January to February 1996 Editorials

Immediately in my editorial of this unique issue on The Textile Museum in Washington DC, I would like to thank all those associated with its publication from the Director, Ursula Eland McCracken, through all the contributing authors, the studio photographer, Franko Khoury, to the otherwise anonymous Maury Sullivan, Public Information Manager, who has so ably and harmoniously acted as intermediary between the contributors and ourselves. The mission statement that has been provided would also seem to find an appropriate place here:

“The Textile Museum is dedicated to furthering the understanding of mankind’s creative achievements in the textile arts.

“As a museum, it is committed to its role as a center of excellence in the scholarly research, conversation, interpretation and exhibition of textiles, with particular concern for the artistic, technical and cultural significance of its collections.

“The mission is pursued through development and maintenance of collections, records and a library, as well as through scholarly research, exhibitions, publications and educational programs.

“In all of this, the standard of excellence established by the Museum’s founder, George Hewitt Myers, will be maintained.”

It is rather more than two years since, when visiting Washington, I was introduced by an art dealer friend to the collections of The Textile Museum, which founded by American benefactor George Hewitt Myers (1875-1957) possesses today a fantastically rich store of more than fourteen thousand textiles, and fifteen hundred carpets and rugs.

My suggestion a month or two later for a Textile Museum feature was enthusiastically received by the Trustees and the Director, Ursula Eland McCracken who has written the Introduction on pages 55-57. A planning meeting was held and the various coverages assigned. Notably Carol Bier (Curator, Eastern Hemisphere Collections) writes on the Oriental carpets section, and the very well-known author/scholar Mattiebelle Gittinger on the Southeast Asian textiles which are her specialist field. From the museum’s curatorial staff, Lorna Carmel (who we recently had the pleasure of meeting in Hong Kong on her way back from a China visit) covers Central Asian textiles, and Louise W. Mackie, Curator, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, the Islamic collections. Starting with early Islamic curtain, veil and robe fragments dating from the eighth to tenth centuries, she takes her subject through the ages, with velvets, silks and cottons, up to the twentieth century, with hitherto unpublished examples such as a recent accession, the Mughal carpet seen on the cover of this magazine with a detail and on page 68. While this is a short summary of the textiles part of this number, which I feel sure you will enjoy whether you are already knowledgeable on the subject or it is new to you, please address or call The Textile Museum at 2320 S Street, NW, Washington DC 20008-4088, USA, tel: (202) 667-0441, fax: (202) 483-0994, for more information on forthcoming exhibitions, future programmes and membership.

Though my editorial is necessarily being written towards the end of November, 1995, for the benefit of our loyal supporters, both our subscribers and our advertisers, by early December we should have a web site on the Internet at http://www.hk.linkage.net/~artsasia – perfect timing before Christmas and the New Year. The long-term reaction is forecast to be excellent and I will return to this subject again when more is known.

Incidentally, I would like to take this opportunity to stress for our readers, and especially newcomers that ARTS OF ASIA is without doubt the very first of its type since World War Two to have been specifically founded to follow Asian art trends and their historical backgrounds. Do not believe claims you may hear by any other publication which has followed our style, with the purpose of “cashing in” on our undoubted success. For our success in publishing is based on consistent study and hard work in following the needs of our supporters. I and my husband have been loyal to the magazine since its foundation in 1970, while our son Robin Markbreiter who has been working with us since the past five years, has gained valuable experience and is a considerable asset. There must be few, if any publications let alone art ones, that can boast such continuity.

It is ARTS OF ASIA that follows and covers the art market most closely, whether through reports on exhibitions, dealer and auction-house sales, society symposiums, or reviews of books on topical subjects as regular subscribers are well aware. I have frequently been told that my own editorials are eagerly read, as also are our correspondence pages with letters from readers. Such features are rarely found in magazines today because of the amount of time involved in researching and assembling them, and the range of knowledge that is necessary.

In support of the formerly named Netsuke Kenkyukai Society, I travelled overseas with Robin as photographer to attend and record their New York City Convention held from September 8th through 15th. The full report by Sharon Ziesnitz can be found on pages 150-157. Sharon’s first of six articles for us appeared more than nineteen years ago on “Ikebana Basket Art”.

