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editorials - September - October 2001

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"MONKS AND MERCHANTS-Silk Road Treasures from Northeast China, Gansu and Ningxia Provinces, 4th-7th Century" is the most important exhibition the Asia Society has mounted for a number of years. The pieces are absolutely stunning and reflect the richness and diversity of objects and ideas that were transmitted along the Silk Road. It surely deserves its lead article position in this September-October 2001 issue.

The Asia Society recommended Arts of Asia to commission her article from Susan Beningson, a young American scholar who has been involved in the project from its very beginning, enabling her to explore the main themes and highlight the outstanding objects she illustrates for our readers. These range from magnificent Buddhist sculpture to gold and silver reliquaries, from Central Asian metalwork to Sassanian glass, stone tomb doors, and uniquely a bronze figure performing the famous Sogdian whirl. The story that is told is how trans-Asian trade and new religious faith transformed Chinese civilisation. With practically all of the objects shown being seen for the first time in America, this special exhibition marks the reopening of the Asia Society in October 2001 at its New York, 725 Park Avenue location, where Dr Colin Mackenzie is Associate Director and Curator of Galleries.

The upgraded building consists of auditorium, lobby and garden court, two floors of galleries, four floors of offices, topped with conference rooms at the highest level (1). The Asia Society is commissioning eight major new works from nine Asian and Asian American artists as part of its current US$30 million expansion and renovation. The works are intended as long-term installations in the society's public spaces, and will include a large-scale wall mural, seating arrangements in the main lobby, a neon and water sculpture in the new garden court, and other installations throughout the building.

Dr Hiram Woodward has been Curator of Asian Art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, since 1986. He is the author of The Sacred Sculpture of Thailand: The Alexander B. Griswold Collection (1997). An earlier contributor to Arts of Asia, for our September-October 2001 issue he reviews the exhibition "Desire and Devotion-The Ford Collection and the Interpretation of Tantric Art", which catalogued by Dr Pratapaditya Pal opens at the Walters on Saturday, October 20th this year. With 150 works, the exhibition will travel afterwards to Santa Barbara, Birmingham and Albuquerque.

Dr Woodward, in his essay, explores the complexity and variety of this exhibition's title. Through eighteen exhibits he has selected, ranging from Krishna subject Indian miniature paintings; Nepalese, Indian and West Bengal bronzes and copper alloys dating from the 10th to 16th centuries; 1st, 10th and 11th centuries Indian sandstone sculpture; a 16th century Nepalese mandala; and 15th and 17th centuries Tibetan painted thangkas. The Ford's painting of The Saviour Goddess Tara and Other Deities is shown on the cover of the Walters Art Museum's promotional kit which I assume has been released to more general magazines.

"Desire and Devotion" inaugurates newly designed galleries as a featured presentation of the Walter's Art Museum's grand reopening celebration. The museum's extensive US$22 million renovation project lasted nearly three years. The transformation of the largest of the museum's three buildings will provide thirty-nine newly configured and refurbished galleries, a new four-storey glass entryway opening dramatically onto the street, an array of expanded public spaces, and technological upgrades that include orientation kiosks, touch-screen learning kiosks, and a 300-stop audio tour.

Pottery architectural models for Chinese burial purposes (called mingqi) have been conveniently described as "pottery houses" in Yang Boda's cover article for this number, where they come from three Chinese provinces: Henan, Guangzhou and Sichuan. Yang Boda, who is Emeritus Director of the Palace Museum, Beijing, is the leading authority on Chinese works of art, although his writings are rarely available in English. However, the outstanding world-famous scholar accepts our regular commissions, because he knows we will have his articles translated as clearly as possible. With seventeen Han dynasty examples, Yang Boda not only describes the architecture of the period-houses, watchtowers, pavilions, a granary and a well-but also captures the daily life of the social classes and architectural features of these "pottery houses".

