I AM GRATEFUL to Dr Hugo E. Kreijger, Asian Art Consultant to the Southeast Asian Department of Christie’s International, for arranging a wonderful programme during my recent trip to Holland with my friend Thomas Murray, the asiatica and ethnographica specialist.
Together, on Tuesday, January 9th, we visited in the morning the Asian Department of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, where we were greeted and shown around by Ms Pauline Lunsingh Scheurleer, author of the article “An Introduction into Majapahit Ornamentation” in our November-December 2000 magazine. Definitely, the strongest feature of the Asian Department, on the museum’s ground floor, is the group of Indonesian sculptures. As much as I would have liked to have been able to view in depth the department’s Chinese and Japanese porcelain collections, my time was too short.
We dashed at 12:30 pm to Sotheby’s Amsterdam, to meet their Deputy Director, Drs Feng-Chun Ma, who showed us their very elegant, well-organised new offices, with a staff of forty, and conveniently in front of the building their own very large car park. Invited to meet me at lunch at Sotheby’s was Dr W.E. Bouwman, Director of Kunsthandel Aalderink B.V., one of the longest established galleries in Amsterdam.
After lunch, the whole of the afternoon was spent visiting the Royal Tropical Institute, which I discovered has the largest textile collection from Indonesia, as well as one of the finest collections of Indonesian tribal art. For those of our readers who are interested in the culture of Indonesia I strongly recommend they visit their coming exhibition “Drawn in Wax-200 Years of Batik Art from Indonesia” from April 10th-October 14th, 2001.
The early evening was spent at the gallery of Mr Jaap Polak, where we also met another contributor to the November-December 2000 magazine: Dr Nandana Chutiwongs, Curator, Leiden Museum. Jaap Polak sells Western furniture, but since several years has collected Indonesian bronzes. He is well known to have the best documented collection, which I can well believe from his photographic albums. I spent an hour and a half being briefed by him.
On the morning of Wednesday, January 10th, we took the train to Rotterdam, visiting the exhibition “Majapahit: The Golden Age of Indonesia” at the newly renovated and renamed Wereldmuseum, whose ex-Curator, the recently retired Drs Anneke
Djajasoebrata, is seen with me in our first photograph (1), while Hugo and Thomas are standing behind. Since I collect Indonesian jewellery and bronzes, and in a sense “sponsored” our November-December 2000 magazine with its coverage of “The Golden Age of Indonesia, Late 13th-Early 16th Century”, I was delighted to view these collections in the company of such experts. The exhibition runs on to May 25th, 2001, and I urge our readers to make an effort to see it.
Of course, I was present at the ouverture (opening) (2) at the Guimet, Musée National des Arts Asiatiques, 6 place d’Iéna (near the Eiffel Tower), 75116, Paris, on Monday, January 15th, 2001, as the invitation directed between 3-6 pm. Present rather earlier that morning at 11 am, were President Jacques Chirac, with Madame Pompidou and Madame Catherine Tasca, Minister of Culture, seen with Mr T.T. Tsui from Hong Kong (3), a major donor to the Guimet Museum, who had a special presentation for themselves with very high security protection.
Since I first saw the Musée Guimet as a young visitor in Paris in 1955, and again on my honeymoon with my husband in 1959, and a number of times after then, the interior of the building has been largely reconstructed, though its dignified classical exterior has thankfully been retained. (See he article “The Renovation of the Musée Guimet-Towards a New Understanding of Asian Art in Paris”, by Conservateur général, Directeur Jean-François Jarrige, Arts of Asia, September-October 2000.)
My first impression now of the formerly dusty and neglected, rather incoherent interior, is the wonderful natural light that permeates the entrance hall of the ground floor and focuses on the beautiful Khmer sculptures (4). Jean-François Jarrige has described this reconstruction very clearly in his article the effect is stunning.
