
more choice. We saw fewer people from Taiwan and the bar prices
are too high!
S. Marchant & Son
(Richard Marchant): Our best show
was three years ago. This year we sold our wonderful wucai
brushrest. That was an important sale. We buy less and less
these days at auctions and usually only bid for clients. We
sold mainly to Americans. People seem to think we have nice
things. Overall the vetting is about as good as it can be.
It starts at 11 am to 7 pm. It takes a very long time and towards
the end of the day we were exhausted.
(Sandra Whitman): It has been wonderful
as it is the first time I am exhibiting at the Fair. We have
had such a wonderful reception and a lot of interest in our
important pieces such as the 18th century Khotan. What was
so rewarding was that people took time to look at the labels.
We had a wonderful response and had a great position in the
Fair. I sold 16 rugs and I had serious interest in the Khotan
and silk rugs.
(Robert Coffland): We feel fantastic. We
sold all types of things from Japanese baskets to Indonesian
and Japanese textiles. We sold a very major Japanese textile.
I would love to see some German and Swiss dealers. There are
German and Swiss collectors coming to the fair. There are definitely
many European collectors. Some exhibitors need some help with
their booth designs.
The Chinese Porcelain Company
(Khalil Rizk): Bobby
Ellsworth was very gracious about his piece being vetting out.
He is the Honorary Chairman and John Eskenazi and I are the
joint Chairmen of the Vetting Committee, which is working late
to protect the public. We will not try to be more lenient.
If we are given a job we have to do the best we can to be fair
to the public. We also want the dealers to be happy therefore
we are thorough. It is human to make mistakes but we are trying
our best. We almost killed ourselves to try to be good. I even
had something vetted out. We will never be lenient. We will
always be strict. We will never change the decision of the
committee. We have done better than ever.
The Tolman Collection of Tokyo
(Norman Tolman): We
brought Chinese things for the first time and will do a one-man
show at the 20th Century Show. This year we have expanded our
booth by 50 per cent to introduce our Chinese paintings. I
think the show is mutually beneficial for collectors and exhibitors.
With fourteen thousand visitors and fifty-eight major dealers
including twenty-four from London, one from Brussels, another
from Amsterdam, twenty-four from America, two from Japan, three
from Taiwan, one from Beijing, and two from Hong Kong, this
International Asian Art Fair was in the opinion of ARTS OF
ASIA's international subscribers the best ever staged in America.
But this is not the end for Anna and Brian Haughton to the
attention they give to it.
"Our Fair has always been successful since day one," Brian
told me when I interviewed him on April 29th, the final day. "This
Fair has created Asia Week in New York. Like a flower, the
Fair needs constant attention to blossom. Because it is here
it has helped others to create special exhibitions at societies,
including the Japan Society, museums and dealers. It drew the
whole of Asia Week together. Financially, New York is number
one, because quite frankly the money is here. With the American
market you have to work at it. You have to get to know the
collectors and they want to know you. We have been doing fairs
here for fifteen years and it took me as a dealer two to four
years to get to know the collectors and to build trust."
According to Anna, "We are always thinking quietly about what
we can do better. Thinking in a creative way. This year we
increased our advertising budget and we had Fox 5, Channel
9, CNN and ABC come to interview. The people who have galleries
in Manhattan say they have never seen so many new buyers and
this is very encouraging. We need them to expand and stay alive.
We are always delighted when the Fair is a great success for
the dealers and we are also happy that their pieces receive
"There are a lot of Asians living in America who are very
successful. This is where the market is. In the front of the
Fair we have a card for people to fill in for more information
about the Fair. I have seen tons of ARTS OF ASIA magazines
At every new annual Fair I am happy to be able to say we
sell more and more subscriptions and back issues at our stand,
which we take time to make attractive and greet warmly hundreds
of our readers. I enjoy answering their questions so that I
can assess their wants. I must say I am truly touched by their
love of the magazine, including my own Editorial. On this latest
occasion, with my assistant, Sondra Bishop's and Robin's help,
we sold 658 copies of back issues of the magazine as well as
many new subscriptions.
Until July 19th, the Japan Society Gallery
at 333 East 47th Street, New York, is exhibiting Japanese
Treasures from the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. This
is a fascinating exhibition of forty-seven selected entries
from the collection, with an explanatory brochure which
has acknowledgements by Alexandra Munroe (Director, Japan
Society Gallery), an introductory essay by Emily Sano (Director,
The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco), fourteen of the
forty-seven exhibits illustrated in colour, dating from
a 6th century Haniwa warrior (7) to a pair of six-panel
screens by Maruyama Okyo (1733-1795), and an article with
plan, perspective and model of the New Asian Art Museum's
Galleries by the architect of the conversions of the old
buildings, Dott. Gae Aulenti. I can highly recommend those
who visit New York City to make sure to visit the exhibition
in time. It is a must for collectors of Japanese art.