Bill Shang, who is teaching at Kiki International University in Okayama, Japan, is the author of a history of the Pearl River Delta. He writes about and illustrates the landmarks that help to date China Trade paintings, including those seen in Canton (Guangzhou) and its vicinity-Honan (Henan) Island, Whampoa, Bocca Tigris and the Anunghoy (Weiyuan) Batteries. He divides his dating into three periods: first (1717-1814), second (1815-1835) and third (1836-1843), following which new Treaty Ports opened to foreign trade along the China Coast.

Especially I would like to draw our readers' attention to the article "Views from the West-Chinese Pith Paper Paintings" by Ifan Williams, a former university administrator, who has donated a collection of pith paper watercolours to the City of Guangzhou. The opening ceremony on Sunday, September 30th, 2001 at 10 am is at the Guangzhou Museum, Zhenhai Tower, Yuexiu Park, Guangzhou, PRC. For further details please contact Dr Cheng Cunjie, Vice-Director, Guangzhou Museum, tel: 86-20-83562150, e-mail: ccj-gm@163.net. People of that Chinese city will be able to see examples of the studio craft which were exported in the 19th century by their forebears.

For a variety of reasons such paintings on pith paper have been undervalued. But the author, Ifan Williams, has spent several years on his subject searching the major sources in Europe, the public collections of Chinese Export watercolours on pith paper of the trading countries which had Canton bases: Denmark, Sweden, France, the Netherlands, America and Great Britain. He discusses the Chinese studios and their named artists and subjects. His information will be found invaluable to both dealers and collectors of these delicate paintings.

An exhibition will be held from September 21st through November 4th, 2001 in the showroom of E&J Frankel Ltd, one of New York's oldest Asian art galleries. Located at 1040 Madison Avenue at 79th Street, the showroom is open Monday to Saturday from 10:30 am to 5:30 pm. The exhibition, entitled "Woven Dreams", will cover the development of Chinese silk manufacture from 1100 to 1850.
Included are Chinese textile items of apparel, with appropriate accessories such as mandarin rank badges and a variety of pouches. Examples available both for display or to be worn include brocades, embroidery techniques and needlework ranging from satin stitch to couching to petit point. Of secular themes, a skirt with embroidery depicts the China Trade of the 19th century, while religious subjects include a rare 18th century Sino-Tibetan kesi tapestry of the deity Vajrasattva (2).

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Some of our regular readers may remember Edith J. Frankel's excellent article "The Scholar's Rock" in the September-October 1995 Arts of Asia, pp. 138-145. Of particular usefulness, quite apart from the range of illustrations, is the nineteen entry bibliography.

China 2000 Fine Art (5 East 57th Street in Manhattan) announces an exhibition "Field of Stones: Scholar Rocks, Inkstones, and Paintings" from September 13th to October 24th, 2001, gallery hours Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 6 pm. The exhibition is supported by a full colour catalogue. Writing of the exhibition, Karen Wender says it "is dedicated to the passion of two great connoisseurs, Robert Hatfield Ellsworth and Richard Rosenblum, who inspired us to delve into the subject with penetrating intensity and emerge with this erudite yet enchanting exhibition…

"There are formulaic criteria for judging the merits of a rock that is equated with the aesthetics of Chinese culture on a scholar-literati level. These formal qualities include resonance, surface texture, and a pierced structure with deep undercuts and hollows. All these elements are derived from a deeply philosophical approach to the nature of energy in the universe…


