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 amongst them.
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.
The President 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.
The ground 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 art.
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.
The Fall 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 Exile.
The exhibition 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 and disposition.
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.
Unlike 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.
Shanxi 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.
Its classical 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”.
This autumn, 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 him.”
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?
Henry Howard-Sneyd: 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?
HHS: 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?
HHS: 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?
HHS: 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.
The quality 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 generates excitement.
TN: How do you go about setting the low reserves and convince sellers to accept them?
HHS: 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?
HHS: 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.
In porcelain 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.
I have 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 tastes
TN: What have been the changes you have seen at Sotheby’s?
HHS: 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 his help.
As Managing 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?
HHS: 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?
HHS: 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?
HHS: 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?
HHS: 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?
HHS: 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 managerial support.
TN: How do you know who has what?
HHS: 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?
HHS: 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 through valuations.
TN: How do you see the market for Chinese art?
HHS: 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?
HHS: 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 Japan, recovers.
TN: You have this British approach. Was this a factor in your new promotion?
HHS: 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?
HHS: 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.