May to June 2002 Editorial

THERE WAS no time or space in my March-April 2002 Editorial to include a review of the San Francisco Arts of Pacific Asia Show, which my son Robin and I attended from February 1st to 3rd, 2002. Held at the Fort Mason Center, Festival Pavilion, the show organised by husband and wife team Bill Caskey and Elizabeth Lees, is now recognised as one of the most important events in the West Coast of America for dealers and collectors of Asian art and antiques.

For the sixth consecutive year since its inception Arts of Asia has supported the show, which also has the backing of the San Francisco Asian Art Museum. Next year the museum will be relocating to its new home at Civic Center with the official opening ceremony scheduled for January 21st, 2003.

Once again in support of the Arts of Pacific Asia Show I am pleased to publish Robin’s photographs of the gala preview opening (1).

It was a very lively evening on January 31st, from 6 to 10 pm, of fun, food and entertainment excellently organised by Gala Preview Co-Chairs Diana K. Chace, Gorretti Lo Lui and Joan Lee Vinson. Joan worked especially hard this year and she was very pleased that approximately US$300,000 was raised benefitting the Education Programs of the Asian Art Museum-Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture. The preview sponsored by JPMorgan Chase was very well attended. Guests enjoyed themselves viewing the diverse works of art in the seventy-eight dealer booths.

When I asked Joan for her comments she said “the show was even better than last year. I think the entrance with the Chinese pottery horse theme for the Chinese New Year gives a feeling of an Asian art show and is an improvement on the previous two years. Visitors said this year’s show has surpassed their expectations. They only had positive things to say about the opening night party where one thousand attended. Several dealers also did well. Sandra Whitman sold two major carpets and Linda Wrigglesworth sold an important textile. Tai Gallery was very pleased to sell a Japanese bamboo basket to the Asian Art Museum as well as a wedding skirt and batik from Indonesia. Thomas Murray also sold a Ming dynasty Chinese Buddha.”

Joan, whose husband Glenn Vinson is a Trustee of the Asian Art Museum, believes the museum should be supported: “That is why I want to work hard to raise money as the museum requires funds for their educational programs.”

Exhibitors noticed that for the first time many Chinese residents of San Francisco not only attended the gala preview, but also returned on subsequent days to view pieces from their cultural heritage. Their presence brought prestige to the event and was appreciated by the dealers.

Robin and I returned to Hong Kong on March 28th having just spent two weeks in New York City to attend the many events during Asia Week. We had a very full schedule including viewing the Sotheby’s and Christie’s auctions (see pages 100-105), visiting the many wonderful exhibitions and hosting our Arts of Asia booth at The International Asian Art Fair. It was particularly interesting for me to feel first-hand the atmosphere in New York following the tragic September 11th terrorist attacks. In my opinion people are still tense, concerned and very cautious, which is understandable.

The two major Asian art dealer shows-The International Asian Art Fair and the New York Arts of Pacific Asia Show-had to find new venues this year; the armories where the events were previously held were not available as the National Guard had taken them over. Both organisers should be commended for their sterling efforts to continue to hold their annual Asian art shows under very difficult and pressured circumstances.

Brian and Anna Haughton, Directors, The International Asian Art Fair Ltd, state in their smaller format catalogue that this year the fair took “place for the first time at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in the aftermath of the terrible events of the 11th September. Following the tragedy we have had to relocate from our usual home at The Seventh Regiment Armory.”

Lincoln Center is where you will find many of New York City’s most important cultural resources-exceptional performing arts as well as educational institutions. To reach the fair entrance we had to walk through Lincoln Square past the central fountain, which is surrounded by Fordham University, Juilliard School and The Metropolitan Opera (2).

A towering block of apartments backed the large tent in which the fair was held, with its entrance approach through a paved park beneath orderly planted winterly trees (3)

The fair ran from March 22nd to 26th and the Asia Society was once again the beneficiary of the opening night preview held on March 21st, from 6 to 9 pm. Seen at the receiving line (4,5), are Mr Pierre G. Durand, Honorary Chairman, Anna and Brian Haughton, Mr Nicolas Platt, President Asia Society, Mrs Vishakha N. Desai, Senior Vice President and Director of the Galleries and Cultural Programs, Asia Society, and Mr Charles R. Kaye, Gala Chairman.