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"The classic Taihu limestone, of which the exhibition has several, is the embodiment of the transformational passage of energy in the universe." To illustrate this aspect, husband and fellow Chinese art scholar, Leon Wender has released for my Editorial a colour slide of a Tiahu scholar rock (height 20 inches) with hongmu (red wood) base, which is seen in the exhibition (3). Incidentally, although such natural weather-beaten stones were submerged by the Chinese in the moving currents of rivers and lakes to exaggerate their natural forms, the aesthetic has been understood in the West through the work of such 20th century sculptors as Henry Moore.
A highlight of my recent trip with Robin to Bangkok was the invitation to see a private collection of Cambodian bronzes belonging to Mr Saravut Vacharaphol Yee, the owner of the Rath newspaper which has a printed daily circulation in Thai of two million copies. We were invited to his private suite in his printing factory where we were treated to a sumptuous Thai dinner in the surroundings of his outstandingly beautiful and well displayed bronze sculptures. A youthful-looking Mr Yee, in his forties, is in the foreground of the picture (4) with his cousin and Production Manager Kitti Yimlamai standing behind him. Mr Yee has collected seriously since some fifteen years. It was a distinctive honour for us, on behalf of Arts of Asia and its readers, to be given such a courteous and warm invitation and enjoyable evening.


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The Silom Galleria, Thailand's latest major retail centre for jewellery, is now expanding into arts and antiques. It is located (see map) on 919/1 Silom Road, Bangrak, Bangkok 10500, opposite the Central Silom Department Store and next to the Holiday Inn. Mr Watt Chirathivat, Executive Vice President of Tiang Chirathivat Real Estate Co. Ltd, says his family company took over the operations of the building in late 2000 and immediately started revamping it in terms of decoration, marketing strategies and status. A major fifty-five floor towered building, the retail area is a five-storey element with a total space of 27,030 square metres. As well as retail shops, it includes exhibition facilities, food court, central area and well-appointed meeting rooms.

Map

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On my recent visit to this spacious high-rise building with Robin we had time to visit several of the galleries, including Acala (336 Silom Galleria) of our friend Andy Rogers. We also learnt a great deal from meeting Mr Adul Honggchintakul (5) of Adul Collection (120 Silom Galleria) who invited us to his home in Bangkok's Chinatown to see his fabulous collections of Bencharong (uniquely Thai polychrome enamel ceramic wares), antique furniture, amulets and coins.
I have known William Chak of Chak's Company Limited (76-78 Hollywood Road) for over twenty years, since when he was working for his master Mr Wong at Fook Shing Antiques. This was even before he married his attractive and very capable wife Priscilla (who incidentally is the younger sister of Mr Hon Lau of Hollywood Galleries, specialising in Tibetan and Himalayan art and antiques at 81A Hollywood Road). Early in his career William was most interested in Chinese ceramics and found it a challenging and rewarding field to pursue. Born in 1956 and educated in Hong Kong, William is reading part-time for his PhD in archaeology, which requires his spending two days each week in Beijing to attend lectures and tutorials. William also told me he lectures on Chinese export porcelain to Chinese collectors, academics and museum curators, who are less knowledgeable on this subject.

For the past few years I have seen him actively buying in Hong Kong, New York and London auction rooms for his many Chinese collectors, as well as for his gallery he founded locally in 1988. One of William's best attributes is his willingness to spend time with his clients to point out the intricacies, merits and values of Chinese porcelain. The trust he has built up with his collectors is very strong-they even call him right after his bidding at auctions to find out exactly what he has purchased, frequently convincing him to sell them the pieces. This is what happened

in the London June 2001 Asia Week sales where he spent approximately GBP1.3 million in total (Sotheby's: GBP810,897, Christie's: GBP376,600, Phillips: GBP98,595) buying many of the most important lots. Three pieces he purchased in London are seen in Robin's photograph of myself with the Chaks in their gallery (6). The large Qianlong mark and period celadon vase pictured on the left was Sotheby's cover lot purchased for GBP289,000 (including buyer's premium). The bidding opened at GBP150,000, but William believes the price for this vase could fetch much higher in Hong Kong, perhaps around HK$4 million or GBP358,700.


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As a Vietnamese, I was delighted to attend the exhibition "The Scent of Green Papaya" of oil paintings by Vietnamese artists Nguyen Dieu Thuy and Le Quan, held on June 20th at Zee Stone Gallery (G/F, Yu Yuet Lai Building, 43-55 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong). The exhibition featured Mr Quan's colourful street scenes (7) which are very popular with the Hong Kong collectors of paintings. Ms Thuy's paintings are more delicate and focus on female portraits and flowers such as lotus. Fifteen paintings by each artist were offered and sales were good.

