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editorials - March - April 2006

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THIS VOLUME 36, NUMBER 2 issue of Arts of Asia focuses with its cover article on the Emperor Qianlong of China (1736–1795) and his achievements as both a collector “of enormous scope and size that included antiques as well as contemporary art” and “a politician, military strategist, Buddhist and religious exemplar, as a member of the literati and as an artist-collector”. These multifacets are extensively explored in the professionally researched nineteen-page article by Hajni Elias of Sotheby’s, and are amplified with twenty-six selected illustrations of the highest calibre, courtesy of the Palace Museum, Beijing, Sotheby’s Holdings Inc. and the Shanghai Museum.

With this outstanding article by our international contributor Hajni Elias, I feel, as the Publisher and Editor of Arts of Asia, I have fulfilled my most recent obligations to our worldwide readers to create a wider understanding of the values of the three most important Manchu emperors to China during the period 1644–1911. The Qianlong emperor, featured so extensively in this March–April 2006 issue, was prefaced by a variety of coverage of the Kangxi (1662–1722) and Yongzheng (1723–1735) emperors in our November–December 2005 magazine. A plan can be seen of the Forbidden City in that number, and prestigious selections from the National Palace Museum collections in Beijing and Taipei.

Since I last wrote for you in my January–February Editorial, Hong Kong has seen three major China inspired exhibitions, one of which, “Auspicious Emblems, Chinese Cultural Treasures: 45th Anniversary Exhibition of the Min Chiu Society” by Maria K.W. Mok and Hilda W.M. Mak, is extensively covered in this current edition. There was only brief space to mention in the last issue the opening at the University Museum and Art Gallery, the University of Hong Kong, of the snuff bottle exhibition, “Heavenly Creations”. This is now followed with a book review by Ian Hardy on the recently published Chinese snuff bottles from the collections of Anthony Cheung, Humphrey Hui, Po-ming Kwong, Christopher Sin and myself. Included in the seven-page review are four lavish colour pages of examples from the 377 bottles that were so attractively exhibited and are catalogued.

The third exhibition “The Silk Road: Treasures from Xinjiang”, showcasing 115 treasures of ancient Xinjiang, is still being held at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, Shatin in the New Territories until March 19th, 2006. Supported by the Xinjiang Cultural Heritage Bureau, the exhibits specially selected from Xinjiang museums are displayed in five sections: Life in Xinjiang, Textiles, Ancient Writings, Religions and Burial Customs. For more information kindly refer to the Heritage Museum website at www.hk.heritage.museum/.

I mentioned in my last Editorial that the exhibition of our group of five snuff bottle collectors of “Heavenly Creations” was opened by Professor C.F Lee, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, of the University of Hong Kong. To my pleasant surprise, not long after that, on November 25th, I encountered the distinguished academic again on a unique occasion: the opening of the special exhibition “The Treasures of Tibet II” for the Buddhist community held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

In our first photograph, Professor Lee is seen seated to the left of the front row of the delegates prior to their receiving white silk scarves from two pretty young ladies dressed in traditional Tibetan costume (1). In the second photograph the professor is seen with his welcoming silk scarf draped around his shoulders, seated on the podium, below the first of four giant Chinese characters which read in translation “Opening Ceremony” (2).

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Following the ceremony, invitees were able to examine the religious and court exhibits, many of which had never before been seen outside the Potala Palace in Lhasa. While we examined the rare Buddhist relics, the drone of the famous mantra chanted by the assembled Tibetan and local Chinese monks, “Om mani padma hum”, the lotus is the jewel of creation, filled the space of one of the large halls in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Illustrated are examples of two artefacts I have chosen as relevant to our collector readers:

A Ming dynasty gilt-copper alloy Vajrabhairava mandala of the Yongle period (1403–1424). Height 83 cm (3).

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A Qing dynasty gilded iron helmet or ritual crown, a monastic gift from the Emperor Qianlong. Flaming aureoles enclose seated Buddhas and Buddhistic emblems. At the apex a vajra, symbol of Vajrayana Buddhism emerges. Height 190 cm, width 124 cm (4).

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Christie’s phenomenal autumn series sale held over four days ( November 27th–30th, 2005) at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, is reported by Robin Markbreiter in this magazine’s Saleroom News. Mr Ken Yeh, appointed Deputy Chairman of Christie’s Asia in February 2005, is seen prior to a dinner recital on Friday November 25th standing aside the “Hammer” Stradivarius 1707, a violin made in Cremona and derived from what is known as the Golden Period (1700–1718) of Stradivari’s oeuvre (5). It was a rare opportunity for Arts of Asia during the dinner to hear the violin played by Elizabeth Lo Ka-yi, Concertmaster of the Hong Kong S infonietta. The violin is due to be auctioned at Christie’s New York in April 2006.