This year’s fair included forty-nine dealers compared with fifty-six dealers in 2001. Many of the past top Asian art exhibitors did not take part this time including Gisele Croes, Li Yin Arts Co. Ltd, Mallet, Hirano Kotoken Co. Ltd, Robert Ellsworth Ltd, Ralph M. Chait Galleries Inc., Liza Hyde, E & J Frankel Ltd and Art of Chen. New exhibitors to the fair were Scholten Japanese Art, Marc Richards, Shakris, Carlo Cristi, Arthur Leeper Asian Art and Theresa McCullough Ltd. Another major difference, besides the West Side location, was the above-mentioned tent erected on a demountable light metal structure, which held up well against the elements. The organisers say over 1000 people (including 100 museum curators) attended the opening night benefit raising US$500,000 for Asia Society. I bought eight tickets myself to give to Arts of Asia friends and it was indeed a very crowded night in that tent. It was impossible not to take note that the tent space was significantly smaller than was enjoyed in The Seventh Regiment Armory building, where the corridors between the exhibitors’ row of stands were much wider. There were also fewer seating areas provided by the organisers’ latest layout, so it was a good thing we were well prepared with six chairs in our booth for our visitors and guests.

Arts of Asia has hosted a booth at every International Asian Art Fair since its inception in 1996 and I enjoy meeting our readers, contributors, art dealers and collector-friends on these occasions. This year was our most successful yet as we sold over seven hundred out of the eight hundred magazines we shipped from Hong Kong. I felt the general visitors were much more knowledgeable than before and had a clearer understanding of what they liked. They were also keen to learn more on their subjects of interest as well as read about other Asian art topics. At times it was so crowded in our booth with supporters wishing to meet us, subscribe and buy our current and back issues, I was unable to leave to walk around the fair or to sit down for a rest.

However, amongst many others of our visitors I was delighted to welcome the world-famous Chinese painter and calligrapher C.C. Wang to our booth (6). Professor Wang is ninety-five years old yet extremely sharp and aware of what is going on in the art world, and of course is still actively painting. His caring daughter Y.K. Wang King accompanied her father to the fair and is pictured with Stephen McGuinness of Plum Blossoms (International) Limited. The photograph is most topically posed as the background shows our large poster promoting this May-June 2002 Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy Review magazine featuring the article “C.C. Wang: Singing Brush and Dancing Ink”. This has been written for us by Jan Stuart, Associate Curator of Chinese Art at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC (see pages 44-53).

Irreplaceable and missed by many was the late Khalil Rizk, who had been involved with the fair from its very beginning. He died suddenly after an unexpected illness while he was in Europe shortly after last year’s fair. I believe I was one of the last people to have spoken to him on the telephone in New York just before he headed for the airport to catch his flight to attend the Salzburg Festival of Western classical music. Khalil Rizk and partner Pierre Durand opened The Chinese Porcelain Company in 1984, which is located at 475 Park Avenue at 58th Street in New York City. Born in Beirut into a prominent family of property and construction developers, Khalil Rizk, trained as an architect, loved the arts and had great and refined taste. In his gallery he achieved a comfortable balance complementing Western and Asian art. Typically, he would blend beautifully crafted European furniture with exquisite Chinese porcelain or rare and stunning Khmer sculpture. The future of The Chinese Porcelain Company is sound under the capable leadership of President Conor Mahony.

Brian and Anna Haughton in this year’s fair catalogue express their regrets: “We all miss our dear friend Khalil Rizk so much; not only for his happy demeanour but also for the great professional skills he always brought to the fair. We owe him an enormous amount; the way he smoothed feathers and opened doors. He was without doubt a true Renaissance man.” I could not agree more.

It was unfortunate that during my two weeks in New York the weather on most days was cold, wet and windy. Naturally this would have affected the attendance at the fair. It was also Spring Break, traditionally a time when New Yorkers head for warmer climes with their families for a short holiday. These factors together with the recovering following the September 11th terrorist attacks did result in fewer major sales this year at the fair. But it has to be said also this year fewer Japanese, Chinese and other Asian collectors made the trip to New York. Psychologically they are hesitant to buy now because of the uncertain world economy and many have incurred quite significant portfolio losses. As a result some are reluctant to buy important works of art over US$100,000, although I was informed after the fair by dealer-friends that a number of high-ticket pieces are under consideration by museums and serious collectors. I did notice during my time in New York that quality fine pieces priced sensibly have no difficulty in finding buyers. Collectors do want to acquire and appear comfortable spending within the US$5000 to US$30,000 range. Nevertheless they are still price sensitive even though they have the money available to make purchases. The New York dealer shows do draw people to town and this year we noticed a younger set of newer collectors buying, which is encouraging for the Asian art market.

