editorials - July - August
WHO COULD HAVE
dreamed that I would have chanced flying to America during
the Iraqi war? No doubt it was the catalogue book and exhibition,
Himalayas: An Aesthetic Adventure, at The Art Institute
of Chicago, for which I am a small lender, as well as
the three-day public symposium on April 4th–6th that
drew me inexorably all the way from Hong Kong to attend
the unprecedented scholarly event.
Many will have read the excellent pre-exhibition article
authored by Betty Seid in our March-April 2003 magazine.
Betty, who coordinated the exhibition is seen here
(on the left) with two friends at its inauguration (1),
where they had been admiring the thangka paintings on cloth.
The display in Chicago runs on to August 17th, 2003;
from where it travels to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery,
Smithsonian Institution, to appear from October 18th,
2003 to January 11th next year in Washington, D.C.
Dr James Wood, President of The Art Institute
of Chicago (seen with me beside a circa 900 AD Bodhisattva
Manjusri, copper alloy with gilding, from the Pritzker
Collection) (2), in an inaugural speech on Thursday April
3rd to the exhibition Lenders’ Dinner gave outstanding credit
to the inspirer of the exhibition and author of the comprehensive
and beautifully illustrated catalogue, Dr Pratapaditya Pal.
Pratap, as he is known to his many friends around the world,
conceived and assembled the exhibition while he has been
the Art Institute’s Visiting Curator of Indian, Himalayan
and Southeast Asian Art. It took him more than five years
of hard labour to realise his achievements.
As Dr Wood said in his inaugural welcoming
are all benefiting from the fruits of a central strain
in his life’s work, for it is no exaggeration to
say that without Pratap the scholarly study of the Himalayas
would still be in its infancy.
“Pratap’s biography and credentials are far
too rich for me to recite to you this evening. Let me just
mention that he received his BA with honours in History
from St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi and
followed that with an MA in Ancient Indian History and
Culture from the University of Calcutta where he also received
a Doctor of Philosophy. He then continued his studies in
England, receiving his PhD from Corpus Christi College,
“At Cambridge he studied with a number of the world’s
leading scholars and museum professionals. I particularly
like his reflection, and I quote him, ‘Ernst Gombrich
encouraged me to think about the creative process. He and
Kenneth Clarke taught me not only what to look for but
how to write about it.’ What more could a student
“His professional life has taken him to the Boston
Museum of Fine Arts where he was Keeper of the Indian Collection,
and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art where he was Senior
Curator of Indian and Islamic Art, and later Acting Director.
His teaching posts are a compilation of the leading universities
here and in England. From 1995 we have had the good fortune
to have him here at the Art Institute where he has literally
transformed our understanding and presentation of the permanent
collection of Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art.
He was also the guiding force and intellect behind the
remarkable exhibition and catalogue of the Alsdorf Collection,
which we all enjoyed several years ago.
“Please join me in welcoming my friend and colleague
Pratap to introduce you to his remarkable exhibition.” (Dr
Pratapaditya Pal is seen at the podium delivering his introduction.)
Dr Pal has told me that this current exhibition of Himalayan
art, his last, may be his most comprehensive and prestigious.
It brings together 187 pieces from Kashmir, Nepal, western
Himalayas and Tibet dating from the 5th to the 19th centuries
from private and public collections. More than half of
these works have never before been exhibited publicly.
As a collector myself, I consider the gilt
bronzes from Nepal and Tibet to be the most beautiful and
regal of Buddhist and Hindu religious art. It was such
a unique opportunity to be able to walk through the thirteen
galleries of the Regenstein Hall of the Art Institute to
review and study the actual pieces, many for the first
time. I strongly recommend Arts of Asia international readers
to do their best to see the exhibition for themselves,
either in Chicago or when it has moved to Washington, D.C.
However, whether you make the trip, or not, I urge you
to buy the beautiful and most comprehensive catalogue which,
with 308 pages and 235 colour illustrations, retails for
a very reasonable US$39.95, soft cover, US$65 hard cover.
The Symposium, free to the public, was sponsored by the
Thomas and Margot Pritzker Family Foundation and planned
by the Department of Asian Art at The Art Institute of
Chicago. It ran for four morning and afternoon sessions
on April 4th and April 5th at the Fullerton Hall. For the
final fifth session, on the morning of Sunday April 6th,
a lively questions and answers discussion with the panelists
and 900 or more audience was held in the Morton Auditorium.