During Asia Week 2000 the Arts of Pacific Asia Show returned to New York
City for four days from March 23rd to 26th. It was successful, with seventy
exhibitors and nine thousand visitors. I would have liked to have spent
longer with my friends, but unfortunately had to cut short my visit due
to a dizzy spell, but I promise to spend more time with them
next year. However, before I left, I was pleasantly surprised
to see at the Zentner Collection stand their 17th century Nepalese
Dispankara figure (8), quite similar to the one known to me
in the Avery Brundage Collection at the San Francisco Asian
In May I hope to be able to visit London. I look forward to
seeing then the exhibition at the British Museum, "Visions
from the Golden Land, Burma and the Art of Lacquer", which
runs from April 8th to August 13th, 2000. A recent gift to
the British Museum by Mr and Mrs R. Isaacs of a magnificent
collection of Burmese lacquerware has provided the core of
the exhibition, complemented by loans from both national and
regional collections around the UK. A book due to be published
before the end of April 2000, Visions from the Golden Land,
Burma and the Art of Lacquer
(£40 hard cover, £25
soft cover), co-authored by Ralph Isaacs and Richard Blurton,
Assistant Keeper at the British Museum, features some 200 items
that demonstrate the immense skill of the Burmese craftsmen.
A series of essays examine the history of Burmese lacquer,
its production, variations and inscriptions on the vessels.
Just in time to appear in my Editorial is the copyright
photograph of Ralph Isaacs with Richard Blurton at the
entrance of the new exhibition of which Ralph Isaacs
is a generous donator of many objects (9).
According to a letter I received from Richard Blurton on April
2nd, they believe "that this is the first major exhibition
about Burma to be seen in this country-indeed perhaps anywhere
outside Burma-since the 1826 exhibition at the Egyptian Hall
in Piccadilly! It is a sobering fact."
Finally, can I bring the attention of our readers to the
S. Marchant & Son sale from Sunday June 4th to Friday June
23rd, of the collection of our longtime friend, the former
Maître d. at the Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon of the world
famous Gaddi's restaurant-The Rolf Heiniger Collection of Qing
Imperial Wares, which Richard Marchant helped to form. I am
sure Rolf Heiniger will see this note in my Editorial, because
in the old days, we now all miss, he came personally nearly
every two months to choose his latest subscription copy so
that he would be absolutely sure it was in mint condition.
My husband joins me in wishing the sale great success. In his
catalogue, Richard Marchant provides a most enlightening profile
A variety of pieces seen on the dealers'
stands at the International Asian Art Fair
Mathura, red sandstone, mid-2nd century AD
Height 70 cm., width 60 cm., depth 10 cm.
-- Alexander Götz
Large painted pottery model of a Bactrian camel carrying
Early Tang dynasty, 7th century AD
Height 80 cm.
-- Berwald Oriental Art
Chairman Mao's Poetry
Watercolour on paper
102 x 39.7 cm
-- China 2000 Fine Art
Buddha standing in Varada mudra
Sandstone with traces of gilding Vietnam,
Tra Vinh, 17th century
Height 48.3 cm.
-- Doris Wiener
Two geisha entertainers practicing
Tanchosai Morifusa, c. 1820
Ink, colour, gofun and gold on silk
103.5 x 39.4 cm. (each scroll)
-- Joan B. Mirviss, Ltd
Mekong Delta, Cambodia/Vietnam Wood, 5th/6th century
Height 119 cm.
-- John Eskenazi Ltd
Magistrate Tien A-Sha Funerary Couch Northern Wei dynasty,
Shiao Chang third year of Emperor Shiao Ming Di (527
Height 96 cm., length 220 cm., depth 115 cm
-- Li Yin Arts Co. Ltd
Appliqued thanka of Maitreya
Composed of 18th century Chinese silks Bhutan, 19th century
115 x 90 cm.
-- Linda Wrigglesworth Ltd
Pair of large framed watercolour paintings depicting
the Emperor in the Summer Palace China, 19th century
104.8 x 71.2 cm.
-- P.C. Lu Works of Art Ltd
Imperial porcelain blue and white
landscape beaker cup
China, Kangxi six-character mark
and of the period
Height 7.6 cm.
-- Roger Keverne
Jade boulder of craggy mountain
form worked in low relief with a
waterfall and pine
The stone of mottled celadon
green and russet tone
China, 18th century
Height 17.2 cm
-- S. Marchant & Son
Yarkand (?) rug
East Turkestan, c. 1800
406.4 x 175.3 cm.
-- Sandra Whitman
Sheet gold over a resin core Vietnam, 7th century
Height 44 cm., diameter of base 22.2 cm.
-- The Chinese Porcelain Company