Mr Yeh, who is fifty-two years of age with roots in Taipei, holds a BA in French Literature from Fu-Jen Catholic University in Taiwan, and an MBA in Finance from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business (1985). He was born in Taiwan to a father in the construction business, a collector of Chinese works of art, and a housewife mother. His Taiwan Chinese origins date back four or five generations to the early 19th century and he is the eleventh of a family of twelve children, who mostly live today in America. Mr Yeh is fluent in English, French, Mandarin and Taiwanese.

He joined Christie’s New York in March 1997 as an Art Advisor for Asian clients worldwide. His area of expertise is Impressionist and Modern Art having in 1988 established and managed the Eastlake Gallery in Manhattan. As director of that gallery he worked internationally with collectors, artists and museums advising in sales and acquisitions.

In addition to his background knowledge in Western art, like many of his Asian clients and friends he collects Chinese art. One of his important roles is to expand the Asian art market and to gather high quality and rare works of art for sale at Christie’s which is celebrating its 20th anniversary in Hong Kong in 2006. For their next Hong Kong sales series scheduled for May 28th– June 1st, 2006 (five days) at the Convention Hall, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, one of their highlights is a “highly important early Ming copper-red decorated Yuhuchunping, Hongwu period (1368–1398), height 32.5 cm, estimate HK$80–120 million”. Mr Yeh announced that they have allocated one extra day of sales for works of art for their Spring Hong Kong auction.

How does Mr Yeh propose to expand the market? Through more previews of sales in Beijing and by personally giving lectures in Chinese major cities such as Chengdu and Hangzhou, as in Singapore, to collectors on how to buy Western painting. Priority he says should be to “buy what you like rather than buying for investment. Talk to the artists and experts and train the eye.” And what areas will go up? “Chinese ceramics still have more way to go. There is also high demand for Western art”, he says.

I am looking forward to visiting New York at the end of March for the Asian art auctions, fairs and gallery exhibitions. The 15th annual New York Arts of Pacific Asia Show (March 30th–April 2nd) at Gramercy Park Armory, Lexington Avenue at 26th Street, will showcase “the finest Asian art and antiques offered by eighty of the world’s pre-eminent galleries and dealers”. Exhibitors include Eleanor Abraham Asian Art, NY; Akanezumiya, MT; Tony Anninos, CA; The Asian Art Studio, CA; Asiatic Fine Arts, Singapore; L’Asie Exotique, NY; Brandt Oriental Art, England; Robyn Buntin of Honolulu; Michael Cohn Asian Antiquities, NY; Dai Ichi Arts, NY; The Jade Dragon, MI; Jazmin Asian Arts, Singapore; Thomas Murray, CA; Oriental Treasure Box, CA; Orientations Gallery, NY; Paragon Book Gallery, IL; Nicholas S. Pitcher Oriental Art, England; Marc Richards, CA; Judith Rutherford Antique Chinese Textiles, Australia; Norman L. Sandfield, IL; TK Asian Antiquities, VA; The Tolman Collection, NY; Robyn Turner Gallery, NY; Vallin Galleries, CT; Wei Asian Arts, Belgium; and A & S Ziesnitz, VA.

The International Asian Art Fair (March 31st–April 5th) at the Seventh Regiment Armory, Park Avenue at 67th Street, is now in its eleventh year. Founded in 1996, the fair brings together a large group of the world’s leading specialist dealers in Near Eastern, Indian, Himalayan, Tibetan, Southeast Asian and Far Eastern works of art. The 2006 fair features around fifty-five dealers, including many familiar names to Arts of Asia readers:

Art of the Past, Berwald Oriental Art, China Gallery, The Chinese Porcelain Company, Flying Cranes Antiques Ltd, Joan B. Mirviss Ltd, Martha Sutherland Fine Arts Ltd, Sandra Whitman, Nancy Wiener Gallery, Tai Gallery/Textile Arts and Kagedo Japanese Art from the United States. From the United Kingdom, there are London based dealers including Robert Hall, S. Marchant & Son, Linda Wrigglesworth Ltd, Priestley & Ferraro, Greg Baker Asian Art, Knapton & Rasti Asian Art, Kevin Page Oriental Art and Malcolm Fairley Ltd. Other notable exhibitors are Erik Thomsen Asian Art, Carlo Cristi and Mehmet Hassan.