Please check with the Index to Advertisers and locate the Cloudband.com latest advertisement-I am sure you will find it intriguing. The gentleman reclining on the cushioned sofa in the "Turkish Room" at his house in Rochefort sur Mer is that famous French Orientalist and novelist Pierre Loti, who amongst other romantic novels wrote Madame Chrysanthème (published in 1888-the year when the photograph was also taken), set in Japan. This is the first of a series of advertisements using a late 19th century photograph, of which Alan Marcusson, CEO of Cloudband.com says "The new advertisements aim to cut through the current mould of magazine advertising in the field of art and antiques. We are not a dealership and we're not an antiques fair-we're a website and I did not want our advertisements to look like any of theirs..." The campaign has two objectives, to communicate the benefits that Cloudband.com has to offer the buyer, browser or seller, and to encourage people to explore the site.

Following the reopening of the Musee Guimet earlier this year, which I attended and reported on in my March-April Editorial, the first Salon International D'Art Asiatique is being held in Paris from October 5th-8th, 2001. Twenty well-established named dealers with notable galleries in their own countries are taking part in this initial Paris fair at the Hotel du Rond Point on the Champs Elysees. The participating galleries come from Belgium, England, Japan, Switzerland, America and France itself. Some half of these galleries are based in London. Richard Marchant of S. Marchant & Son (120 Kensington Church Street, London W8 4BH), is one of the London dealers who has told me they will be taking part, whose latest catalogue of the "Ming Blue and White Porcelain: The Dr. A.M. Sengers Collection" should by then be available.

Exhibitor from France, Myrna Myers, plans to show at the Hotel du Rond Point a range of celadons and blue and white porcelain, Asian silks, early jade carvings and Buddhist works of art, touching as well on lacquer and ivory. From October 6th to November 17th, 2001 she will also present an exhibition of Korean art at her own gallery (11 rue de Beaune, Paris 75007). The Korean works will include ceramics from the Silla to the Chosen periods, furniture, paintings and textiles. Highlights in the varied group of ceramics are a duck-shaped stoneware vessel of the 5th-6th century and a solidly potted underglaze blue and copper red porcelain jar of the 18th-19th century freely painted with a phoenix gliding among clouds (8).

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Based in Paris and exhibiting during the same time in his own gallery, while extending for a longer period from October 2nd to November 20th, Jacques Barrere (36, rue Mazarine, Paris 75006) will have on exhibition gilded Buddhist bronzes from Tibet and China. Included is a gilded bronze Tibetan tantric deity in embrace with his female counterpart or sakti (9) which Jacques Barrere dates to the 15th century. Their regalia and some of the attributes are set with turquoise semiprecious stones. I am presently studying for myself when such attributes were first made separately and are incorporated into such figure groups rather than being cast together as a unit at the same time. As a result the attributes are sometimes moveable, a possible indication for dating, and I would welcome advice on this point.
For the fourth Asian Art in London activities from November 8th-16th the organisers have selected a special venue for their gala dinner, The State Apartments, Kensington Palace, with recital in aid of Historic Royal Palaces for the restoration of Queen Mary's Gallery and Apartments, on Tuesday, November 13th from 6:30 to 11 pm. Of the fifty dealers and auction houses who are participating this year, like previous years, their evening receptions and opening days will be grouped by location-Kensington Church Street, West London, Chelsea, Hampstead and Pimlico (November 10th); St James's (November 11th); and Mayfair (November 12th). For Arts of Asia international subscribers who have to plan their travel schedule carefully due to limited time, we have listed the most important events on the following page. It would be advisable to confirm the dates and venues with the organisers when planning to attend.

