I RECENTLY received a letter from Virginia Yee, a resident
of the Peak in Hong Kong, which you will find in the Correspondence of
this issue on page 10. Ms Yee asks whether we "would consider publishing
an index of all the articles which have been written to date," also adding
that it would be an excellent idea to put all our "articles together into
an encyclopedia format". In the past we published triennial indexes and
a special twenty-year library form index in the magazines. This year we
relaunched our award nominated website (www.artsofasianet.com) which includes
many useful and interactive functions. One of the key aspects is the Search
tool, which enables visitors to easily locate any article by author, subject
or issue date that we have published since our first issue over thirty
years ago. In fact we ourselves use the website on a daily basis to check
information from the some two thousand or more articles we have published.
The cover of each edition can be viewed online in colour accompanied by
the particular issue's contents. Back issues can also be ordered online
as well as new, renewal and gift subscriptions.
Another aspect of our well visited and popular website (we now receive over
twenty thousand hits a month) is the extensive list of art-related links we
have carefully compiled. There are links to respected art galleries, international
museums and Asia-specific art sites. The website is regularly updated and the
latest Editorial is made available along with the contents and cover of the
coming magazine. I hope that subscribers to ARTS OF ASIA can make good use
of the website which was constructed at considerable effort and expense to
primarily assist our readers for their own research and to locate important
articles which we have published. Undoubtedly, the major articles in this September-October
2000 number on the renovation of the Musée Guimet, deserves to rank
I join the Conservateur général,
Directeur Jean-François Jarrige (1), in hoping that
the combined efforts of all those who have contributed
to this outstanding issue will lead towards a new understanding
of Asian art in Paris. The official reopening of the Musée
Guimet (2), which has been closed since February 1996,
is scheduled for the first weeks of January 2001.
As well as my special acknowledgement
of the support and contribution of the Director, I wish
to recognise here the enthusiasm of two individuals,
one working outside the other within the museum. Dealer
Christian Deydier who at the beginning of this year brought
my attention to the reopening of the Musée Guimet
with the suggestion that we cover it; and Marie-Catherine
Rey, Curator of Chinese art at the Guimet who serviced
the material from the various departments.
It is always interesting to learn more about the background
of top dealers. To reach this category you need to be as knowledgeable
as an academic. Christian Deydier was born in Laos in 1950. He studied
Chinese language and civilisation at the University of Paris VII followed
by study at Tai Ta University in Taipei of the earliest Chinese script
on "oracle bones" of tortoiseshell and bone from the Shang dynasty. He
was elected in 1980 as an Expert of Far Eastern Art by the Chambre des
Commissaires-Priseurs de Paris. In 1985 he opened his first exhibition
in London as an art dealer and later in December 1987 he founded his London
gallery, Oriental Bronzes Ltd, at Mount Street (now at 24a Ryland Road,
London NW5 3EH). In February 1997 he opened an affiliated gallery at 21
Rue du Bac, 75007 Paris where he celebrates his twentieth anniversary
with a special exhibition from September 29th-November 25th, 2000 accompanied
by a fully illustrated catalogue. He was awarded Chevalier de l'Ordre
des Arts et des Lettres in 1997 and Chevalier dans l'Ordre National de
la Légion d'Honneur in 1998.
I want to express my warmest thanks to Curator Marie-Catherine Rey for her
invaluable help in procuring the various colour illustrations for Director
Jarrige's article to meet our deadlines. This was not an easy task as the illustrations
were gathered from ten different departments within the Musée Guimet
and from father and son architects Henri Gaudin and Bruno Gaudin, who have
separate ateliers, winners of an international competition and in charge of
the museum's renovations.
I never miss the chance of picturing a
pretty girl in my Editorial. This charming Filipina, Ms
Shiela (3), is one of the Miss Philippine title models
for well-known designer Mr Jose "Pitoy" Moreno's fashion
show held at the Grand Hyatt Ballroom in Hong Kong on June
12th, 2000 to celebrate the Philippine National Day. The
main guests included Hong Kong SAR Chief Executive Tung
Chee-hwa, Macao SAR Chief Executive Edmond Ho, Sir and
Lady Gordon Wu and all Consul Generals. Hong Kong SAR Chief
Secretary Anson Chan (4) is seen with on either side Hong
Kong Philippine Consul General Maria Zeneida Angara Collinson
and her husband Michael Collinson. I am delighted to have
sponsored this colourful event for the promotion of Philippine
arts, culture and education in Hong Kong where four hundred
distinguished guests received a complimentary copy of our
May-June 2000 number featuring the lavishly illustrated
article written by Jonathan Best "The Museum of the Filipino
People at the Philippine National Museum".
