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editorials - May - June 2006

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TO MARK OUR SUCCESS and thirty-seven years in art publishing, we have extended and relocated the Arts of Asia main offices, library and study centre to 4700 square feet of an exclusive area on the 8th floor of Kowloon Centre, 29–39 Ashley Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Considerable attention has been given to the friendly open planning of my own personal and more general conference areas, as also to my dedicated staffs’ work stations. Special interest is provided by the display of part of our own paintings and sculpture collections. Potential choices are considerable, as regular readers of Arts of Asia will be aware, allowing from time to time for displays to be changed. Visitors are warmly welcomed to visit us whether dealer, academic or serious collector, and to make use of our free Asian art library of some 4500 Asian art books and major auction house catalogues which date chronologically from 1970 to the present day.

Furthermore, it is my special pleasure to introduce to our international readers the prestigious writers and the contents of the May–June 2006 issue of Arts of Asia which has the famous PEM ( Peabody Essex Museum) of Salem, Massachusetts, USA for its large and extensive subject. In mid-2003, the museum underwent a dramatic transformation, with over 250,000 square feet of new and renovated gallery space and the reinstallation and reinterpretation of its entire collection (the extensive galleries are seen from above their roofs in an unusual and dramatic evening view) (1). In the two years since then, the PEM academic scholarly curators, and Arts of Asia, have combined to bring the museum's most recent achievements up to date.

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Dan L. Monroe, Executive Director and CEO at the Peabody Essex Museum (2), writes as summary: “This issue of Arts of Asia can provide only a glimpse of the more than 80,000 works of Asian art in the PEM’s collection. We at PEM are proud of our ability to carry on more than two centuries of commitment to the arts of Asia. We will continue to create a wide array of exhibitions, publications, and public programmes centring on contemporary and historical Asian art that will serve audiences worldwide.”

“The Peabody Essex Museum”, in the words of William R. Sargent, Curator of Asian Export Art, who has been with the collection for twenty-eight years, “is justly noted for its fine and comprehensive collections of art made in China, Japan and India for the western market.” The May–June 2006 PEM number of Arts of Asia “emphasises stellar examples, especially new acquisitions and works that have not been published or widely displayed” before.

Curator of Chinese Art, Nancy Berliner, in her article, “Changing Perspectives”, encompasses superb examples of textiles and graphic arts that reflect many segments of Chinese society from rank badges and other insignia to Taoist robes, and from Imperial court portraits to popular prints of gods pasted on village home doors. PEM’s collection of photographs of China, is one of the world’s finest assemblages of early Asian photography.

Highlights of the article by the Museum Educator for Asian Collections in the Department of Education and Interpretation, Midori Oka, include a circa 1650 maki-e (sprinkled lacquer) miniature chest; Wisteria and Fences, a pair of early 17th century six-fold painted screens attributed to the Hasegawa School; and a glazed stoneware space form by the contemporary Kyoto potter Masahiro Kiyomizu (Rokubei VIII), born 1954.

“PEM’s collection” according to Susan S. Bean, Curator of South Asian and Korean Art and Culture, “reflects the breadth of late Choson dynasty arts. Whether made for daily use or ceremonial observances, these objects were imbued with wishes for wealth, marital happiness, many sons, success and long life.” Her article features the strengths of the collection and reveals fundamental values and preoccupations of Koreans in the 18th and 19th centuries.

“The work of India’s contemporary artists” Susan S. Bean follows, “including M. F. Husain, Tyeb Mehta, Arpita Singh, Nalini Matani and Atul Dodiya, is soaring in value and becoming increasingly prominent in international exhibitions. The Peabody Essex Museum’s collection, rich in the arts of the 19th and 20th century, moves beyond the conventional focus on the arts of courts and temples, to explore the diverse and complex artscape of modern India.”

I would also like to take this opportunity to warmly thank Jay Finney, Deputy Director for Marketing and Communications at the Peabody Essex Museum, for his enthusiasm and great assistance in coordinating so well the excellent PEM articles for this wonderful issue. He is very professional and was a pleasure to work with.

Three special feature articles round-out this edition. First, the Swiss foremost scholar of Tibetan and Himalayan arts, Ulrich von Schroeder, recent author of his fifth major work, Tibetan Wall Paintings of Mahasiddas at Gyantse, gives a sense of the rich variety depicted. Second, Diana Collins, noted independent researcher and textiles conservator, describes the development and serious establishment of the Chris Hall major textile collection that she has helped to conserve since the late 1980s. While third, a thorough study and guide to artefact metalography surveys radiocarbon dating, thermoluminescence testing, radiography, optical microscopy and ultraviolet scanning amongst others. The photomicrographs and digital photographs in this article are courtesy of TK Asian Antiquities.