MUSEUM EXHIBITIONS

British Museum, September 3rd-December 2nd, the exhibition "Shinto-The Sacred Art of Ancient Japan" focuses on art and artefacts, including primeval earthenware figures and paintings associated with Shintoism.

Victoria and Albert Museum, September 19th, 2001-March 3rd, 2002, the exhibition "The Japanese Sword-The Soul of the Samurai" concentrates on Japanese blades and mountings, 14th-early 20th century. On Wednesday, November 15th "Kamajura-Bori-500 years of Japanese lacquered wood carving". Demonstrations of woodcarving on November 17th-18th. Details Justine Lewis, tel. 020 7422 2244.

IMPORTANT LECTURES

Asia House presents on Thursday, November 8th at 6:30-7:30 pm (time to be confirmed) "Only Fools and Horses? In the Steppes of Muhammad Siyah Qalam" by Dr Julian Raby of the Oriental Institute, University of Oxford. Over-Seas House (venue to be confirmed), Park Place, St James's Street, London SW1A 1LR, details Membership programme, tel. 020 7499 1287.

Phillips presents a lecture and book launch on Friday, November 9th, 6:30 pm "The Hoi An Wreck-Redating Vietnamese Ceramics" by Dr Mensun Bound, Excavation Director of the Hoi An Shipwreck project of St Peter's College, Oxford University. At 7:30 pm Phillips also presents "Japanese Ceramics in the 20th century". Phillips, 110 New Bond Street, London W1S 1SR, details Colin Sheaf, tel. 020 7468 8237.

Linda Wrigglesworth, three day gallery lecture series, Saturday to Monday, November 10th-12th at 10:30 am "Five and Nine" by Gary Dickenson. Number and symbol in Chinese textile art. Linda Wrigglesworth Ltd, 34 Brook Street, London W1Y 1YA, tel. 020 7408 0177.

Joss Graham Oriental Textiles presents on Saturday, November 10th at 2:30 pm "Narrative Cloth" by Joss Graham. Pictorial textiles from the world's great religions-Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. Joss Graham Oriental Textiles, 10 Eccleston Street, London SW1W 9LT, tel. 020 7730 4370.

Christie's and the Oriental Ceramics Society present at Christie's on Sunday, November 11th at 5:30 pm "Vietnamese Ceramics from the Hoi An Shipwreck" by John Guy, Deputy Curator of the Indian & Southeast Asian Department, Victoria & Albert Museum. Christie's, 5-8 King Street, London SW1Y 6QT, details Rosemary Scott, tel. 020 7389 2579.

Lecture and book launch on Monday, November 12th at 6 pm "Discovering the Ming" by Jessica Harrison-Hall, Assistant Keeper of Chinese Ceramics, British Museum. Stevenson Lecture Theatre, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG, details Penelope Vogler, tel. 020 7323 1234.

Asia House lecture on Monday, November 12th at 6:30 pm "Why the British Indian Empire Ended?" by Patrick French. The Royal Institution, 21 Albermarle Street, London W1X 4BS, details Katriana Haxell, tel. 020 7499 1287.

Victoria & Albert Museum Annual Benjamin Zucker lecture on Mughal art on Tuesday, November 13th at 7 pm "The Chronicles of Akbar-the Making of a Royal Manuscript" by Susan Stronge, Assistant Curator of the Indian & Southeast Asian Department, V&A. Victoria & Albert Museum, Lecture Theatre, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL, details Nick Barnard, tel. 020 7942 2323.

The Circle of Inner Asian Art presents a lecture on Wednesday, November 14th at 6-8 pm "Secrets and True Knowledge-Looking Afresh at Song Painting" by Prof. Roderick Whitfield of SOAS. School of Oriental and African Studies, Main Building (also known as Philips Building), Basement Lecture Theatre, Thornhaugh Street, London WC1H 0XG), details Lilla Russel-Smith, tel. 020 7898 4464.