Readers can imagine the amount of promotion material
I receive every day. From time to time I make a selection and publish
the most topical and relevant within my own Editorial. Due to limited
space this is not always possible. Here are a number from those received
in the past two months.
Scholten Japanese Art Gallery
In September 2000 the doors will open to Scholten Japanese Art Gallery. The
gallery, which occupies the first three floors in a newly renovated townhouse
at 63 East 66th Street, between Madison and Park Avenues, New York, USA, will
offer a variety of Japanese works of art, including, lacquer, inro, netsuke,
ivory carvings, ceramics, metalwork, screens, hanging scrolls, woodblock prints,
Buddhist sculpture and other decorative works of art.
is René Scholten, the proprietor, a dealer of Japanese
art from Holland. The Vice President and Managing Director
of the gallery is Katherine Martin, who previously worked
at Sotheby's New York Japanese Department. The gallery's
Senior Associate is Rosemary Bandini, the former specialist
of Japanese art at Eskenazi in London.
and second floor will exhibit art, while the third floor
will have a print study room with an extensive library on
Japanese art and culture. In addition to exhibiting works
for sale, the Scholten Japanese Art Gallery will also offer
its facilities to other individuals and organisations in
this field. In addition the gallery will offer a lecture
series and seminars as well as supporting and contributing
to Japanese scholarship.
Los Angeles Arts of Pacific Asia Show
Held from October 6th-8th at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium (corner of Pico
Boulevard and Main Street), 1855 Main Street, Santa Monica, California, USA.
An exhibition and sale of rare and ancient artefacts and antiques, as well
as contemporary art from throughout Asia, this is the ninth annual Arts of
Pacific Asia Show in Los Angeles. Organised by Bill Caskey and Elizabeth Lees,
whose art shows have regularly appeared in the magazine, they feature exquisite
items from the top galleries specialising in Asian photography, rank badges
and embroidered robes from China; tea accessories, kimonos, metal articulated
figures, woodblock prints, and antique and contemporary netsuke from Japan;
gold enamel jewellery from India; sandstone sculpture from Burma; furniture
and ceremonial objects from Indonesia; and ceramics and porcelains from Korea.
Everything from ancient Chinese Neolithic pottery to historic photography prints
from nineteenth century Tibet will explore over two thousand years of Asian
The Pure-Hybrid: Art of Northwest India and its Neighbors
from the 3rd to 9th Centuries.
The idea of hybrid is examined and demonstrated through a display of sculpture
from the Asiatic and Middle East to the Indian Sub-continent. The regions centring
on Kabul, Peshawar and Taxila have a history of magnificent cultural attainments
and civilisation layered in mystery and the undiscovered. To understand this
region the art of neighbouring empires are recognised with work from Pakistan,
India and Afghanistan.
2000 exhibition at Michael Cohn Asian Antiquities Gallery
will run from Tuesday, October 3rd, to Saturday, October
28th, 2000 at 24 East 11th Street, New York City. The gallery
is located in an historic Greek Revival townhouse in Greenwich
Village, opened by appointment daily 3-7 pm except Monday.
Whispered Prayer: Images and Objects of Himalayan Culture
October 12th-November 23rd, 2000 at Folk Art International/Xanadu (140 Maiden
Lane, San Francisco, 94108, USA). An exhibition showing sacred art and artefacts
as well as historical and contemporary photographs. The exhibition will open
on October 12th from 3-7 pm with a book signing by Stephen R. Harrison, author
of the photographic survey subtitled Portraits and Prose of Tibetans in
and sale will feature a group of bronze and wood Buddhas,
bodhisattvas and tantric deities dating from the 9th to 19th
century as well as some examples of Tibetan thankas. There
will be a selection of Tibetan monastic chests dating from
the 15th to 19th century, prayer wheels, drums, instruments
and ceremonial spears. Also on exhibit will be historic photographs
of the Dalai Lama and the monastery in Lhasa from the New
York Times archives as well as contemporary portraits of
Tibetan refugees in exile by Stephen R. Harrison from his
book Whispered Prayers.