The cost of the renovation, which I assume is still continuing, was US$48 million. Three of the museum’s five floors are available to the general public following the ouverture as follows: ground floor (public areas, library, bookshop, Indian and Southeast Asian Collections); first floor (Riboud, Chinese, Central Asian, Afghanistan-Pakistan and Tibet-Nepal Collections); and second floor (Chinese, Korean and Japanese Collections). The third and fourth floors were not open to us, but I believe these will also probably house the Chinese Collections which are extensive. In all, to date, some 3500 pieces from a variety of categories are on display from a collection total of 45,000. I was a little disappointed that there was no allocation for Asian textiles, but overall the new spacious and bright Musée Guimet can claim to be one of the most important repositories of Asian artefacts. I should also point out that the Japanese Collection on display and the presentation of sculptures from Afghanistan and Pakistan are superb. During the opening there was a strong turnout from New York and groups, among them my friend Liza Hyde the well-known dealer of Japanese screens, were led through the galleries by Amy Poster of The Brooklyn Museum and Alexandra Munroe of the Japan Society Gallery.
Seen with me on the ground floor are, on the left of the photograph, Filippo Salviati, the jade expert from Rome, and on the right of the photograph Samuel and Myrna Meyers, whose jade collection Dr Salviati catalogued last year (5).I visited while in Paris the Meyers’ collection of archaic jade and was most impressed with the attributions and its quality.
Amongst several of the friends I met at the museum galleries, seen here are Pansy Hui, of Christie’s Hong Kong, with Dr Kenson Kwok, Director of the Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore (6); and Mrs K. Wang-King, daughter of the internationally-known Chinese painter and senior authority, C.C. Wang, with Dr Hugo K. Weihe, Head of Asian Art, Christie’s New York (7).
But undoubtedly most fortuitous, I met James J. Lally also from New York, the highly respected independent Asian art dealer and was delighted as a result to receive from Jim the following letter when I was back in Hong Kong:
“It was a pleasure to see you in Paris at the reopening celebration of the Musée Guimet, and then once again at the Hong Kong Museum of Art for the exhibition of the important selection of Buddhist stone sculptures excavated in Shandong.
“In response to your repeated enquiries regarding the new Guimet interior and installation, it is hard to know how to respond. We are all delighted that the French national museum of Asian art is finally reopened after being closed for too long, and the renovation of the interior is a tremendous improvement, to say the least. There is such an opening-up of the interior space and so much more natural light, that the difference is quite extraordinary and yet they were able to save the marvelous old façade of the original building, and I am delighted by that. The installation of the sculpture on the ground floor makes the best use of the new interior and it has tremendous impact-how could it fail with so many masterpieces! The flow between the various galleries upstairs is tremendously improved, and the architect must be congratulated for making it possible for us to perambulate the building with ease.
“I am not qualified to comment in any serious way regarding the Japanese and Korean and Indian and the other non-Chinese installations, although I was particularly impressed by the Korean galleries. But you know that Chinese art is the only field which I have attempted in any depth. When we met in one of the Chinese sculpture galleries, it was immediately clear that you and I had the same reaction to the reinstallation: delight in seeing so many “old friends” back on display, but bewilderment at the idiosyncratic selection and the inconsistent presentation. In short, it is a wonderful collection in a thoroughly modern facility, but the full potential for a beautiful and informative display of the best works of art is not yet fully realized.
“The new Musée Guimet is a tremendous step forward. Everyone who has plans to be anywhere near Paris should not fail to visit. I certainly won’t go to Paris without spending considerable time there, and I am confident that the display will be better presented, better lit and better labeled each time I visit.”
I would have liked to extend my Paris trip to visit art galleries, however I had to rush back to Hong Kong to attend the opening ceremony of the exhibition “Buddhist Sculptures: New Discoveries from Qingzhou, Shandong Province” at the Hong Kong Museum of Art (8) on January 18th. Featured on the cover of our January-February 2001 magazine, the exhibition of 100 Chinese Buddhist sculptures which runs until April 15th, offers a unique opportunity to view the artistic style of stone sculptures from the Northern Wei (386-534) to Northern Song (960-1127) dynasties.