China Gallery is pleased to announce that they will once again be participating at the International Asian Art Fair featuring their latest acquisitions, including a selection of bronzes and lacquerwares. Highlights include a fine bronze money tree (6) from the Eastern Han dynasty (25–220 AD) and a flat flask, bian hu, from the Western Han dynasty (206 BC–9 AD).

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Linda Wrigglesworth Ltd, a leading specialist in antique Chinese, Tibetan and Korean costumes and textiles, will be showing in their exhibition “From the Roof of the World” Chinese textiles that have been reused or adapted in Tibet and other Himalayan countries. Highlights include a beautiful Bhutanese woman’s robe made from 18th century green Chinese silk brocade decorated with dragons and with sleeves of pink silk brocade (7).

S. Marchant & Son will be bringing over one hundred jade pieces as well as examples published in their “Recent Acquisitions Catalogue 2006”. Stuart Marchant explained that this is “a seventy piece catalogue which will be printed for the International Asian Art Fair and will include a remarkable famille-verte rouleau vase from the Mount Trust Collection and the T.Y. Chow Collection, painted with ten beauties; an extremely rare large dated wucai censer painted with the eight immortals and Shoulao, from the Baron van Hemert Collection dated to 1673 which makes it one of the earliest recorded Kangxi dated pieces; an important group of Imperial wares, all in perfect condition, previously sold by S. Marchant & Son, which have been on loan to The Denver Museum of Art, including a large celadon Yongzheng mark and period dish, identical to one in The Freer Gallery of Art; and a pair of blue and white wine cups with drunken Immortals, Qianlong mark and period.”

As well as participating at the International Asian Art Fair, Berwald Oriental Art will be holding an exhibit at their 5 East 57th Street, New York gallery of a strong group of Tang sancai and blue glazed animals and figures entitled “Blue Glaze of the Tang”. The show will include a superb dynamic pair of sancai blue glazed horses, a pair of elegant court ladies, a wonderful cream glazed camel loaded with a mask-faced pack for the journey along the Silk Routes (8). The show will open on March 27th and run through April 15th 2006.

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Following three successful sales of Chinese contemporary art in Hong Kong, Sotheby’s will hold a pioneering inaugural sale in New York on March 31st, 2006 of “Contemporary Art Asia: China, Japan, Korea”. They announced on January 6th they have also opened a new Chinese Contemporary Art department in New York with Ms Xiaoming Zhang as specialist (9). She will be working with Natsuko Hidaka, Assistant Vice President in Private Client Services, and Sachiko Hori, Co-Director of Japanese and Korean Works of Art department. Evelyn Lin, Sotheby’s Hong Kong specialist in Chinese Contemporary Art, and Joe-Hynn Yang and Mee-Seen Loong for Sotheby’s Chinese Works of Art department in New York will collaborate with the team.

Ms Zhang received her MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business and her MA in Arts at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Prior to joining Sotheby’s she held managerial positions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and a Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellowship at the American Museum of American Art.

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Tim Mertel of L’Asie Exotique wishes to inform Arts of Asia readers of his exhibition opening of Takeda ningyo at his gallery ( 110 West 25th Street #3, New York City) on Saturday March 25th from 5 pm to 8 pm with a simultaneous launch of items featured in the exhibition on his web gallery (www.lasieexotique.com). He describes this particular type of Japanese doll as renderings of dynamic actor figures at pivotal moments in Kabuki stage plays. These figures date from around 1800 and are relatively affordable compared to woodblock prints from the same period portraying the same scenes in only two dimensions. They are especially appropriate for collectors interested in theatre and things related to Japanese popular culture. Illustrated is his Japanese Takeda ningyo of a Kabuki actor portraying a fierce warrior, overall height 47 cm, Edo period, circa 1800 (10).

I have received information from two London clients who are hosting gallery exhibitions during Asia Week in New York—Eskenazi Ltd at Pacewildenstein, March 27th to April 8th, and Rossi & Rossi Ltd at the Neuhoff Gallery, March 27th to April 4th. To an extent these two galleries are complementary. Eskenazi Ltd, the senior gallery, sent a selection of eight illustrations of early Chinese bronzes that they are showing.

These are an archaic bronze wine vessel and cover (fang jia), late Shang period; a bronze, gold, silver, jade and turquoise garment-hook (daigou), Warring States period; a gilt and silvered bronze and turquoise garment-hook (daigou), Warring States-Western Han period; a pair of gilt bronze and glass plaques, Western Han period; ten elements of a set of a bronze, gold, silver, turquoise and agate chariot fittings, Western Han period; a gilt bronze dragon (detail), Western Han period; a bronze, glass and gold mirror, Six Dynasties period; and one of a pair of gilt bronze dragon and lion supports, Tang period.

