May to June 2001 Editorial

ARTS OF ASIA, with the cover of the May-June 2001 issue, introduces its international readership to a new subject-“Ga’u, The Tibetan Amulet Box”. Author John Clarke, Assistant Curator, Indian Department, at the Victoria and Albert Museum has written for us before on metalworking in Ladakh (Arts of Asia, May-June 1989) and reported on the conference “Towards a Definition of Style: The Arts of Tibet” at the V&A (Arts of Asia, November-December 1994). His present article discusses how ga’u are worn and their significance as both containers of protective religious objects and as jewellery reflecting fashion and status. Thirty-six illustrations are drawn from prestigious private collections and world famous museums including The Museum of Cultures in Basel, The British Museum, The Liverpool City Museum, National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, Ethnography Museum of Zurich University, The Newark Museum, and The Victoria and Albert Museum.

I started collecting ga’u in a small way, more than ten years ago, so am able to illustrate my first acquisition (1), a 19th century, silver, lapis lazuli and glass example, which would seem to fall in a category between John Clarke’s examples 25 and 34. At least fifteen years ago I was already interested and researched the limited references to the subject, and so encouraged John Clarke when I heard of his similar interests and wider knowledge to write for us again.

In his complementary article, Mr Prem Bajracharya, a collector of Newar jewellery and a seventh generation goldsmith, writes on a most significant ceremonial gold necklace, which is worn by Nepalese, living deities, statues of deities and Newar women and girls during life-cycle ceremonies. Of the priestly caste, Prem Bajracharya has access to knowledge about the vast symbolic content of Newar jewellery that is rarely available to outsiders. His article has been prepared for us by Hannelore Gabriel, herself an exprienced goldsmith and photographer of Himalayan jewellery (see Arts of Asia, July-August 1995, “Head-dresses of the Tibetan Nyinba in Nepal”).

Dr Patrick Conner is too well known as a writer on Chinnery and the China Trade painters to need introducing to our supporters. Formerly Keeper of Fine Art at the Royal Pavilion, Art Gallery and Museums, Brighton, England, he has written for us regularly since being associated with the Martyn Gregory gallery and his first article in Arts of Asia in the May-June 1985 issue. Here he presents a new original subject, “Canton-Early Views of Shamian Island”. Other articles by recognised authorities include the nymphs and beauties (apsaras and sura-sundaris) of the erotic art of Khajuraho, India, by K.M. Srivastava, retired Director (Expeditions Abroad), Archaeological Survey of India. And “Neo-Tantric 20th Century Indian Painting” by Dr Sen-Gupta, personal friend of many artists during the forty years since starting his contemporary Indian paintings collection.

Heidi Munan, resident of Kuching, Sarawak, writes on the Tun Jugah Pua Gallery, a private museum established by the Tun Jugah Foundation named after the late Jugah ak Barieng-who was Malaysia’s first Minister of Sarawak Affairs. His family has put its matchless collection of ikat textiles on show. Many of the documented pieces date back to the 19th century. This Story of a Museum series, will continue in alternative issues on a lesser heard of museum in the Philippines, and then in Hyderabad, South India, the coverages having already been commissioned.

Our usual Collectors World section includes two articles of intentionally dissimilar weights, though equally appropriate if you appreciate wine (as I do), and are a serious collector of Chinese art, or are Vietnamese (as I am), or just an appreciative tourist. Edith Frankel, and her and her art dealer husband Joel Frankel’s even more academic son, James D. Frankel, write on “Wine and Spirits of the Ancestors” with beautiful illustrations of appropriate artefacts from late Shang to Qing; while Margaret G. Forsythe introduces the everyday skilful embroidery of my own country, with typical Vietnamese themes.

I came back from America to write this Editorial on April 6th, having for me a more than usual length of overseas stay from March 17th. I was accompanied by Director/Executive Editor Robin Markbreiter. The purpose had been threefold. To host our Arts of Asia stand at the sixth International Asian Art Fair, held at the Seventh Regiment Armory in New York from Thursday, March 22nd, through Wednesday, March 28th. To attend, as well, various private exhibitions and auctions (which will be reported in our July-August 2001 issue). As also to see the Spring 2001 New York Arts of Pacific Asia Show, held at the 69th Regiment Armory, from Thursday, March 22nd, through Sunday, March 25th.