Shou: Long Life
12th October-30th November, 2000 at La Galliavola Oriental Art (Via Borgogna,
9, 20122 Milan, Italy). This exhibition organised by Patrizia Chignoli presents
fine quality Chinese antiquities and paintings by Tan Guo, a contemporary Nanjing
artist who takes inspiration from old Chinese porcelain, musical instruments,
old paper, frescos and Buddhist sutras. In Tang Guo's work Chinese traditional
paintings and vanguard ink and wash collide head on. Tang Guo himself makes
the paper of his paintings in a long process that takes a minimum of six months.
The paintings he presents in Milan are characterised by the presence of contemporary
calligraphy where the meaning of the characters is surpassed by their form
Clouband.com claims it is the definitive website for carpets, textiles, Asian
and Tribal art and is the only site dedicated purely to this field. It works
as a trading environment with also a gallery for virtual exhibitions; a magazine
with articles and hot-off-the-press news items; listings and a discussion forum.
Cloudband.com was launched in June 1999 by Alan Marcuson, ex-publisher of Hali
and the team behind Cloudband.com consists of many experts from the world of
textiles and carpets.
many dot.com companies, the starting budget has been relatively
small and Alan Marcuson believes in building the market slowly.
To date they list over seventy dealers offering around six
hundred items for sale and say thirty-nine per cent of the
dealers on the site are selling.
Elegant Furniture from Shanxi province
Chine Gallery's annual furniture exhibition for the millennium year focuses
on the very distinct style of Shanxi province. Zafar and Anwer Islam, the gallery's
proprietors, are showing over one hundred rare pieces sourced from Shanxi including
several important items in lacquerware. The exhibition runs from October 26th-8th
November at the gallery at 42A Hollywood Road, Hong Kong.
lies southwest of Beijing and northeast of Shanxi province,
the site of the terracotta warriors. It is remote and difficult
to reach, partly because it is surrounded by high mountains
and partly because of the extreme climate with its scorching
hot summers and freezing cold winters. As a result, the area
has always been fairly cut off and has therefore remained
conservative in all ways including its favoured styles of
furniture style is decidedly different from those of other
regions of China. It features seldom-seen forms such as flush-sided
corner legs, double-mitred inserted shoulder joints and curved
cabriole legs. Other interesting features of Shanxi furniture
are the scroll legs lute table, black and red lacquer cabinets
with paintings of precious items. Woods used included elm,
walnut, catalpa, lacquered softwood and peach.
Yin Expressions Limited (Room 702-703, 39 Wellington Street, Hong Kong). After
being considered all these years as an "arty person", whose concrete professional
achievement is being a creative jewellery designer, Kai-Yin Lo is finally recognised
she says by international museums and official bodies as someone who has contributed
to the cause and promotion of art and culture for her "strong efforts to maintain
and explain the great Chinese heritage".
she will be active with four jewellery and accessories exhibitions,
including her first in Mainland China. She will be delivering
a lecture at the Palace Cultural Academy on October 21st
at the Palace Hotel, Beijing, and a private lecture to wives
of the ambassadors, during a jewellery exhibition from October
20th-22nd at the Palace Hotel. On November 15th an exhibition,
organised by the Asia Society, will be held in a private
home of a prominent person in New York. Lectures are planned
at the Overseas Press Club of America, New York this autumn,
and the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco next spring.
In July this year Robin Woodhead, Sotheby's
Chief Executive of Europe and Asia, announced the appointment
of Henry Howard-Sneyd (5) as the new Managing Director
of China and Southeast Asia. Former Managing Director Carlton
Rochell also wrote to me on August 1st that he had been
transferred to head a new worldwide jewellery department
as Executive Vice President, Head of International Jewellery
based in New York. "In my place" Carlton says, "Henry Howard-Sneyd
will be transferring permanently from London to fulfil
his new role. I hope that you will join me in congratulating
Henry Howard-Sneyd, educated in Eton College and Cambridge,
where he studied Biochemistry and Art History, is a long-time contributor
to ARTS OF ASIA of Saleroom News reports as also is Carlton Rochell. Coincidentally
Henry offers our readers his latest report on pages 136-139. As I count
him amongst my good friends I had no hesitation in asking him to lunch
preceded by an interview in my office on July 29th:
Tuyet Nguyet: You have been working for Sotheby's
for twelve years. Did you ever think you would have been given such
an important title so quickly?
I think I never really thought
in terms of where I was going to get. I took things pretty much as they
came. If you had told me twelve years ago I would become Sotheby's Managing
Director for China and Southeast Asia I would have been pleased but amazed.
TN: Are you apprehensive about your new job?
I have just taken on the job. I am very
excited about it and feel comfortable with my ability to face the challenges.
I have been in Hong Kong and Asia so many times over the last ten years
and I like it very much. I feel comfortable here.
