TO BE SELECTED to have independently translated from the Chinese and published in English the two leading articles of this January-February, 2001 issue is recognition indeed of the high status of Arts of Asia in both Western and Asian art worlds. This magazine is appreciated on the mainland of China (particularly in Peking, Shanghai and Canton), in the Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region), as also in Taiwan. My own nine-page Collectors World report covers the recent exhibition, held last October in Taipei, by the eight members of the Taiwan Antique Dealers’ Association.
Where Arts of Asia leads, surely others will follow!
The two archaeological articles we have had translated by Brenda Li in Hong Kong, were written for us in Chinese by three specialists born in Qingzhou, Shandong province. The first article by Wang Ruixia and Zhou Linlin, the second by Sun Xinsheng. Importantly, they support the exhibition of Chinese Northern Qi sculptures excavated at the Longxing Temple in Qingzhou, that will be held jointly with the Hong Kong Museum of Art, from January 19th to April 15th, 2001.
In our support of international art dealers overseas as well as of museums and their scholars, Robin Markbreiter covers the third Asian Art in London, November 9th to 17th, 2000 illustrated with his own lively photographs of the activities and some of those who were present.
On October 4th, 2000 John Ang of Artasia wrote from Taipei to invite me to attend his company’s tenth anniversary exhibition, “The Beauty of Asian Art”. This features Buddhist art, ceramics, textiles and Chinese furniture. Lectures in Chinese and in English included “Gustav Ecke’s contribution to the understanding of Chinese Ming furniture and the development of contemporary Chinese furniture” by Betty Ecke (1), a prominent artist and arthistorian in her own right, on Sunday, October 22nd; and “Song dynasty Temmoku tea bowls” by the gallery owner John Ang on Sunday, November 5th.
Seen at the opening on Saturday, October 21st, either side of Betty Ecke are John Ang and his business partner Jane Fong (their assistant Philip Chen is behind her) (2). A photograph of myself follows with friends, Maggie Pai the writer, and her husband well-known Taiwan architect Bai Chin (3). The Artasia show confirmed for me that collecting in Taiwan has matured considerably over the last ten years.
In fact, in John Ang’s view, Hong Kong collectors should be made aware they have actually lagged behind in terms of obtaining the best pieces. He points out that in several shows in Taipei last October and later, as well as his own, there were examples of Northern Qi dynasty horses. Such an occurrence will be short-lived, he predicts, as the numbers are limited and the dynasty only lasted twenty-seven years (AD 550-577). Among excavated Tang pieces the plump pottery ladies are still the most popular. Up to the late eighties, John explains, they commanded extremely high prices, but prices then fell when too many came on to the market. But since the late nineties prices for large fine examples, 50 cm or more high, have continued to rise as Taiwanese collectors are no longer deterred by traditional thinking that excavated figures bring bad luck. However, Chinese collectors from Hong Kong and Singapore still tend to stay away from tomb pieces. But while in the past they would go quickly through Hong Kong to Europe and the USA, now some of the most fantastic examples can be seen in exhibitions in Taiwan,
such as at the Ching Wan Society Millennium Exhibition (by a leading group of thirty-two Taiwanese collectors and six honorary members founded in 1992) held at the Chang Foundation Museum running from October 7th to November 5th, 2000. Seen as well at Artasia’s own gallery at 1st Fl., 436, Sec.4, Jen Ai Road,
Taipei, Taiwan Tel: 886-2-87801242 Fax: 886-2- 87801347, from their ceramics on displayis a Northern Song funerary yu ware celadon four-handled jar and cover (4) (a similar example is in the Shanghai Museum); and of their collection of Tibetan gilt bronzes an active figure of Yamantaka Vajrabhairava, 16th century, in very fine condition. (5).
It was a pleasure for me to meet Mr Tu Cheng-sheng, the latest Director of the National Palace Museum. (I have now in over thirty-one years, in turn reported on my first meetings with three distinguished directors of that fabulous near inexhaustible historic Chinese Imperial art collection.) We met in Mr Tu’s office at the museum on the early morning of October 21st, where he presented to me for the Arts of Asia Foundation study library his handsome book, The Genre Paintings of Taiwan’s Aboriginal People. This was published in Chinese with summary in English by the Academia Sinica, Taipei, in 1998. Reproductions of paintings in conjunction with other documents and illustrations among the holdings of the Academia Sinica, it is the basis for an investigation into Taiwan’s early history, society and culture. Sources used date to as late as the 19th century, but the work focuses on the 150 years between 1600 and 1750.