The Iran Heritage Foundation presents a lecture on Wednesday, November 14th at 6:30 pm "Isfahan-Brisk Work or Black Magic" by Prof. Robert Hillenbrand, University of Edinburgh. Sponsored by Dr David Khalili. Locarno Rooms, The Foreign Office, King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AH, details Iran Heritage Foundation, tel. 020 7493 4766.

Lecture on Wednesday, November 14th at 6 pm "Building a Vietnamese Collection" by Jessica Harrison-Hall, Assistant Keeper of Chinese ceramics, British Museum. The Winter Olympia Fine Art & Antiques Fair, National Hall, Olympia exhibition Centre, Warwick Road, London SW5 9TA, tel. 020 7370 8345.

The Japan Society presents a lecture on Thursday, November 15th at 6:30 pm "The Edo View of London" by Dr Timon Screech, Sainsbury Institute. Lecture courtesy of Sotheby's and Sotheby's Institute. Sotheby's Olympia, Hammersmith Road, London W14 8UX, details Captain Robert Guy, tel. 020 7636 3029.

IMPORTANT AUCTIONS

Chinese Works of Art at Christie's South Kensington on Thursday, November 8th. Christie's South Kensington, 85 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 3LD, tel. 020 7581 7611.

Chinese and Japanese Ceramics & Works of Art, including Textiles and Fans at Phillips on Monday, November 12th. Phillips, 101 New Bond Street, London W1S 1SR, details Seonaid Maclean-Bristol, tel. 020 7468 8248.

Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art-Chinese Export Art at Christie's on Tuesday, November 13th. Christie's, 8 King Street, London SW1Y 6QT, tel. 020 7389 2572.

Contemporary Japanese Crafts-Mingei to the Present Day at Phillips on Tuesday, November 13th. Phillips, 101 New Bond Street, London W1S 1SR, details Seonaid Maclean-Bristol, tel. 020 7468 8248.

Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art at Sotheby's on November 14th. Sotheby's, 34-35 New Bond Street, London W1A 2AA, details Alastair Gibson, tel. 020 7293 6442.

Japanese Art and Design at Christie's on Wednesday, November 14th. Christie's, 8 King Street, London SW1Y 6QT, details Mark Hilton, tel. 020 7389 2595.

Japanese Prints, Paintings & Works of Art at Sotheby's Olympia on Thursday, November 15th. Sotheby's Olympia, Hammersmith Road, London W14 8UX, details Suzannah Yip, tel. 020 7293 5725.

Asian Costume & Textiles at Christie's South Kensington on Friday, November 16th. Christie's South Kensington, 85 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 3LD, tel. 020 7581 7611.

Chinese Works of Art including the Henry Guiness de Lazlo Collection at Sotheby's Olympia on Friday, November 16th. Sotheby's Olympia, Hammersmith Road, London W14 8UX, details Julian King, tel. 020 7293 5148.

ADDITIONAL SPECIAL EVENTS

Symposium on Sunday, November 11th from 9 am-4:30 pm, "Conserving Art-Preserving Culture: Approaches and Methodologies in the Conservation of Tibetan Art". Circle of Tibetan and Himalayan Studies, Lecture Theatre, Brunei Gallery, SOAS, University of London, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG, details Dr Ullrich Pagel, tel. 020 7898 4782.

Study day on Thursday, November 15th at 10 am "Oriental Porcelain decorated in Europe" organised by the Oriental ceramic Society. Stevenson Lecture Theatre, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG, details Education Department, tel. 020 7323 8511/8854.

Exhibition opening on Thursday, November 15th "Contemporary Japanese Jewellery" a ten year retrospective study of contemporary Japanese jewellery. Crafts Council, 44a Pentonville Road, Islington, London N1 9BY, tel. 020 7278 7700.

Performance on Friday to Sunday, November 16th-18th at 7:30 pm "Kodo drummers". Three performances from a 14 strong company of musicians and their traditional Japanese drums. Barbican Centre, Silk Street, Barbican, London EC2Y 8DS, tel. 020 7638 4141.


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