TN: We were just talking to you about your first Saleroom
News report for ARTS OF ASIA in our May-June 1991 issue.
Have you enjoyed writing for us?
I have always enjoyed writing the articles. Maybe
I could have been more prompt in meeting the deadlines [!].
It is great to analyse the sale. It is a good discipline
and forces you to think about what has happened and to reflect.
It is necessary to sit back and look at the international
auctions and look at how the collectors have reacted and
how that had affected the sale.
TN: Is there any set pattern in the sales?
You can usually explain why one particular lot
did well or badly, however for general analysis the most
overarching influence is the general economic conditions.
It is not the short-term moves in the stock markets [that
count]. It is when the economy as a whole is down then it
is difficult. The confidence in America has been high.
of the sale put together is important: the quality and rarity
of the pieces, the provenance, the expertise applied, and
how well the estimates are set. You can use precedent [for
estimating] and adapt it to market conditions, the collectors,
etc. From a professional satisfaction point of view every
lot should sell in the middle of the estimate because it
means that you as an expert have been proved right. However
this is not the art of auctioneering. The public perception
of a good sale is when the estimates are set a little too
low and the price achieved is higher than the estimate. This
TN: How do you go about setting the low reserves
and convince sellers to accept them?
Particularly with someone like Julian Thompson,
his views are respected and clients will accept his analysis.
If in contrast to our estimate a client says their piece
is worth two or three million we have to ask whether we can
justify such an estimate. We try to set the estimates slightly
lower than what we think the piece is actually worth to create
interest and excitement in the buyers. This can be said of
the heads of each of our collecting departments who are closely
in touch with their respective markets.
TN: What are the changes in the Chinese art market
in terms of selling and collecting?
They are very profound and in the long term very
dramatic. If we assume the quality of the sale and estimating
are consistent then there has been considerable movement
in countries with financial clout. Up to 1990 the Japanese
were fairly dominant. Anything to their taste was flying
high. There was an undercurrent of Chinese collectors but
they were not as strong. After 1990 and the Japanese recession
there was a realignment of taste and a movement to the Taiwanese
who favoured things like jade and jadeite. Recently there
have been increases in Hong Kong collectors and just stepping
into the fray mainland Chinese. Mainland Chinese collectors
like Qing and Ming Imperial wares. Newer collectors in Hong
Kong particularly like Imperial Qing ware.
the taste which through the 1990s was very much for the Ming
reached a peak around 1996. Now newer collectors are driving
Qing to higher levels. Qing falangcai has been an excellent
investment whereas Ming has been less so. One of my favourite
pieces that I have handled is a little Yongzheng bowl with
four geese sold at Sotheby's in Hong Kong in November 1989.
It was bought by Robert Chang for HK$15 million. The Chang
Foundation in Taipei now has it. All things that are great
fetch high prices.
always loved the Song period and that has recently gone up
[in value] over the last two years. Song is what makes my
heart beat with excitement and I still think it is my favourite
but as you grow and learn you are able to appreciate more
things. Collecting is fun. There are always areas which were
ignored. Before it was Song. Now you can buy black amphora
jars from the Warring States period, which I think are gorgeous,
for HK$5000. Many people do tend to follow the crowd but
you need to consider other aesthetics and follow your own
TN: What have been the changes you have seen at
The nature of the business is that there have
been many changes as the company grows to address the developments
in the marketplace. However, Julian has been at Sotheby's
for thirty-five years. He is a scholar and someone who can
train you. He leads by example and is absolutely my mentor.
In the department we would look at everything together and
he would point out salient features; as I gained in knowledge
I started questioning. However in all the occasions where
we disagreed at first he was always proved right. Working
with him has been a great pleasure and he has tremendous
knowledge. I would not have been able to learn so fast without
Director, I have Julian as my Chairman and I report to Robin
Woodhead, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive, Europe
and Asia, based in London. Robin has been brought in from
the banking world and is highly professional. I think he
will impress you. He is very intelligent, a dynamic manager
and at the same time very likable.
TN: Sotheby's has expanded its office in Hong Kong
from eight to thirty-six people. How many are experts?
A more profound change has been the expectations
of an auction house for their clients. When I first came
I just put up a catalogue and sale. Now there is constant
attention for clients and taking objects on presale exhibitions.
There is constant contact with clients. Before there were
four experts now there are more than ten. Jewellery has become
a major feature and we have also expanded into watches, client
services and financing. As Asia has grown Hong Kong has become
our central office for Asia rather than an outpost.