Towards the end of both dealer shows buyers returned looking for bargains; however, I was informed that they were mostly disappointed because the dealers were unable to lower their prices by very much. Many dealers find that the best pieces are getting harder to replace, so they do not want to sell them cheaply or nearly below their costs. I understand some dealers are finding it increasingly difficult to cover their significant expenses for exhibiting at dealer shows (e.g. booth rental, hiring display cases, lighting, wall covering and carpeting, advertising in the show catalogue, shipping, insurance, hotel and telephone bills, New York sales tax, airfares, dinners, time and lost opportunity cost, etc.), especially if at the end they are unable to make profitable sales.

But the good news is the 2003 International Asian Art Fair, as advertised in this year’s fair catalogue, will return to The Seventh Regiment Armory, Park Avenue at 67th Street, running from March 21st to 26th. Again the benefit preview will be for the Asia Society and it will be held on March 20th, 2003, from 6 to 9 pm.

The 11th Annual New York Arts of Pacific Asia Show, which usually runs at The 69th Regiment Armory, was this year moved to the Events Center, Hasbro Building, at 32 West 23rd Street. The show ran for four days from March 21st to 24th including a first day preview from noon to 7 pm. There were eight-two dealers exhibiting from fifteen nations and Sotheby’s Institute of Art (London) presented three days of lectures called “The Phoenix and the Dragon: Chinese Ornament Around the World” consisting of nine sessions. The seminar took as its main theme painted ornament on Chinese trade ceramics from the Song through the Qing dynasty (AD 960 to 1911). Robin and I rather enjoyed the configuration of the show and thought the structure of the building, carpeting, lighting, dining and seating facilities, and clean and modern washrooms were a great improvement on the armories. It had a fresher feel and it will be interesting so see whether the dealers vote to remain at this venue, which is more expensive, or return next year to The 69th Regiment Armory.

I was told by my subscribers that this show has over the years been closing the gap on the “up town fair”, and one of the keys to the future is to gain the support of even more of the most important dealers and so raise the quality of the exhibits further. But it is possible for collectors and especially experienced dealers to find a bargain here if they are knowledgeable and have keen eyes. That is why so many dealers patiently queued at the first day to look for merchandise to buy ahead of collectors. It is however pretty safe to say that the exhibitors in general know how to price. Amongst the most attractive booths with important pieces for sale were Orientations Gallery for Japanese silver, ivory and Meiji period (1868-1912) porcelain and bronze; Erik Thomsen Asian Art for Japanese pottery and paintings; The Jade Dragon for Chinese and Japanese works of art; Robyn Turner Gallery for Chinese jades; Lesley Kehoe Galleries for contemporary Japanese ceramics; Thomas Murray for his Indonesian gold jewellery, ornaments and tribal pieces; L’Asie Exotique for Japanese Gosho Ningyo dolls and works of art; and Topper Gallery who displayed an exquisite set of miniature lacquer paintings by Shibata Zeshin.

For those collectors and art lovers who would prefer a more personal viewing, then there were many exciting and beautiful exhibitions to visit. Brussels-based dealer Gisele Croes opted to hold her own exhibition at Danese on 41 East 57th Street. Her stunning four large Eastern Zhou period (770-221 BC) bronze-cast bells greeted visitors to a spacious and attractively planned exhibition, making it easy to walk around the objects on stands and view them from various sides. What particularly caught my attention was the rare set of nine Yongle period, early 15th century, paintings of Buddhist luohans appearing in landscapes associated with the heavens of Daoist immortals. This set is well known having been exhibited a few years ago at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Nearby at PaceWildenstein, 32 East 57th Street, Guiseppe Eskenazi and his son Daniel organised “Chinese Buddhist Sculpture from Northern Wei to Ming” (7). Recognising that provenance is becoming increasingly demanded, all of the pieces had been in established early collections. Daniel was very kind and gave us a tour of the exhibition, which had a spiritual feeling. The sensitively selected sculptures clearly appealed as I counted eleven out of nineteen items had found new homes.

Crossing the busy road to the Fuller Building, 41 East 57th Street, is the gallery of New York dealer James Lally. Many visitors to his exhibition titled “Chinese Porcelain and Silver in the Song Dynasty” commented that his selection of objects and particularly the white Dingware was “classy” and struck a cord with those who adore clean and elegant artistry. Like Gisele Croes and Giuseppe Eskenazi, well over half of James Lally’s pieces were spotted with red dots denoting that they were sold.

I met the artist Professor Wang Qingli at a Chinese dinner reception prior to his solo exhibition opening the next day at E & J Frankel Ltd, 1040 Madison Avenue at 79th Street. According to Edith and Joel many of his forty-one works were sold.