The International Asian Art Fair Benefit Preview for the Asia Society on the evening of March 22nd was well attended, 1200 enthusiastic supporters raising US$400,000, not discouraged by the heavy rain. Seen in our first group photograph (2), from the left are Mr Khalil Rizk and Mrs Purendu Chatterjee, Co-Chairman, Mr Henry Cornell, Gala Chairman standing behind, Mrs Brooke Astor, Mr James C.Y. Watt (The Metropolitan Museum of Art), Mr Nicholas Platt, President Asia Society, Mrs Wendi Deng Murdoch, Honorary Chairman, and Mrs Vishakha N. Desai, Senior Vice President and Director of the Galleries and Cultural Programs, Asia Society.

Our own display was constantly attended by our new and old subscribers and I am pleased to be able to say, as witnessed by many, we sold with the help of Ms Judy Donnelly over 650 magazines and eighty subscriptions. As the rates for the exhibition stands are now quite high, in our own case it was justified, though I have to say we had to work very hard. However, I consider that our participation is essential to support our many advertisers who take part in the Fair, and to meet in person our numerous subscribers. They all told me they truly enjoy Arts of Asia magazine which they consider the best in the world, and I am grateful for their appreciation.

In my second group photograph (3), I am seen in front of our stand with (from the left) Mr Isadore (Izzy) Chait and his charming wife, Mary Ann, their eldest son Joey between them, myself, and Mr and Mrs William and Priscilla Chak. In the next photograph (4), Robin accompanies Ms Philomena King and her brother Phillip King of King & Co., San Francisco, who are seen with their mother Mrs Shirley King.

Many of my dealer friends and collectors were worried at that time because of the sharp drop in the stock market. So it was a relief to find red dots, indicating sales, appearing on several major exhibits by the second full day, March 24th. For example, the most important star piece offered by John Eskenazi, a large Gandharan terracotta head of Bacchus, the God of Wine, dating from the 4th century AD, 56 cm high, was reportedly acquired by an American museum for US$400,000.

Similarly, an American collector also bought John Eskenazi’s terracotta sculpture of Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future, 2nd/3rd century AD, 112 cm high, though the price has not been disclosed (5). Obviously Chinese works of art are still in demand, while Cambodian stone and bronze, and bronzes from Thailand can sell well. Sales of aspects of Japanese art tend to be slow, with the exception of Japanese baskets, screens, porcelain and contemporary art. Still, as a whole, there were fewer red dots on the exhibits by the end of the fair than last year, no doubt because of the drop in the share market. Several of our married male subscribers told me their wives, in their own ways, told them not to buy-or else!

In alphabetical order, inclusive of first names, as we index our advertisers at the end of the magazine in every issue, I will list and illustrate some of the other exhibitors’ successful sales:

Alexander Gotz, Buddha, Mon-Dvaravati, 8th century AD, bronze, 32 cm high (6).
Art of the Past, Prajnaparamita as Uma on Linga-Yoni, Cambodia, Angkor period, Bayon style, 12th century, copper alloy with traces of gilding, 34.9 cm high (7). Sold to a private collection in Europe.
China 2000 Fine Art, painting by Wu Changshuo (1844-1927), Very Fresh and Tender Peaches, dated 1924, ink and colour on paper, 59½ x 32½ in (8). Sold to an Asian collector for US$45,000.
Doris Wiener, Inc., Uma, Khmer, Baphuon period, 11th century, sandstone, 55.2 cm high (9).

Flying Cranes Antiques Ltd, four-footed silver and multi-metal koro of lozenge form, the finial an adult monkey with child, Meiji period, 7½ in high (10).
Gerard Hawthorn Ltd, large Chinese embroidery silk panel, Qing dynasty, 18th/19th century (11).
Joan B. Mirviss Ltd, Bizen-ware rectangular plate by Kakurezaki Ryuichi (born 1950), 11½” wide x 19″ long x 2 5/8″ high (12).