I am frequently asked by travellers from Asia to name good hotels to stay. I can highly recommend the New York Palace, 455 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10022, tel: (212) 888-7000, fax: (212) 303-6000, where the convention was held. I see from the Netsuke Society’s 1995 membership directory that there are now more than five hundred and fifty members. The board of directors and members attending the convention unanimously voted to change the name to The International Netsuke Society.

Many of the members are enthusiastic subscribers to ARTS OF ASIA. It was a pleasure to meet them, attend the lectures and workshops, and update and expand my knowledge of the subject. Viewing the displays in the dealers’ booths, under one roof, was a lesson in itself. Sad to say, from my notes for new collectors, “good netsuke by famous Japanese artists, such as Masanao, Tomotada, Yoshinada, Tomosaku, Ikan and Shoko, mainly of the eighteenth century, are already in the hands of wealthy collectors or in museums, and very few are available for sale at a reasonable price.” However, a worthy collection can still be formed by seeking out those early artists who may not be in favour at the present time.

I was impressed by the works of art by new Western contemporary artists, such as David Carlin, Valerie Barber, Clive Hallam, Guy R.H. Shaw and Michael Birch (see page 156). Here are a few guidelines. New collectors of netsuke should first look for good subjects. Apparently this is very important. Then the pieces should have some intrinsic power. If collecting wood or ivory, the patina is another criteria to look for. New collectors should strive to have the chance to see and handle great pieces, so they can distinguish what is good. Through looking at a great collection you are focusing on an acknowledged collector’s taste.

Mr Chen Dong Shen, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of China Guardian Auctions Co., Ltd, invited me to Beijing to attend their seven-catalogue October 1995 auctions. The sales in order were: first day, October 7th, Chinese Oil Paintings and Sculptures, followed by Rare Books; second day, October 8th, The Yeung Wing Tak collection of Important Qi Baishi Paintings in the morning and Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy in the afternoon; third day, October 9th, Jewellery and Jadeite in the morning, Chinese Porcelain and works of Art in the afternoon, and The Qing Shui Shan Fang Collection of Ming and Qing Furniture in the evening.

A highlight of the sale of oil paintings was Lot 11, Chairman Mao Goes to Anyuan by Liu Chunhua, 220 x 180 cms, which went on a successful bid of RMB6.05 million (US$737,800), more than three times the high estimate, to a Chinese gentleman in his forties sitting just behind me. Interestingly, when we first illustrated this painting in an article by my husband, “Minor Arts during the Cultural Revolution: a collection of memorabilia”, March-april 1987, it was described on page 117 as being a “collective painting by Liu Chun-hua and other students of Peking’s universities and colleges”. Two pages later, the same painting was illustrated in miniature as the August 1st, 1968 postage stamp of The People’s Republic of China.

I cannot resist reprinting my husband’s description of this painting some eight and a half years ago:

“The Annigoni-type picture of the young Mao is as much a part of the Cultural Revolution as the red book and the badges. It suggests the hand of a skilful academic, though said to be the work of a collective of Red Guards from Peking universities and colleges, with the design and main execution by a twenty-four year old student of decorative arts who had never before specially studied oil-painting. A youthful and determined Chairman Mao is seen walking from his native Hunan province to An-yuan in Kiangsi, to organise a strike at the coal mines in 1922 followed by a more major uprising in 1929. The main purpose of the wide distribution of reproductions of this painting (‘Shanghai printers went all out and printed two million copies of the portrait in less than four days’) was to make sure of the unquestionable status of the Chairman as the leader of the workers’ movement and that the credit should go to no one else. Especially not to Chief of State Lui Shao-ch’i, his political adversary.”

Rather than reprint this whole painting a third time, I am showing it partly obscured in the auction room attended by more than seven hundred people (1) and as a souvenir photograph with myself and the Chen Dong Shen family (2). Out of interest I sat through the whole of the sale of Qi Baishi paintings, Lots 181-345, and even bought, I think quite reasonably, Lot 286, Baby Chickens (3) which are escaping from a bamboo basket, the lead chick with a worm in its beak. The title slip is by Li Keran. The hammer went down at RMB110,000 (US$13,415). To this must be added the buyer’s premium, a standard ten per cent with China Guardian, rather less than the fifteen per cent that is usual in Hong Kong.

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