editorials - September
- October 2001
"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
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
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
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).
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
"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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
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
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.