Suzanne Mitchell’s relaxing gallery at 17 East 71st Street held a joint exhibition with Kippei Gallery, Tokyo entitled “Japanese Art: Medieval to Modern” featuring shimmering Japanese golden screens, handmade and low-fired pottery and Zen paintings. We sat down on the gallery’s comfortable sofa and chairs while Suzanne kindly treated us to a very refreshing glass of iced Japanese green tea. We also had the pleasure of meeting Tadashi Setsu whose father, Yoshihira Setsu, founded and still heads Kippei Gallery.

At Kaikodo, 164 East 64th Street, Carol Conover who is the expert in charge of the gallery’s works of art gave us a tour of their “Spring 2002 Exhibition & Sale”. On the ground floor the Japanese and Chinese ceramics sold well.

Annie Yau Gallery had a well-attended first New York exhibition at Suite A, 173 West 88th Street. By then I was rather tired but I was able to summon up enough energy to visit their gallery. Robin and I are seen with Annie Yau and her father Professor Yau (8). The photographer was Annie’s American husband John Ackerman who runs a successful real estate and investment brokerage in New York.

There is simply no substitute for knowledge and experience and that is why I was so pleased to meet with Alan Chait of Ralph M. Chait Galleries Inc. at 12 East 56th Street and view his Imperial Chinese enamels. Always gracious, Alan invited us to his private office where his father used to discuss objects with collectors. In fact he still uses the same wood table that had belonged to his father to show and handle antiques from. I took the opportunity to ask Alan how he sees the trend for Asian Art. His view is that the performance of the Asian art market is related to the economic conditions. Since January this year he has noticed a recovery but it will depend on the Middle East.

“Hopefully it will build up from this point and if the stock market gets better people might invest more in art”, he said. “In the old days people bought art out of love. Their dividend was waking up in the morning and enjoying their pieces. They had fun.” Alan feels that famille-verte, biscuit ware of the finest quality and monochromes are becoming almost impossible to find. “After the Second World War people collected for museums and education purposes. As a result once the pieces are in the museums they do not come out again. Before, when the individual cultures could not take care of the art, it was the responsibility of collectors to look after the pieces.” Alan added, “We have the advantage of ninety-two years of experience. As a result people come back to us. We do not approach them. That is what they like. The pieces will normally have marvellous provenance and meet all the criteria.”

And finally I can also recommend visiting “The New Way of Tea”, a two-part exhibition at the Asia Society and Japan Society “featuring teahouses, utensils and art from the traditional to avant-garde”. The exhibition brings the traditional ritual of the tea ceremony into the 21st century by juxtaposing tearooms and tea utensils created by contemporary Japanese architects, artists and designers with those from other Asian cultures and the West. The exhibition runs from March 6th-May 19th, 2002 so some Arts of Asia readers in the New York area may still be able to see this show, which is organised with help from the International Chado Culture Foundation, Kyoto, Japan.

I always appreciate our readers’ constructive feedback and like to know their favourite Asian art subjects. Speaking to our supporters in New York it was particularly interesting to hear that many asked for more in-depth articles on Chinese paintings-both modern and contemporary, as well as the traditional medium. Readers of my Editorial column know that I travel extensively around the world to visit museums and attend important exhibition openings, which also enables me to have a fuller understanding of the Asian art market and anticipate the trends. Reviewing my files I note that preparations for this special May-June 2002 Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy Review first commenced in October 1996 when Leon and Karen Wender, authors of the cover article “Zhu Qizhan: A Noble Spirit”, agreed to start preparing their tribute to the artist they respected and regarded as a friend. Karen and Leon Wender, owners of China 2000 Fine Art, a spacious gallery conveniently located at 5 East 57th Street, are especially knowledgeable of traditional and contemporary Chinese painting. They have had a fifteen year relationship with Zhu Qizhan (1892-1996) before he passed away and have assisted museums around the world to mount exhibitions of Master Zhu’s work.

However, I feel it is only fair to say the Wenders were not I believe the first to introduce Zhu Qizhan to Hong Kong. In the late 1970s the former Hanart Gallery, whose partners numbered the now celebrated Hong Kong painter Harold Wong and the equally well-known art critic and gallery owner Tsong-zung Chang, held an exhibition “Selection of Paintings by Zhu Qizhan” whose cover of the slim eight-page brochure is illustrated here (9). Since that time I myself have been a collector of Zhu Qizhan’s work and I feel it is right I should declare my own interests as a collector of contemporary Chinese paintings for quite a considerable number of years. Karen and Leon Wender first met Zhu Qizhan in February 1985, which they record in their personal recollections of the artist in the Collectors Column of our July-August 1987 magazine on pages 132-135.