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In February 2006 I made, with my husband, a quick visit to Bangkok, Thailand, to make myself acquainted with a few European art dealers and their new galleries. It was also my intention to see Mr Tira Vanichtheeranont, the owner of Annam Antiques and Gifts, which specialises in Dong Son (circa 500–300 BC) bronzes, Vietnamese ceramics, Chinese Yuan blue and white, and Cham stone sculpture. I am seen, in our photograph in Tira’s Bangkok gallery, with Vietnamese Ly-Tran dynastic period (1010–1400) bronzes, the first time in my experience that they have surfaced (3).

I urge our readers not to miss the coming Asia International Arts & Antiques Fair (AIAA 2006) which takes place from May 26th–29th, with a preview on May 25th from 6–9 pm. The venue is AsiaWorld-Expo (adjacent to Hong Kong International Airport). All profits of the evening preview will be given to the Chinese Pok Oi Hospital. Ms Agnes Siu and Ms Winnie Cheung, the representatives of the organisers, have informed me that at the time of my writing (over two months before the opening) there were already twenty international auction houses and seventy-nine art dealers who are taking part. Over a dozen seminars with expert speakers have also been scheduled. The four-day fair admission, 11 am to 8 pm, costs HK$100. On May 29th the fair will close at 3 pm.

Georgia Chrischilles, organiser of the Brussels Oriental Art Fair (BOAF), has just called me that she now has twenty-nine confirmed exhibitors for the coming second year participation which will take place in the Sablon district, the heart of Brussels, Belgium, from June 9th–15th, 2006. Taking part are important dealers, such as Gisèle Croës, Erik Thomsen, Lotus Gallery, Renzo Freschi, Tony Anninos, Sara Kuehn, Mehmet Hassan, Asiatic Fine Arts, Marcel Nies, Wei Asian Arts, Espace 4 and Alan Pate of Akanezumiya. Unique to this exhibition, in the galleries of the Sablon area, one can leisurely stroll through the cobbled streets to visit the exhibitors, all within easy and enjoyable walking distance. The opening takes place on Thursday June 8th, from 5 pm.

On my desk is Christie’s six-page promotion of their Hong Kong Spring Auctions (May 28th–June 1st, 2006) headed “Christie’s Hong Kong Celebrates 20 Years of Success—A History of Unmatched Excellence as Sales Exceed US$267 million. Reaching 57% Market Share in Asia, 12th Consecutive Year of Leadership in Asia”. Recounted under sub- headings are their 20th Anniversary Events, 2006 Spring Sales, Development in Hong Kong, and Ventures in Asia. I congratulate them on their success, but cannot help noticing that not a single member of their hard-working staff of experts and administrators from the beginning, or indeed later, seems to have been of sufficient interest to be mentioned despite their contributions to the company. So I am happy to fill in through my own Editorial, just a small part of the gap!

It was in 1984, when Sotheby’s Hong Kong had already very well established roots in Hong Kong that I began to hear from friends who are serious collectors of Chinese art as well as locally and internationally highly respected dealers, that this successful city needed a second auction choice. They urged me to do something about it, as they knew I had originally encouraged Sotheby’s to come to Hong Kong through the reports of Sotheby’s Saleroom News by John K. T. Ma from May–June 1971 until 1974.

So it was in 1984 that I went to London, on behalf of Arts of Asia to see Mr Guy Hannen, MC (Deputy Chairman of Christie, Manson & Woods Ltd), who received me with great warmth. When told of the purpose of my visit, he enthusiastically agreed that it was a necessity for Christie’s to have a presence in Hong Kong.

A few months later Mr Hannen came to Hong Kong with author and ceramics expert James Spencer to assess for themselves the feasibility of setting up Christie’s auctions out here. However, due to their need to first expand Christie’s in New York, they had to wait for more than a year and only in January 1986 the inaugural sale of Christie’s Hong Kong, organised by James Spencer, was conducted. Of course, Sotheby’s earlier years of hard work made life easier for them.

I remember Alice Piccus, proudly wearing Christie’s Hong Kong badge, attending as many important parties as she could to introduce Christie’s Hong Kong presence as its representative. Colin Sheaf was another important contributor to Christie’s early success. We often encountered one another when walking along Hong Kong’s street of antiques and arts and crafts, Hollywood Road, on our way to meet knowledgeable Chinese gallery owners.

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However, there is no doubt in my mind that the greater expansion and success of Christie’s Hong Kong derives a great deal from Anthony Lin, Chairman of Christie’s Asia from September 2000 to the end of January 2005, after nearly twenty years with Christie’s. To me in those days he was seen as a man who never missed a beat and his constant travels amazed me. His unique introduction of Imperial Sales in 1996 was truly the turning point of Christie’s outstanding and most rewarding auctions.

For their coming Imperial Sale on May 30th, highlighted in Christie’s promotion are a copper-red bottle vase, Yuhuchunping, Hongwu period (1368–1398), claimed to be the last important and perfect example of its kind (4), and a magnificent ruby-enamelled “landscape” vase with Qianlong four-character blue enamel mark within double squares and of the period (5). Truly an exquisite work of art made for the enjoyment of the Qianlong emperor (1736–1795) himself.

 





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