A noted historian, with numerous publications on ancient China to his credit, Director Tu studied at the Department of History, National Taiwan University, for his BA 1970, and MA 1974, followed by three years at the London School of Economic and Political Sciences, 1974-1976. A later overseas London University appointment has been Visiting Scholar, School of Oriental and African Studies, 1992- 1993. As well as numerous research and academic awards, his escalating high-level positions include Research Fellow, Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica, since 1984; Director, Graduate School of History, National Tsing-Hua University, 1986-1987; Academic Advisor, Ministry of Education, 1994-1998; and Director, Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica, 1995-2000.
Director Tu was thoughtful (6) and open (7) to me, explaining that his present position has the rank of a Cabinet Minister and will last as long as the current President of Taiwan remains in power. Of the changes he plans, first, he has already obtained the financial backing from the Government to improve the museum’s main gate, repair and redecorate all the relevant exhibition galleries, and to bring in new younger experts to work for the museum in various departments.
The new posts are open to everyone with the right qualities and experience and the positions available have been posted on the Internet. Director Tu has organised a committee to study every application which will establish the three most suitable candidates in each case, irrespective of nationality, for his final selection. This is a change of regulation that he is proud of establishing.
His long-term aim is to have the budget to present Asian and European art in a separate wing. He feels the scope of the museum is at present too limited to showing the arts and culture of China. “We have to think in more global terms” he says. For the year 2003 there will be an exhibition of French paintings from the 17th to 19th centuries, organised by more than ten French museums including the Louvre.
Our trip to London is rather comprehensively covered by Robin Markbreiter following on from my Editorial. On the way back to Hong Kong we broke our journey in Istanbul for three days, just long enough to have a working session with Ms Filiz Cagman, Director of the Topkapi Palace Museum (who is seen in her Topkapi office with Mr Tarik Yalvac, Consul General of Turkey, Hong Kong, who introduced us (8) ). We also attended
the opening of the Orient House art gallery on Friday, November 17th, at Vali Konagi Caddesi, Saroglu Apt. No. 83, Kat 1, D.5 Nisantasi, Istanbul, Tel: 90-212-2247620/21 Fax: 90-212-2247622. Mr A. Osman Mayatepek, Chairman and CEO of the Elsan Group, seen on the left of the picture (9), introduces Mr Mark B.Sandground, Sr, President Elsan-USA, senior partner of an international law firm, and Chairman of the Orient House group of companies.
Mr Sandground pointed out that in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey hosts one of the greatest collections of Ming porcelains. (As you enter the second courtyard, the first enclosure today, through the original middle gate of the complex (10), the former old palace kitchens that house the great collection of Chinese ceramics amassed by
Sulaiman the Magnificent are on your right (11). They begin with 13th century celadons and continue with Chinese porcelains of the 14th to 17th centuries, but are presently closed for renovations.The entrance to the harem is from the opposite side of the courtyard, and an arched doorway beneath a charming portico (12) at the far end leads to the audience room.)
“In this melting pot of civilisations we see the most sophisticated blend of East and West in Istanbul, gateway to the Balkans, Middle East, Caucasia, Central Asia and Europe. We want to contribute to the Oriental heritage in this country (Turkey) which so magnificently inspires us,” Mr Sandground says.
We have a challenge here. We have to live up to your expectations as well as to the standards we have set for ourselves. As Istanbul is a gateway in this part of the world, our Orient House will also serve a gateway to the best examples of Oriental art.”As Goethe said, `Let objects slowly raise us to their levels.”’ On that challenging note we returned to Hong Kong in time to complete this first number of the 2001 year to printing stage.
Despite a general economic slowdown in the year 2000 we have maintained our standards, continuing to expand on new areas of art collecting, such as the informative article by Sian E. Jay in this number on “The Mark Gordon Collection”, and Mark’s own revealing “Judging Authenticity in Tribal Art”. This issue is equally useful and topical with its articles by Keith Stevens on “Luohans on Chinese Altars” and Kerry Nguyen-Long on “Treasures from the Hoi An Hoard” of Vietnamese ceramics. We also introduce a new feature on smaller specialist family museums, which deserve wider exposure internationally. On this first occasion, “The Tareq Rajab Museum, Kuwait”, written for us by long time contributor, Jehan S. Rajab.
I would like to wish all my subscribers, contributors and advertising clients Happiness and Prosperity for the year of the snake, which commences on January 24th, 2001.