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Eskenazi’s bronzes offered in their exhibition and sale have been acquired over the last seven years. They make a powerful impact and I have chosen to show here a detail of the vivacious gilt bronze dragon with its arched body and head turned back (11).

Rossi & Rossi Ltd will show under the title “Auspicious Emblems: Form and Function in Indian and Himalayan Ritual Art” some thirty-five sculptures, objects, paintings and textiles from India and the Himalayas dating from the 3rd–2nd millennium BC to the 18th century AD at prices ranging from US$5000 to over US$200,000. The aim of the exhibition is to demonstrate the way artists, whether Hindu or Buddhist, employed forms and symbols through the centuries to create works of art which were used in rituals.

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“Realm of the Gods” is the title of the Spring 2005 exhibition Carlton Rochell Asian Art are holding in their Fuller Building, 41 East 57th Street, New York gallery from Tuesday March 28th to Friday April 7th. Offered for sale are some thirty-five important works from India, the Himalayas and Southeast Asia, such as a Chola dynasty 12th century bronze figure of Shiva; and two Indian sculptures of the Pala dynasty from the collection of Dr David R Nalin, rare steles of the Bodhisattva Padmapani and the Buddhist divinity Manjusri (12). Both of these works were published by Jane Anne Casey in her Medieval Sculpture from Eastern India: Selections from the Nain Collection (1985).

“Arts of Ancient China” is the title of the J.J. Lally & Co. Oriental Art special major exhibition and sale in the Fuller Building, opening on Monday March 27th and continuing through April 12th, on view throughout Asia Week. Bronze vessels include a large archaic wine jar (fanghu), cast circa 5th–4th century BC. An earlier 11th century BC you shape wine vessel from the Western Zhou dynasty. And rarest, a Zhou dynasty, 8th century BC box with lid, in the form of a tiger and a bear.

Ceramics in the J.J. Lally exhibition include a tall Neolithic pottery tripod ewer, a yueyao glazed stoneware vessel, Western Jin dynasty (265–317 AD), and a moulded straw glaze pottery flask, Northern Qi dynasty (550–577 AD) (13).

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For the tenth consecutive year, Gisèle Croës is taking part in New York’s Asia Week, in the Fuller Building, but in a new venue the Nohra Haime Gallery, 41 East 57th Street, 8th Floor. An address familiar to American art lovers, it has for many years stood for a spirit of discovery and artistic excellence. To be seen are important archaic Chinese bronzes, a superb collection of gold, silver, turquoise and jade inlayed belt hooks (14), other objects associated with the Buddhist faith and selected stucco heads.

The Gisèle Croës New York show follows the opening in Brussels of her new exhibition space, designed by Marc Corbiau, a renowned Belgian architect and a longtime collaborator of Mrs Croës. Located in a beautiful townhouse, in a residential area, it has a serene atmosphere, ideal for discovering and admiring her Chinese works of art. Visitors are by appointment only (Gisèle Croës, registered office, 44 avenue Emile Duray, 1050 Brussels, Belgium).

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The inaugural Macau auction conducted by Chongyuan International Auctions ( Macau) Ltd is about to be held on May 2nd–3rd, 2006, with preview viewing on April 30th–May 1st. The venue is Level 4, Grand Hall, Macau Tower Convention & Entertainment Centre, Largo da Torre de Macau, Macau (15).

At their first auction in Macau will be offered traditional, contemporary and modern Chinese painting and calligraphy; Chinese oil painting, ancient Chinese works of art and associated crafts. Chairman of the Board of the company, founded in 2002, is Mr Anquin Zhao. Chief Executive Officer, Mr Ji Chongjian, is the commissioner and member of four Shanghai cultural, religious and study associations.

The company has some thirteen specialists working in different fields, Chinese paintings and calligraphy, porcelain, ancient books, also Western art, namely oil paintings. For the first auction in 2002 in Shanghai the total achieved was RMB79.5 million. The most recent auction in 2005 in Shanghai achieved RMB149 million. The best result so far was their Spring 2005 auction which made RMB155 million. Sales revenue over the past three years is RMB860 million.

Chongyuan International Auctions Ltd has hosted events in conjunction with the following prestigious institutions: The Shanghai Museum, The National History Museum, Jianxi Museum, Tianjun Art Museum, The National Museum of Tokyo, Japan, Qinghua University, Beijing University, Shanghai Fudan University, Huadong Shifan University and Shanghai University. The company also conducts talks and lectures on a wide variety of antiques-related subjects, and has been rated by the Chinese cultural relics bureau as a top ten auction house in China, the only privatised one on the list.