Seen standing at the ribbon cutting ceremony (9), are from the left, Mrs Maisie Wong, Chairman of the Friends of the Hong Kong Museum of Art, Mrs Zheng Ruzhi, Deputy Mayor of Qingzhou City, Shandong province of the PRC, Ms Choy So-yuk, Member of the Legislative Council, Mr Lam Woon-kwong, JP, Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Zheng Xinmiao, Deputy Director of the National Administration for Cultural Heritage of the PRC, Ven. Kok Kwong, President of the Hong Kong Buddhist Association, Mr Wang Huaqing, Director of the Qingzhou City
Museum of the PRC, and Mr Paul S.W. Leung, JP, Director of Leisure and Cultural Services.
One person who deserves much credit for bringing the exhibition to Hong Kong is Gerard Tsang (10), Chief Curator (Policy Review) of the Hong Kong Museum of Art. When I spoke with him in the galleries he explained that it had taken two years to finalise the arrangements to bring the pieces to Hong Kong. When he first saw the sculptures at the Qingzhou City Museum he was captivated by the beauty of the stone carvings and the serene expressions on the Buddhas. The Hong Kong Museum of Art’s exhibition is the largest of its kind to be held in town and the presentation was the best ever staged at the museum. Many of the sculptures are standing figures, some of monumental size, and will surely attract visitors from around the world.
There is no doubt that the gala preview opening of the 5th Annual San Francisco Arts of Pacific Asia Show, benefitting the education programs of the Asian Art Museum/Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture, held on Thursday, February 1st, was a great success.
xCongratulations are in order for co-chair Joan Lee Vinson for staging with organisers Caskey-Lees such an original and most appealing entrance (11). Joan and fellow co-chair Gorretti Lo Lui raised over US$250,000, considerably more than previous years, and had an attendance of nearly 1000 guests each paying US$175 for tickets. They are seen in the centre of our photograph (12) with Joan’s daughter Clare and husband Glenn on the right, and Bill Caskey and Elizabeth Lees on the left.
Although a few guests were not accustomed to the loud drums accompanying the New Year’s lion dance, traditionally staged to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck, I found it delightful as the performers included young children (13).
There was also plenty to drink and eat including caviar and fresh prawns, and the caterers served from lavish buffet tables and sushi bars up to 10 pm when the party ended. Distinguished guests included Tim Hormel, Ambassador to Luxembourg, venture capitalists Frank Caufield and Sandy Miller, Carl Pascarello, CEO of Visa, USA, and Asian art collectors Willard Clark, Chong-Moon Lee, Rick Fabian and Marjorie Bissinger, Dr Emily Sano, centre,Director of the Asian Art
Museum, is seen with me and Dessa Goddard, Butterfields’ Vice President and Director of Fine Asian Works of Art (14). In her welcoming address Emily thanked the sponsors, guests and organisers for their continuous support. Following her speech the door prize drawing was held and guests stayed to see whether they would be lucky winners.
On the opening night I also enjoyed meeting our subscribers, contributors, friends and guests including Mr Susanto Prio Utomo, Indonesian Consul General, and his wife
Silvy. (#15).Many said they truly enjoyed the exotic wood canopy entrance featuring original 18th/19th century bracketing from Ningbo in China exhibited by Evelyn’s Antique Chinese Furniture, Inc. Folk Art International also contributed to make the entrance particularly inviting. Director Marsha Vargas (16), with the assistance of interior designers, oversaw the tasteful arrangement of their impressive Southeast Asian stone Buddha, Tibetan thangkas, Chinese carpet and Gandharan stone sculpture.
The following three show days (one day shorter than the previous year) were extremely busy at our Arts of Asia stand where we talked with new and old subscribers and sold over 500 magazines. For our readers who were unable to attend the show I have selected from the works of art and displays I found particularly interesting and attractive of the eighty-two participating dealers.