Jonathan Tucker/Antonia Tozer Asian Art, painted earthenware model of a lokapala, Chinese, Tang dynasty (618-907), early 8th century, 51 cm high (13). Sold to a new American private client.

Jorge Welsh, European subject saucer, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795), porcelain painted in underglaze blue, 10.2 cm diameter (14).

Linda Wrigglesworth, Empress twelve symbol kesi Imperial yellow dragon robe, Guangxu period (1875-1908), 19th century, 129 cm neck to hem x 176 cm cuff to cuff (15). Sold to an American private collector.

Liza Hyde, Rimpa Morning Glories screen, early Edo period, 17th century, painted in mineral colours on gold leaf, six panels 5’8½” high x 12′ wide (16). Sold to a new American collector.

Priestley & Ferraro, pair of painted dark pottery horses with detachable saddles, early Tang dynasty (618-907), 7th century, 49.1 cm and 50.6 cm high (17). The asking price was US$110,000.

Robert Hall, coral snuff bottle, the ovoid bottle with a coiled cao dragon, with foliate scroll appendages, 1780-1850, 54 mm high (18). Provenance Neil and Frances Hunter Collection, 1964-1998, acquired from Sigurd Larsen, Juan Bautista, CA, 1864. Sold to a private American collector. Roger Keverne Limited, rare white-glazed porcelain meiping decorated with three fan-tailed carp, Kangxi period (1662-1722) (19).

S. Marchant & Son, Chinese porcelain Ming Imperial blue and white fishbowl painted in a continuous cloud-covered scene with sixteen boys in groups of four at various playful pursuits, horizontal six-character Jiajing (1522-1566) mark and period, 76.5 cm diameter (20).

Samina Inc., pendant set with diamond crystals, rubies and a pearl, Vijayanagra, South India, early 17th century, 5 cm high, 3 cm wide (21).

Tai Gallery/Textile Art, bamboo basket by Yamaguchi Ryuun, Sign of Wind (22).

The Chinese Porcelain Company, large gilt bronze seated Buddha, northern Thailand, early Chiang Saen style, Lan Na Kingdom, 13th century, 100 cm high. Provenance: private collection, Italy. The asking price was US$250,000 (23).

Brian and Anna Haughton, the Co-Directors of The International Asian Art Fair Ltd, as the organisers gave me the benefit of their own views to pass on to our readers.

“I do not feel the stock market is a great factor on the art market”, says Brian Haughton. “In fact, when the stock market is not doing well, it might have a positive effect for collectors to buy art. The proof of it was the opening night and the following days there were a tremendous amount of sales.

“Each Fair has a life of its own and each year it re-creates itself. We try each year to make it more beautiful and user friendly. The most important thing is to maintain the quality.”

Anna Haughton agrees. “After every Fair”, she says, “there is always a spin-off. Clients will also contact dealers when it is over. This Fair has proved the market is still strong for good pieces and people will buy. There is a confidence. I think a lot of people selling contemporary art, such as Joan Mirviss and Tai Gallery, did especially well. I would like to repeat for your readers what museum curators were saying: ‘Aesthetically and quality-wise this is the most wonderful gathering of Asian art. The quality just stands out on its own’.”

The dates for The International Asian Art Fair, next year, as stated in the back of this year’s practical catalogue are March 22nd-27th, 2002, at the same venue.

As Gisele Croes, for me, was the most successful dealer during the Fair, I made a special point of recording her opinions for what she said.

“There are so many wrong pieces in Hong Kong. Sometimes I have them tested. What amazes me most is to see here in USA how superficial the testing is. In Europe it is done in an entirely different way. It is more deeper into details. I was really surprised. You discuss with someone. It is very easy to say something is fake. But you need to show it. For me the USA is not that efficient. We have the entire range and all aspects studied. I remember one of the top analysts came to my booth five years ago. We had worked on our vessel for eight months. And within five minutes said that the piece should be tested as it looks suspicious. I was so upset and discouraged.”