There is room to publish from Anthony Lin (former Chairman of Christie’s Asia), a selection from his comments on his exhibition at Hazlitt Gooden and Fox, 2nd Floor, 17 East 76th Street, New York, being held from March 25th to April 1st, 2006. The extent of his exhibition’s coverage is truly remarkable.

“Icons and Iconoclasts is an exhibition that examines the Confucian ideal that binds 2500 years of Chinese art history. From the Zhou dynasty (1100–256 BC) until the end of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911 AD), Confucianism was the code of hierarchy and order that bound Chinese state and society together. Works of art were commissioned by Imperial and noble patrons whose symbols and requirements were turned by anonymous Chinese craftsmen into great artefacts of unsurpassed quality...

“The exhibition is divided into three areas which tie the strands of history together. The pre-Buddhist section of art explores the animal iconography of the later Zhou dynasty when the Book of Rites (Zhou Li) codified the dress and materials that distinguished ranking nobles. Jade, gold, silver and bronze together with animal symbols were strictly defined, refined and retained from then through to the Qing dynasty Imperial Household Regulations. The personal ornaments and luxurious paraphernalia of the daily lives of the aristocratic classes in this exhibition offer a glimpse of the extraordinary decorative language of the Warring States (475–221 BC) and the Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD).

“In the Buddhist section of this exhibition, the sculptures and ritual implements cover a range of styles from the Northern Wei dynasty (386–535 AD) to the Imperial grandeur of the Qianlong period (reigned 1736–1795) in the Qing dynasty. In a historic moment during the Northern Wei dynasty, the ruling house adopted Buddhism as a state religion. Buddhism became a political vehicle which, when combined with Confucianism, ensured an ordered and peaceful state reflected in the hierarchy of the various deities and their earthly and heavenly domains...

“The final section of the exhibition looks at the state of Confucianism in contemporary China through the eyes of artists from the two Chinese Republics—Mainland China and the Taiwanese Republic of China. Utilising time honoured symbols and iconic art forms, they ask some trenchant questions of the traditions and the state of Chinese society today...”

The Asia International Arts & Antiques Fair’s (AIAA2006) double page spread colour advertisement in our January–February 2006 Freer+ Sackler Museum issue has produced numerous enquiries and interest from Arts of Asia readers. This inaugural fair will be held from May 26th–29th, 2006 at the Asia World-Expo, which is located adjacent to Hong Kong’s international airport. Paper Communication Exhibition Services, the experienced fair organisers, are confident it will be a wonderful event and have exhibitors comprising art galleries, dealers and auction houses from Austria, China, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, the Philippines, UK and USA.

Several of the dealers are long-time supporters of Arts of Asia—most notably Susan Tosk of Orientations Gallery from New York City, Chak’s Company Ltd, Teresa Coleman Fine Arts and China Art in Hong Kong, Galerie Koller in Switzerland, Yabane Co., Ltd, Japan and Robyn Buntin of Honolulu.

Official supporting organisations include The Palace Museum, China National Museum, Shaanxi History Museum, Poly Art Museum and Taiwan Antiques Dealers Association. Experts Julian Thompson (UK), Colin Sheaf (UK), Michael Wang ( Taiwan) and Carlton Rochell ( USA) will be serving on the Vetting Committee. By January 27th some fifty and more international and Asian art dealers had confirmed applications with an additional twenty-two parties showing interest. Among the major auction houses taking stands are Bonhams, China Guardian, Christie’s, Dorotheum, I.M. Chait, Live Auctioneers LLC, Nagel and Sotheby’s.

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In my final two pictures I am seen with Dr Anne Wong Leung Kit Wah, Chairman of Art Beatus Gallery, One Exchange Square Podium, Shops 301–302, Central, Hong Kong at the opening ceremony of the exhibition “Illustrious Moments in Louis Cha's Novels—Paintings of Tung Pei Sun” on January 4th, 2006. Left of the picture (16) is artist Tung Pei Sun, and between us is the famous author Louis Cha whose Kung Fu novels I have enjoyed reading in Vietnamese versions since many, many years; including, of course, Louis Cha’s best known historical romance, Chronicles of the Book and Sword, in which the Canadian-Chinese artist Tung Pei Sun shows Emperor Qianlong visiting the illuminated entertainment boats at West Lake, Hangzhou (17).






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