In the limited space of my Editorial I would like to
mention here two of the lectures I have enjoyed. First
the personal experience lecture of Mr Tom Pritzker, who
has travelled many times in the Himalayas collecting Himalayan
art, often with his wife Margot. Chairman and CEO, Hyatt
Corporation, he says his desire to collect Himalayan art
was born out of experiences in the mountains, rather than
the other way around. Included in his earliest expeditions
are a 450-mile trek on the borders of Tibet with Nepal,
and in restricted areas of India bordering on Tibet. He
stressed the emotional and intellectual satisfactions in
chasing and acquiring works of art, and of making significant
Amongst the context of the pieces that are seen in the
exhibition, he included some of the art he encountered
in caves, temples and monasteries, perhaps some for the
first time—such as at a monastery established by
the Tibetan scholar, Rinchen Zangpo (985-1055). According
to the entries on page 94 of the exhibition’s masterly
catalogue by Pratapaditya Pal, Rinchen Zangpo had been
sent to Kashmir for Buddhist training by the monk-ruler
Yeshe O (947-1024); that he had visited eastern India and
acquired and brought back images to Tibet.
The prolonged applause that it received from the audience
certainly confirmed their enjoyment of the Tom Pritzker
slide lecture show, which was titled “In the Footsteps
of Rinchen Zangpo”.
The second of
the Symposium lectures I would mention here was by the
scholar of Tibetan studies, Dr Amy Heller. She had made
major contributions to the September-October 1989 edition
of Arts of Asia (4), with an article on Tibetan sculpture
and painting in the Newark Museum; and with Mr Thomas Marcotty,
for the July-August 1987 magazine (5) on Tibetan ritual
Her latest subject for the Symposium was, “The Tibetan
Inscriptions: Historical Data as Sources of New Discoveries
and Enigmas”. She explained that Tibetan inscriptions
leading to identification of paintings, may also help the
identification of other paintings which lack inscriptions.
Incidentally, Amy Heller, Oskar von Hinüber and
Gautama V. Vajracharya are also Appendix contributors
to the catalogue book between pages 278-297.
Since the show’s inauguration in 1996, Arts of
Asia has regularly participated at The International
Art Fair in New York organised by Anna and Brian Haughton.
The timing in previous years had not conflicted with
the printing schedule of our May-June magazines. But
this year’s Art Fair unavoidably had to be delayed
by the Haughton’s by one week, and as a result
we were unable to take part. But at the last moment,
en route to Chicago, I was able to arrange a stop-over
in New York on the late afternoon of March 31st, with
just enough time to glimpse the Asian art dealer’s
presentations held once again at The Seventh Regiment
As a result of my hurried visit, I feel it would be
unfair for me to give a personal report in this issue
through my own observations. On my return to Hong Kong
I did hear from several participant dealers whose remarks
were mixed. However the Fair was well attended and there
were a number of good sales, in spite of it taking place
at the height of the Iraqi war. As a result of improving
economic conditions worldwide, next year’s Asian
Art Fair should be a success.
In the morning of April 1st I had just
enough time in New York to visit four independent Asian
art dealers’ exhibitions.
I had a good talk with Carlton Rochell and Jeanne de Guardiolla
Callanan, his knowledgeable Director of their impressively
presented new gallery, located in the Fuller Building at
41 East 57th Street, New York. Their opening show, “Faces
of Tibet—The Wesley and Carolyn Halpert Collection”,
which ran from March 24th has been a continuing success.
Even by the time I was able to view the Halpert Collection
eighteen works had already been sold, not counting others
from Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal and India. I
particularly like some of Carlton’s very large sculptures
and Tibetan bronzes (6). There is no doubt in my mind,
wealthy collectors and museum collectors in search for
Himalayan art should not miss visiting Carlton Rochell
Next I dashed to Danese, the name of the
gallery where Gisèle Croës was exhibiting in the Fuller Building.