“So what is the key to your success”, I asked.

“It is difficult to say of course but it is probably the courage to go further, the courage to advance, to overcome the difficulties, to be very honest-this is very important. It is also to try to preserve and have a good eye. It is important to buy a beautiful piece. I always say to my assistants we are first at the service of the objects and then the clients. The objects must come first.”

“How do you have this eye?”

“It is years of experience. It did not come just like that. I have looked at Chinese bronzes and ceramics for twenty-one years. When I started my main line was ceramics. I slowly went from ceramics to bronzes. There are so many questionable ceramics so I progressed into bronzes. It is very complicated.

“I am totally independent. I am the full owner of my gallery. I have available cash. That is the way to succeed in this job. You also need knowledge, an eye and organisation. I built up very slowly. I am standing on my two feet and at times like this when the market is very shaky, sometimes people have to give back to the bank, but I am now totally free. Many years ago I understood this is necessary having looked at the failure of the painting market and other strong markets. I will not have the problem that others may have. Who else has such a stock?

“In a long career such as mine you have to consider many aspects. And to be in the market for such a long time is indicative that you know what you are doing.”

I was interested to read John E. Vollmer’s article in the New York Arts of Pacific Asia Show, Spring 2001 catalogue on “Qianlong Textiles in the Permanent Collection of The Art Institute of Chicago”. Not only in my early days was I a student in Chicago for three years, but I worked very closely with the museum’s curators in preparing their articles for publication in Arts of Asia in The Art Institute of Chicago issue of May-June, 1999. John Vollmer also contributes articles for us on textile subjects from time to time.

The Spring 2001 Show had eighty-four exhibitors, the largest number yet. With 1500 visitors on the opening day alone, and a total attendance of 7500 people, this also is greater than ever before. So if the stock market had an affect at all, in this case it was not noticeable. As to the rain which fell on several days, this actually helped Elizabeth Lees says: “People stayed longer and had lunch here.”

Co-organiser, husband Bill Caskey, was also very happy with the result. “We were anxious coming into the Show because of the stock market, but I have felt it has not had any effect. It was packed on the opening and the attendance has been better than ever. I feel very positive as it has been very good.”

For an independent view of the atmosphere of this Show, I turn to our contributor Christopher Frappe, who told me how much he enjoyed the central courtyard, with its Japanese stone lantern, stepping stones, rockwork, ground cover and flowering shrubs, including orchids. “I prefer this Asian art show,” Christopher Frappe says, “as there is always something going on. It is interesting, energetic, you have a feeling of a more fun fair.”

Though Bill and Elizabeth informed Robin and I they have decided to cancel the September New York Show, they will be opening in Los Angeles on Thursday, October 4th, 2001, for four days to October 7th. Preview night 6-9 pm. In San Francisco they will be opening on Thursday, January 31st, 2002, running through to February 3rd. Preview night 6-9 pm. And in New York they will be opening on Thursday at noon, March 21st, 2002, again running for four days through to March 24th.

For myself and Robin, I can truthfully say we enjoyed both New York exhibitions. Each has its own standards and characteristics. On my last occasion, while talking by long-distance telephone to Jean Schaefer, owner of Flying Cranes Antiques Ltd in New York, she said she was glad to take part.

“So many of our sales were with new people who are readers of Arts of Asia. I am grateful to you, and especially the magazine which I know introduced them through our advertisements.

“People want to live with beauty, so when the dealer brings the best of its kind to the stand, it will always sell.” Certainly, both these essentially annual Asian art dealers’ exhibitions, whether under the name of Fair or Show, are much enjoyed by the visitors. By now they have an established place in the Asian art calendar and so my Editorials. It is gratifying indeed to note that American collectors and museums still remain the strongest supporters and buyers at these international Asian art events.

Subscribe to Arts of Asia

For Connoisseurs and Collectors of Asian Art