TN: Are you planning to expand further into China?
What are your plans as Managing Director?
I am in charge of management in China and Southeast
Asia. I think we have done the expansion that we need to
for the present. We will consolidate our position. We recently
moved our sales of Chinese oil paintings, traditionally sold
in Taipei, to be featured in our Asia Week Hong Kong sales
as we feel that Hong Kong is the international auction centre
for Asia. However, we still sell Southeast Asian paintings
in Singapore. We have our office in Shanghai but we cannot
do more in China than just representing ourselves at the
moment. I hope that we will be able to be more active on
the mainland and in the rest of the region in the near future.
TN: Following the disturbances during the last
Hong Kong sales, what is China's definition of Imperial art?
We have been in communication with China. We
do not know exactly how the mainland defines "Imperial" but
there are extensive international treaties and none of these
treaties were contravened in our last sales. Obviously we
are sensitive to Chinese views but we cannot do more than
follow the law established by countries across the world.
The bronzes were sold in Hong Kong before without any concerns
being voiced. We did not anticipate that any conflict would
happen. It was a surprise and we were very concerned that
it upset some members of the community.
TN: Do you expect you will be able to make changes
in direction? Do you have the full authority?
I have the authority to act within Asia. If it
is something that would affect us internationally I should
ask Robin Woodhead. I am not the dictatorial type, but rather
consensual and I would discuss things with colleagues and
Julian as I respect his knowledge.
TN: How do you approach people to get good pieces?
The way the auction works is the senior experts
get the collections. My role as Managing Director is to enable
that and also work with the experts to provide the back-up
so that collectors feel they and the experts, have the full
TN: How do you know who has what?
We know through many years of selling to collectors.
Julian has been there so long and knows most of the collectors
personally. In Europe and America we also conduct insurance
valuations. I know that there are a lot of collections in
the West that nobody knows about. In Japan there are also
quite a lot. Some we know quite well and they do not want
to sell yet. People's reasons to sell are very different.
If you are very wealthy and you have beautiful things there
is probably no reason to sell them.
TN: What if the prices are high and the collectors
are not Chinese?
There are many famous collectors who are not
Chinese. Take for earlier example Sir Percival David. In
old European collections they never talk about money. It
is very bad taste. In Asia it is easier to approach people
to persuade them that the market is strong and that it is
therefore a good time to sell. When a European wants to sell
they will hopefully contact us as we have looked after them
TN: How do you see the market for Chinese art?
For the next year I do not see any fundamental
changes. The market is strong and will continue to remain
strong. One market that has gained the fastest is jewellery.
It is immediately appealing to everybody across the world
and it is easily portable. You can always sell it again at
a good price. It is like a blue-chip stock.
TN: But I recently read that diamonds are depreciating?
I think I must disagree with that. Although the
Asian economies were under strain in recent years, the market
moved rather more towards the buoyant economy in the States.
We are now seeing that trend reversed as Asia, particularly
TN: You have this British approach. Was this a
factor in your new promotion?
From a personal point of view I hope I was chosen
because I am the best person for the job. We are a global
company and I have after all been with Sotheby's for twelve
years. During this time I have worked with clients and colleagues
from all over the world and therefore have quite a global
view of the marketplace.
TN: I have met Ursula your lovely wife. Is she
looking forward to coming to Hong Kong?
Ursula will be leaving her work in a family business-a form of venture
banking. I think she will enjoy Hong Kong and is much looking forward to coming
here. I feel very honoured to be here.
A day or so later when I was checking the interview, in a telephone conversation,
Henry mentioned to me the following additional notes on his career and family.
As far as his early career, Henry first joined Sotheby's in 1988 and joined
the Chinese department in summer 1989 to work with David Priestley on the British
Rail Pension Fund sale and with Conor Mahony on Export Ware sales. From the
very beginning he was learning from Julian Thompson. His first trip to a sale
in Hong Kong was for the November 1989 auctions.
Originally a farmer in Yorkshire, Henry's father changed his career to become
a highly considered dealer in Greek and Roman art for the last fifteen years.
He is now retired. Henry has two uncles who are very senior at Christie's:
Noel Annesley (Deputy Chairman) and John Lumley (Executive Director). John
Lumley's father also worked at Sotheby's and was a silver dealer. Henry grew
up surrounded by talk of the art world hearing all the funny stories about
auctions and antique dealers. Choosing to set his own track, Henry decided
to join Sotheby's, and soon fell in love with Chinese art.