Robyn Turner is well known as a specialist in Chinese jades so I was pleasantly surprised to find on her beautiful stand a group of Japanese Meiji ivory carvings. I have chosen to illustrate a male figure playing a flute with a female at his side holding a sword (17).
Exhibited next door at Shakris Fine Asian Works of Art was a rare and fine large cast bronze seated Buddha in dhyanasana with his hands poised in bhumisparsa mudra (18). The crisply cast facial features and serene expression is typical of the Lanna School, 14th/15th century, in northern Thailand.
Imari Inc. specialises in Japanese antiques and particularly in screens. They had a beautiful two-panel folding screen depicting a cluster of flowering peonies and rocks along a meandering shoreline veiled in mist and clouds. (19).
The elegant screen is dated Edo (Tokugawa) period, late 18th century, and executed in sumi with colour and flecks of gold leaf on gold leaf applied paper and mounted on wooden frames.
One of the earliest and rarest pieces in the show was a bronze figure of Buddha from Kashmir dated circa 9th/10th century from Folk Art Inernational (20).What makes this piece particularly special are the two lions in openwork over a lotus petal frieze. The seated Buddha’s hands are raised before his chest in the gesture of teaching and he wears a closely fitting sanghati finely incised with a zigzag border.
Robyn Buntin of Honolulu had an impressive and large pair of Japanese Bishamon-ten and Jikoku-ten “guardian kings” (21). They were originally Hindu protective deities absorbed into the Buddhist pantheon and assigned to guard the four cardinal directions against evil.
I was also very pleased to see my good friend Florence Chong of Hobbs & Bishops Fine Art, Ltd (22). She had shipped from Hong Kong for the second year running quality Chinese furniture at reasonable prices.
Tai Gallery/Textile Arts from Sante Fe was exhibiting in San Francisco for the first time and was very pleased with the show. Owners Robert T. Coffland and Mary Hunt Kahlenberg had brought with them examples of their finest bamboo baskets (23) signed by respected Japanese contemporary artists. The decision to display their best pieces was rewarded with successful sales.
Art of the Past also brought fine early pieces. An example from northern India is a 10th-11th century sandstone sculpture of Shiva with his adoring consort Parvati (24). Many visitors commented on the image’s elegance and movement.
Tim Mertel of L’Asie Exotique told me they had a pretty good fair selling a number of items from all different cultures including Chinese scholar items, ceramics from the Hoi An Hoard, Chinese furniture, Japanese Meiji ceramics and ningyo dolls (25). His partner Alan Pate will be giving a lecture, Japanese Ningyo: Festival dolls of the Edo Period, in the main auditorium of the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 3:00 pm on Sunday, March 4th. This is in conjunction with the reinstallation of the Japanese galleries featuring art from the Edo period including ningyo from the Ayervais Collection.
Thomas Murray always tries to educate visitors to his stand by showing unusual pieces. This time his much admired display featured stone sculptures from Indonesia (26). But he and other dealers who brought interesting and valuable works of art received a disappointing response. Following my own discussions with many exhibitors, it is evident that despite the higher attendance and much improved presentation, visitors were not willing to spend money for the best pieces.
It is important to note that for art fairs to survive the dealers must do well so that they can afford to come back. If in spite of their best efforts they do not sell their best pieces then it is natural that eventually they will not be able to return. Thomas says, “People who attend the opening night should vote with their pocket book. There were people at the opening blessed with affluence who should support the dealers. The price point for buying remains rather low and sophisticated pieces were unsold. What is needed is to have the informed audience responding to the finest works of art. If they want to have a show with great pieces they have to buy.” The majority of the exhibiting dealers hope that by 2002 the US economy will greatly improve and encourage more knowledgeable collectors from across America to attend the 6th Annual San Francisco Arts of Pacific Asia Show. Next year the preview night is scheduled for Thursday, January 31st and the show will end on Sunday, February 3rd, so this could be something to bear in mind!
