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editorials - May - June 2005

NO DOUBT the official resignation of Mr Tung Chee Hwa, The Chief Executive, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, on March 10th was the chief topic in Hong Kong when I began to prepare this Editorial. Fortunately we had been pre-prepared by leaks in our local newspapers and discussions on our television sets of this administrative change at least ten days earlier. As a result I had an appropriate picture at hand when I started to write this Editorial on March 15th, only eight days before I was to leave for New York City to cover Asia Week.

This page is headed with a brief review of perhaps the most important cultural activity that Mr Tung Chee Hwa participated when still Chief Executive in 2005—the unprecedented “Impressionism: Treasures from the National Collection of France” held at the Hong Kong Museum of Art from February 5th to April 10th. In our unique Arts of Asia opening picture (1) Mr Tung Chee Hwa is seen slightly bowed (as necessary to cut the ribbon), flanked by important persons (from the left): Mr Dimitry Ovtchinnikoff, General Secretary, Association Française d’Action Artistique; Mr Mark F. Bedingham, Regional Managing Director Asia, Japan and Australasia, Moët Hennessy Asia Pacific; Dr Patrick Ho Chi-ping, Secretary for Home Affairs; Mr Serge Mostura, Consul General of France in Hong Kong; The Chief Executive; Mr Serge Lemoine, President, Public Company of Musée d’Orsay; Mr David Eldon, Chairman, Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited; and Dr David Li Kwok-po, President, Honorary Committee (Hong Kong) of the Year of France in China.

I found this exhibition exciting as a highlight programme intended to strengthen cultural exchange between France and China, which undoubtedly it did, as it continued to be exceptionally well-attended by the Hong Kong public and tourists visiting our city until April 10th. The French Impressionist masterpieces were mainly drawn from the collections of the prestigious Musée d’Orsay in Paris, with help from several other top French museums, and had never been seen here before, except as illustrations in books. It was a prime example of the highly important and influential exhibitions that are brought to China these days. Arranged to tour several of China's main cities, these now generally include Hong Kong after Beijing and Shanghai.

In our second picture (2), I am seen with (from the left) Mr Richard W.C. Kan, Mr Andrew K.F. Lee and Mrs Josephine Kan on March 4th at the opening of the exhibition “Shimmering Colours: Monochromes of the Yuan to Qing Periods—The Zhuyuetang Collection”
held at the Art Museum, Chinese University of Hong Kong, until September 2005. This is the ceramic subject of an article in this issue on Chinese monochromes. While the collection of Chinese glass of architect Andrew Lee was the subject of an exhibition article by Humphrey K.F. Hui in our March–April 2001 magazine. Both held at the Art Museum, though four years apart, they are highly relevant in conjunction, for their use of various colours and the similarity of their shapes, though in different materials.

I remember Shatin as a small rural village in a perfect landscape setting. As a stopover for overseas visitors, perhaps for a lunch of pigeon, on a leisurely two-hour drive which took them round the New Territories. We ourselves spent twenty years in the countryside where we lived, not far from Shatin, from the early 1960s to the 1980s. This was at Saikung, across a range of mountains and nearer the open sea. Today the two rural villages are towns linked by main roads. So I have watched Shatin change dramatically. First with the grouping of Chinese University hillside buildings leading down within sight in the distance to the railway; then with the cut and fill of the hills and the estuary to form a super- modern racecourse. All an incentive for the development of Shatin as the major New Territories town it is today, with easy links to our two cross-harbour adjoining cities (Hong Kong and Kowloon) by train and bus, as also of course by taxi and private car.

The nearby car parks of The Heritage Museum, located at 1 Man Lam Road in Shatin, were full and overflowing on the afternoon of March 13th when we arrived on invitation with many others for the ceremonial opening of the exhibition, “From Eastern Han to High Tang: A Journey of Transculturation”. An official car and a tour bus were parked outside the main entrance at that time (3).

Seen in the Arts of Asia photograph (4), officiating at the opening and preparing to cut the ribbon, from the left are: Ms Anissa Wong Sean-yee, Director of Leisure and Cultural Services; Mr Tong Mingkang, Deputy Director-General of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage; Dr Patrick Ho Chi-ping, Secretary of Home Affairs; Dr Tsui Tsin-tong, Standing Member of National Committee of The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference; and Ms Zhang Yanjun, Director-General of Publicity, Culture and Sports Department, the Liaison Office of The Central People's Government in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

I look forward to attending a seminar scheduled for April 17th that will include speakers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Honorary Professor of Fine Arts Ho Puay-peng and the Director of the Art Museum Professor Peter Lam, as well as the notable architect, collector, author and publisher Dr Simon Kwan and Ms Xu Xiaodong (PhD). Their discussion will cover “the transculturation of east and west in ancient China from the Buddhist images, ceramic wares, gold ware and clothing”. For our readers I follow with my own selection of images, from the splendid exhibition which I urge them to visit without delay (5, 6).
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Following the opening we were free at our leisure to examine the three hundred cultural relics on display which were selected from forty-six museums and cultural institutions in fourteen regions of China. National treasures, they included some of the rarest and most revealing archaeological discoveries of the past fifty years.