Busy Gisèle was present and pleased that I congratulated
her on her displays of “Outstanding Early Chinese
Vessels and Bronze From Dian Kingdom”. Commenting
on the early bronzes inlaid with silver she had available
before, Gisèle mentioned that it is now quite hard
to find them on the market. She considers she has been
lucky to have had many wonderful pieces at her previous
shows for sale to her faithful collectors. Of her current
exhibition I found her sinuous bronze tiger, with brown
and green patina, Western Zhou period (1027-771 BC), 44
cm long, most rare and unusual as it gazed backwards along
its body to above its tail (7).
was also lucky to find James Lally in his office in the
Fuller Building during my unannounced brief visit. He seemed
as surprised and delighted to see me as I was to see him!
Nobody had thought I would be able to make New York. Of
the many works he had already sold from his “Bronze and Gold in Ancient China” exhibition,
illustrated here is a fine archaic bronze ritual vessel known
as a dou (8). This one is particularly remarkable for its
bright blue and green patination, while a footnote in James’ catalogue
records that a recorded bronze dou of similar form and design
is in the Avery Brundage Collection, San Francisco. Most
unusual, towards the end of the catalogue, is a group of
gilt bronze plaques from the Eastern Han, dating from the
2nd-early 3rd century AD, from which I illustrate a phoenix
(9). The silhouetted figures, birds and other ornamental
forms (catalogue numbers 23-33) are documented with similar
examples found in China’s provincial museums as well
as the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto.
I had exactly 30 minutes left to walk over to view Giuseppe
New York exhibition at Pacewildenstein, 32 East 57th Street. Truly, I
only just had time left to say hello and goodbye to Mr Eskenazi and his
son Daniel who were about to take Mrs Eskenazi to the airport. But I
was able to stay on and chat with their very able Director, Philip Constantinidi.
I was pleased to be able to see their exhibition and sale catalogue (with
an essay by Professor Jan Fontein) of eighteen further pieces from the
Adolphe and Suzanne Stocklet Collection, with an essay by Professor Jan
Fontein. These had been acquired by the late Belgian banker and his wife
in the 1920s and 1930s and bequeathed to their children. I find the Eskenazi
catalogue of special interest for its insights as much as the artefacts.
An example is the illustration of the famous Palais Stocklet in Brussels
(10), built in 1905-1911 in the late Art Nouveau style, designed by the
Viennese architect Joseph Hoffmann. From the smaller pieces in the exhibition
I illustrate a Han dynasty bronze chimaera (bixie) (11) and a Ming dynasty
(16th-17th century) ivory figure of a Guanyin with a child (12).
On the same day my son Michael Markbreiter and I went
to the Japan Society at 333 East 47th Street, New York
to meet Alexandra Munroe, Director of the Japan Society
Gallery. She is the driving force of the most spectacular
exhibition “Transmitting the Forms of Divinity—Early
Buddhist Art from Korea and Japan”. We are grateful
that Alexandra Munroe spent time with us and an important
dealer from Japan. A week later on April 9th the exhibition
opened, scheduled to run for ten weeks.
Her comment for Arts of Asia readers is that Japan Society
Gallery is not a collecting institution. Rather it works
exclusively with guest curators from around the world,
inviting the best scholars in any particular field to develop
major international loan exhibitions.
“The exhibition is the first anywhere—including
either Korea or Japan—to focus on the dynamic relationship
between the ancient kingdoms of the Korean peninsula and
Japan’s nascent state, spanning the 6th to 9th centuries.
For much of this period, when Buddhism was first introduced
to Japan, Korea was the principal mediating force in shaping
Japanese Buddhist culture and continental civilisation.
Of course, China was the original source, but for centuries
the conduit to Japan was Korea, not China. Our exhibition,
an historic collaboration between the governments of Korea
and Japan, explores the earliest periods of Buddhist art
in Northeast Asia and introduces a realm that will be new
The 384-page catalogue of the exhibition is published
by Japan Society, New York and distributed by Harry N.
Abrams Inc., 100 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10011 (website:
www.abramsbooks.com). The three credited main Japanese
and Korean authors (with another nine contributors) are
Washizuka Hiromitsu, Park Youngbok and Kang Woo-bang. Alexandra
Munroe is the author of the Foreword and Acknowledgements.
I am most happy for this current issue to have had the
support of both regular writers for Arts of Asia, with
their articles, and new authors seen in our page for the
first time. The cover article, by distinguished American
lawyer and well-known textile collector, Shirley Z. Johnson,
is particularly topical. It was edited with the help of
Jan Stuart, Associate Curator of Chinese Art at the Freer
Gallery of Art, who co-authored Worshiping the Ancestors—Chinese
Commemorative Portraits, published 2001 by the Freer Gallery
of Art and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Such subjects are of interest to Chinese and Westerners,
but also to Japanese and Korean collectors these days.