Before flying to New York I made arrangements to meet our US and Canada distributors, Comag Marketing Group, formerly called Eastern News Distributors, and a division of Hearst-Conde Nast LLC. Our Account Executives told me that publishers in America are finding it increasingly difficult to remain profitable and there have been a number of bankruptcies. Most prone to suffer are independent titles which rely heavily on advertising, and have very limited distribution and sales in bookstores. I am therefore proud and happy to report that the Arts of Asia readership is growing thanks to our solid subscriber base, which has markedly increased since the end of last year. Some magazines it can be seen have made a corporate decision to reduce their operating costs by cutting back on their Editorial contents. At Arts of Asia we feel our readers deserve the very best we can offer and that is why I always try to arrange substantial, topical and beautifully illustrated articles prepared by leading scholars for the enjoyment and learning of our loyal and new international readers. We also ensure that our quality is closely supervised at every stage of the production process. We use expensive and the finest printing materials such as the both sides coated A1 grade art paper specially ordered from a unique mill in Japan, and intend to continue to do so.

In addition, over the last two years we have pushed strongly to actively market and expand our publication resulting in our improved worldwide circulation. These factors along with the practical help of Robin, who returned in 1999 from London Business School and Wharton in the US with an MBA, are just two of the reasons for the continued revitalising of the magazine, which I founded with the help of my husband over thirty-two years ago.

An excellent example of our policy can be seen in this issue’s third Chinese painting article, “Ching Banlee Collection of the Philippines exhibited at the Shanghai Museum” on pages 54-67. Written in Chinese by Shan Goulin who heads the Paintings and Calligraphy Department at the Shanghai Museum, his fourteen-page article featuring twenty-nine colour illustrations is expertly translated on our advice by Dr Bruce Gordon Doar, formerly Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Editor of China Archaeology and Art Digest.

From the 1930s to 1960s scholarly entrepreneur Ching Banlee was a devoted and passionate collector who bought the finest paintings by well-known classical and established modern Chinese artists. The exhibition runs from June 22nd to September 21st, 2002 at the Shanghai Museum of Art. For those readers who have not visited the wonderful “new” museum (see Arts of Asia May-June 1997) this would be an excellent opportunity to enjoy their stunning permanent galleries of Chinese art.

This article has come to us as a result of our longtime friendship with the late collector’s daughter, Rita C. (Ching) Tan, who most notably introduced us to “The Roberto T. Villanueva Collection in Manila”. (See Arts of Asia July-August 1990, Editorial, pages 4, 6 and her contribution “Export Ware of the Yuan Dynasty”, pages 70-86.) If at all possible I would have liked to attend, on behalf of our overseas readers, the opening of the exhibition of Rita’s late father’s collection of Chinese painting on June 22nd. Unfortunately the date coincides with the completion of our July-August 2002 magazine, for me the busiest of times, when I must ensure our readers’ copies are properly distributed.

However, I will make a point of visiting the exhibition “Recent Works: The Sculpture of Wang Keping & Painting of Tung Lo” from May 24th to June 22nd, 2002 at Alisan Fine Arts Ltd, 315 Prince’s Building, 10 Chater Road, Central, Hong Kong. As part of the annual Hong Kong “Le French May” festival, this will be the second showing at this gallery of these Chinese-born artists who are now Paris residents.

Born in Beijing in 1949, Wang Keping participated in the 1966 Cultural Revolution as a college student and a Red Guard, and in 1969 was sent to the countryside. A few years later he started working in one of the army’s artistic troops, becoming an actor and then a television playwright. Since 1984 he has lived and worked in Paris and his wooden figures have been exhibited in China, Europe and the United States. Wang likes to maintain the intrinsic natural wooden form of his material and introduce folk-style humour such as in Back of a Woman, wood, 44 cm high (10) and 38 cm high (11).

Tung Lo, born 1956 in Jieyang, Guangdong province, to a calligrapher father and poet mother, moved to Hong Kong in 1968 where he began studying figure composition and contemporary art. In 1982 he emigrated to the United States and in 1993 moved to Paris, where he developed his rather original oil painting technique. The two paintings shown here suggest a study of printmaking with textured simple backgrounds silhouetting his figures which appear to move free of the picture plane (12, 13). Readers with sharp eyes will discern his use of Chinese calligraphy and seals within the patterned garments. I will be interested to see his paintings and wish both artists well.

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