However, the next important event I will be attending long before then is the March 2001 Asia Week in New York, to visit the numerous museum and private gallery exhibitions, art fairs and Christie’s and Sotheby’s auctions. One special exhibition and sale I am looking forward to is “Ancient China: Music and Ritual” at J.J. Lally & Co. from March 20th-April 8th. The highlights are bronze bells dating from the Shang dynasty (circa 12th/11th century BC) through the early Western Han dynasty (circa 200 BC). The largest and most elaborate in the exhibition is an Eastern Zhou (early 5th century BC) bell (27) meant to be played with the wide crescent-shaped mouth pointed down, suspended from a thick loop at one side of the shank. This bell would have been part of a large bianyong chime, a graduated set of bells made for ceremonial use.
Frederick Schultz Ancient Art Inc. is conveniently located at 41 East 57th Street, in the same building as J.J. Lally & Co. From March 20th-April 27th in association with Peter Marks Gallery, Frederick Schultz will present “The Jina Collection”, the first exhibition in New York devoted exclusively to ancient Indian Jain sculpture. The collection of stone and bronze objects dating between the 6th and 12th century has been on loan for the past nine years at the Freer Gallery of Art, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington DC, the Smithsonian Institution’s national gallery of Asian art. Illustrated is the stunning white marble Jina (28), dated by inscription to 1160, from the region of Mt Abu, the largest and grandest Jain pilgrimage site in western India.
Since The International Asian Art Fair’s inception in 1996 every year I have hosted the Arts of Asia stand at this event. We again look forward to meeting there our international subscribers in New York from Friday, March 23rd through Wednesday, March 28th. The Benefit Preview for the Asia Society will be held on Thursday, March 22nd from 6-9 pm. Jean Schaefer of Flying Cranes Antiques Ltd tells me she has decided to do something a bit “different” at their stand. They have amassed a charming collection of artwork depicting the “monkey” in Meiji Japanese art. Represented in this group will be metalwork, cloisonné, ceramics and carvings by masters of the period.
Another exhibition I feel our readers will enjoy at The International Asian Art Fair is “Treasures from the Shang and a selection of ritual objects” at Gisèle Croës. Renowned for her spectacular antiques and stunning displays, this year she has chosen to focus particularly on the ritual archaic Shang bronzes (29),which are symbols of political authority and power. I am also illustrating one of her great pair of Han dynasty jade pi discs (30).
Alexandra Munroe, Director of the Japan Society Gallery in New York(333 East 47th Street, New York, NY 10017) joins me in thanking Julia Meech for helping to promote their forthcoming exhibition, “Frank Lloyd Wright and the Art of Japan”.Of our cover, Alexandra Munroe says,”It means a great deal to us and is certain to have agreat impact”, as our readers will surely agree.
We welcome Irene Finch back to our pages with her latest article, “Printing and Resist Methods on Japanese Porcelains”. Readers will like to see her in the photograph taken in Japan with her two museum friends (page 70). And finally, as this is primarily a Japanese issue, I would like to mention that for his first article for our magazine, the translator and researcher Robbert Fehmers traces “Modern Japanese Lacquerware” from the ancient Japanese tradition to the new market as a result of 19th century exhibitions and Imperial incentives in the beginning of the 20th century.
Other distinguished authors who contribute to this number, include Emma C. Bunker, who studied for her graduate degree with Alexander Soper and William Watson, and Humphrey K.F. Hui, an eminent Hong Kong snuff bottle collector and co-author with Christopher C.H. Sin of An Imperial Qing Tradition, 1994. I would like the authors of the Collectors World, Sam Bernstein, and of the Saleroom News reports, Dessa Goddard, Nicolas Chow and Alastair Gibson, Peter Tunstall-Behrens and Giles Lorin, to know that their undertakings for our magazine’s readers are equally appreciated. Appropriate book reviews, such as Tony Luppino’s in this issue, are always well read.