I personally was also happy to be greeted by a number of my collector friends. I have the opportunity to include here a selection of our photographs of the guests. Seen with me (top row left) is Dr Tsui Tsin-tong (7), the Chinese businessman- collector, well-known for his generous donations to museums. Next, representatives of our government: Professor Arthur K.C. Li (8), presently Secretary for Education and Manpower, formerly Professor of Surgery, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, then Vice-Chancellor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. To his right, Member of National Standing Committee of The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and Executive Councillor, Dr Leung Chun-ying (9).
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Representatives of the academic art world, the gallery community, scholars and authors are also seen here. Yang Boda (10), Emeritus Director of the Palace Museum, Beijing, Research Fellow, long-time contributor to Arts of Asia. Fashionable collector of contemporary Chinese paintings and sculpture, David Tang, China Club and Shanghai Tang founder, with his charming wife Lucy (11). Standing by a description in the exhibition of the Southern Dynasties: Economic and Cultural Developments south of the Yangzi, Dr S.Y. Yip (12), well known for his published and exhibited highly selective collection of classic Chinese furniture.

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the bottom row is New York-based Asian art dealer Stephen Lo (13), the son of respected late Hong Kong gallery owner P.C. Lu, who I warmly remember for introducing me to Chinese jades. Author on Chinese snuff bottles, collector Humphrey K.F. Hui, seen with his smiling wife June, myself and Dr Joseph S.P. Ting, Chief Curator of the Hong Kong Museum of History (14). And finally the svelte international designer, Kai-Yin Lo (15), whose article on the Huizhou house, its carpentry and relationship to Chinese furniture, appears later in this unique and beautiful issue.

With Kai-Yin’s article we applaud the work of the China Heritage Arts Foundation (CHAF) of Hong Kong, the Chinese government's commitment to preserve selected architectural sites and monuments, and the skills of China’s master craftsmen, such as Cheng Qifa (16), seen working at the restoration of Laowu Ge in 1999.

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For this essentially China/Hong Kong Editorial I am glad to both welcome and report that the grand opening of Opera Gallery (Pacific House, Shop 20, Queen's Road Central, Hong Kong) was held on January 26th, 2005, just too late for coverage in my last Editorial. Seen from the gallery’s records of the opening party are two pictures. Read together far left (17) is Stephane Le Pelletier, the director who runs the Singapore gallery. The attractive Indonesian lady is Lani Sinarwi who manages the Hong Kong gallery. And leaning towards her is Gilles Dyan, the founder of Opera Gallery which was first established in 1993 at the Place Vendome in Paris. With Hong Kong, Mr Dyan has galleries in six prestigious locations including Paris, New York, Miami, Singapore and London. He describes himself as “a self-made man who started his career at a very young age” when he met and befriended several artists in the 1970s and 1980s.

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To my surprise I was glad to see at the centre of the second picture (18) the highly professional genre artist Brian Tilbrook, with his wife and Anne Marden (right). Brian Tilbrook wrote two articles for Arts of Asia in the early 1980s. I have witnessed since then his many hotel murals and stage designs. Through his May-June 1982 article, “An Artist Reflects on the New Territories”, illustrated with thirteen of his works, our readers were taken round the New Territories as it was in the 1980s. Arts of Asia even provided a large simplified map which includes Lantau Island before Chep Lap Kok airport was even thought of. Dennis George Crow’s (19) recent March 8th–13th Hong Kong exhibition and sale, “Historic Photographs of Hong Kong, Macao & Canton, 1860–1930” at 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, was visually successful. Long-time residents in Hong Kong, we found several examples reminiscent of our early days here. My husband picked out a photograph of Queen's Building (20) taken in 1905 which he remembers being pulled down to build the Mandarin Hotel (opened 1963). Most in demand were panoramas by named photographers such as that of Canton by A Fong in 1925. Dennis reports that his exhibition was “well-received and sold to people from out of town as well as in Hong Kong. Six pieces sold to a gentleman who grew up in Hong Kong and is now living in New York, and four photographs to an older gentleman from Lincoln Nebraska who was visiting his son who lives on the Peak in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Maritime Museum in Stanley also bought.”