Chun Asian Fine Arts of Seoul, Korea will be Exhibiting
Chinese portraits and textiles in Seoul, Busan, Changwon,
Incheon (Korea) and Kyushu (Japan). I am informed that
the collection includes more than seventy portraits identified
to the Ming and Qing dynasties (but please turn to their
advertisement on page 2 and write them for more information,
as I have not yet had a chance to view the collection).
Mr Yoon Soo Chun is the President of the company.
For collectors of 18th-19th century Chinese ancestor
portraits on paper I can recommend a visit to Chan Yue
Kee, G/F., 140 Hollywood Road, which is the gallery I know
in Hong Kong selling a good and genuine selection. Jan
Stuart has visited this gallery for pleasure and information
I have heard, at the same in May from Arts of Asia Contributing
Editor Kerry Nguyen-Long, who with husband Nguyen Kim Long’s
photographs writes on “Ceramics of Bien Hoa”,
pages 67-78. She says the centenary celebrations for Bien
Hoa School of Art will take place on June 28th and 29th
in Bien Hoa (Dong Nai Province), Vietnam with activities
held at the provincial square complex. Old teachers and
graduate students are invited to attend. Also invited are
overseas institutions that have had contact with the school.
There will be an exhibition of selected works by new graduating
students and of works by former teachers and students.
On the final night there will also be a fashion show presented
by the first graduating class.”
in my last Editorial, I did visit the exhibition “Ancient Taoist Art from
Shanxi Province” sponsored by the Chubb Group of
Insurance Companies at the Hong Kong University Museum
and Art Gallery, and I am able to announce that by the
time of its closing on June 23rd, 2003 it should have been
enjoyed by approximately six thousand visitors. Seen here
at the opening ceremony on March 31st in photographs by
Arts of Asia are first from left to right, Yeung Chun-tong,
Director, Hong Kong University Museum and Art Gallery;
Tong Wai Ki, Chairman, The Hong Kong Taoist Association;
Andre Dallaire, Vice President of Federal Insurance Company,
Hong Kong (a member insurer of Chubb Group of Insurance
Companies); Anita Wong, Curator (History) of University
Museum and Art Gallery; and Jennifer Scally, Assistant
Vice President, Personal Insurance Manager, Federal Insurance
Company, Hong Kong (13). The second photograph taken and
posed by Arts of Asia in the first floor gallery shows
a group standing beside a display case enclosing a large
Ming dynasty bronze sculpture of Zhenwu, God of the North,
Shanxi Provincial Museum. From the left are Catalina Chor,
Senior Appraiser (Fine Art Specialist), Federal Insurance
Company, Hong Kong; Andre Dallaire; Rachel Casey Dallaire;
Jennifer Scally; and Catherine Maudsley, art consultant
Jennifer Scally writes: “Asian art continues to
attract a large following not just in the region but worldwide,
indicating that interest in this field is still flourishing.
As the world's leading specialist insurer of privately
owned fine art and jewellery, Chubb has been a long-standing
patron of the arts around the globe. Its Masterpiece™ insurance
program has received worldwide acclaim and has generated
a lot of interest since its launch in Hong Kong last year.
“As a corporation, Chubb supports cultural institutions
that enhance the richness and diversity of national experience.
On a worldwide basis, we are committed to supporting arts
and culture by providing both financial support and assisting
organisations to broaden their base of support via our
own network of customers and brokers.
“In March 2003, Chubb assisted the Hong Kong University
Museum and Art Gallery in bringing the ‘Ancient Taoist
Art from Shanxi Province’ exhibition to Hong Kong.
This was the first time such an exhibition had been held
here, with over 60 important works of art on display, including
paintings, porcelain, lacquerware, stone, wood, jade and
bronze carvings, dating from the Tang (618-907) to the
Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.
“Chubb sees public enthusiasm for Asian art continuing
to blossom, as income levels across the region rise and
people delve deeper into their cultural heritage. Chubb
is committed to supporting this exemplary trend with future
sponsorship and patronage, as well as with services that
ensure that connoisseurs of fine Asian art can enjoy their
possessions in true peace of mind.”