The rigorous rider on his splashed ink horse that completes this page is surely making his own statement on Chinese painting. In this position, next to the colonial late Victorian styled Queen’s Building, the work surely surprises us when we realise after a minute or two it can be seen as representational of its title, “Blue Rider with Lasso” (21). For their May 20th–31st exhibition, “South of the Border, West of the Sun”, Zee Stone Gallery (G/F, Yu Yuet Lai Building, 43–55 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong) brings us the ink paintings of four contemporary Chinese artists with birth dates spanning from 1938 to 1948. I have chosen as representative Jia Hao Yi (born 1938) for his “dynamism and energy influenced by Chinese calligraphy and by modern western art”. He is the senior artist of the group.

It took twenty years to form the Geng Zhi Tang Collection of exquisite Chinese embroidered articles. Silk making was already of a high level during the Han to Tang dynasties and reached its zenith during the Ming and Qing dynasties, but good examples are rare. Categories represented in the main collection offered at auction by China Guardian at the Kunlun Hotel in Beijing on May 13th to 15th are embroidered paintings, auspicious symbols, table, bed and cushion covers, embroidery for religious purposes, and applied to banners, canopies and thangkas (22).

Weaving and dyeing was established in Suzhou and Hangzhou during the Ming dynasty, and by the Qing dynasty Nanjing had also become a centre for silk embroidery in the Yangzi delta. Embroidered silk was widely used by wealthy officials as chair covers; China Guardian offers a very rare one. In the late Ming dynasty the Jiangnan region became the centre for genre embroidered art replacing paintings presented in scroll (23) or album form. Outstanding examples of the various styles are represented in the Geng Zhi Tang Collection at auction.

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A Sotheby’s announcement appears elsewhere in this issue of three important coming sales on India and the Far East. The two on May 25th are “The Tipu Sultan Collection” and “Exotica: East meets West 1500–1900”. The third sale on May 26th is “The Library of Robert & Maria Travis”, which includes the Prince Alexis Soltykoff first edition elephant folio (86.7 × 57 cm) bound in red morocco, Voyage dans l’Inde, 1850 (24). Julian King (left) has joined Bonhams International Asian Art Department (25) as Senior Specialist/Valuer, to help department director Colin Sheaf (centre) build international business-getting and client development. Educated at Oxford (BA, Chinese Studies including Classical and Modern Language and Literature), Julian will concentrate on sourcing business by working with Bonhams European and Asian offices to establish regular travelling programmes. His particular interests are earlier ceramics and bronzes, complementing Colin Sheaf's expertise in Ming and Qing porcelain, jades and Chinese Export art.

Gillian Loo (right) will join Bonhams full-time later in the Spring, after completing her MA on Chinese Art and Archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University. Born in Penang, Malaysia, she has extensive Chinese language skills and an academic knowledge of Chinese art, particularly ceramics.

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For their June 11th–19th exhibition in London, Linda Wrigglesworth (34 Brook Street, London W1K 5DN) will be showing antique textiles and costumes displaying the different techniques of the Chinese weaver and embroiderer during the Qing dynasty. Highlights include a rare Peking knot stitched Mandarin square, displaying the mandarin duck insignia of the seventh civil rank, with bird and landscape typical of the style of the Jiaqing period (26). Also included is a gold and silver wirework dragon badge (27) dating from the Guangxu period.

The concept of the Brussels Oriental Art Fair (BOA Fair) is a novel one. Held June 8th–12th in sites in Sablon, the antique dealers’ quarter, the historic town centre of Brussels, it coincides with two major annual tribal art and antiques fairs, BRUNEAF (Brussels Non European Art Fair) and BAAF (Brussels Ancient Art Fair), formed by a group of antique dealers. The fairs attract many international collectors, dealers and curators. Some eighty exhibition participants show an exceptional range of material some of which is published in a catalogue and shown above (28). Clockwise from top left: one of a pair of Lokapala, Tang dynasty, height 60 cm (Philippe-John Farahnick); Orissan ivory throne leg, 17th century, height 28 cm (Galerie Alexis Renard); four Chinese snuff bottles, 18th–19th century (La Source); necklace of the Raja of Sikka, Flores, Indonesia, 16th/17th century, width 28 cm (Georgia Chrischilles).

The BOA organisation is responsible for the fair professionally and participants are required to ensure they exhibit Oriental and Asian antiquities of a high-level quality. The sites chosen by the exhibitors are approved by the BOA organisation. For full terms and conditions email organiser Georgia Chrischilles (info@boafair.be).

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Finally, I am showing one of a pair of gilt-wood sofas by Robert Adam, 1780 (29). This will be exhibited by Pelham Galleries Ltd at the 2005 Grosvenor House Art & Antiques Fair (Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London W1, private view June 15th, Charity Gala Evening June 16th, general view June 16th–22nd) (30).

I hope readers will appreciate through my Editorial some of the many desirable and most informative events they can see in our part of the world, in Europe and London, during the coming months. It has fully involved myself and the editorial team for several weeks in viewing, reporting and compiling. So please do not miss these opportunities.

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