January to February 2003 Editorial

HEADING THIS Editorial is an artist’s rendering of the completed new Asian Art Museum in San Francisco (1). It shows the building’s main entrance and the Fulton Street façade from the same angle as is seen on page 43 in Thomas Christensen’s major article, when it was the city’s main library which opened to the public in 1917. I would also like to thank here Dr Emily Sano, Director of the new Asian Art Museum, for the article/introduction she has specially written for our readers, with the subtitle “An Institution Transformed”. I feel the site photographs, pages 34-35, showing the construction and adaptation in progress are most appropriate. Married to a practising architect since forty-three years, I know the pressures that arise when a building project nears completion and I would like to thank all those concerned in the museum for preparing their articles on the chosen subjects.
Incidentally, Thomas Christensen has been responsible for servicing and getting to us so efficiently the historical photographs, museum plans and the photographs by Kaz Tsuruta. As well as writing the first full article (“The New Asian Art Museum in the Civic Center San Francisco”), he has also provided the following information which should be useful as a quick reference to getting to the museum: “Overlooking Civic Center Plaza, the Asian Art Museum is located at 200 Larkin Street, between Fulton and McAllister Streets. Beginning March 20th, 2003, the museum will be open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, with extended evening hours until 9:00 pm every Thursday. Admission is US$10 for adults, US$7 for seniors, US$6 for youth 12-17, and free for children under 12. Admission includes a complimentary audio tour of the museum’s collection galleries. The location offers easy access via BART, MUNI, Sam Trans, Golden Gate Transit, and the Bay Bridge. Parking is available in the nearby Civic Center Garage and other paid parking facilities in the neighborhood. For more information, please call (415) 581-3500 or visit www.asianart.org.”

Of coming exhibitions, and looking a year ahead, I especially look forward to the museum’s “The Arts of Korea’s Goryeo Dynasty”, which I see from the article by Kumja Paik Kim, in this issue, dates from 918-1392. An exhibition of the work of six contemporary Korean artists will be shown at the same time. These two exhibitions are scheduled to run from October 18th, 2003-January 11th, 2004. A Korean guardian, incidentally, has also been chosen for our cover, because of the protection we hope it will offer our readers through the 2003 year.

It is always a pleasure to return to Hong Kong (since my last Editorial I have been to Singapore, Beijing and Manila) and in this issue we do so with an article by Rose Wing Chong Lee of the Hong Kong Museum of Art on “Chinese Jade and Gold”. This inaugural exhibition of the second Chinese Antiquities Gallery which opened in August 2002, is truly outstanding. I have made several visits already because of my own strong interests in both Chinese subjects. It is good to hear from Rose that the exhibition is likely to run on in the Hong Kong gallery for the whole of 2003, and I would like to encourage all visitors from the mainland and overseas to see it when they have the chance.

The Hong Kong Art Craft Merchants Association Ltd was founded in 1968 and today they number 300 members. I am seen photographed with a prominent group of fifteen at their headquarters (2). To help promote tourism in Hong Kong, they launched their first Art and Antique Festival, from October 1st-31st, 2002 and I was happy to accept their invitation to be present at the opening. The activities took place in a Hong Kong area, familiar to art collectors and art dealers, which is also of considerable historical interest: Man Mo Temple, Hollywood Road, Upper Lascar Row, Lok Ku Road and Ladder Street. Stretching down to Queen’s Road Central and the business centre of Hong Kong, the festival took in Wyndham Street, Lyndhurst Terrace and Wellington Street, which are also homes to many antique and art dealer galleries well known to our local readers.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held outside the Man Mo Temple, accompanied by lion dances. Seen jointly cutting the ribbon in typical Hong Kong style are, from the left, Mr Mason Hung of Hong Kong Tourism Board, Mr Kam Nai-wai JP and Mr Wu Chor-nam JP, of Central and Western district councils respectively, Mrs Stanley Ho (who as well as being wife of the famous Hong Kong property tycoon and Macau gambling kingpin, has her own gallery), Dr Chow Kwen-lim and Mr James Wang of Hong Kong Art Craft Merchants Association (3).

Wang Xisan, the inside-painting master, made a trip to the Art Museum of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, from the mainland, to officiate at the opening ceremony of the exhibition on October 18th of “Inkplay in Microcosm-Chinese Inside-painted Snuff Bottles, The Humphrey K.F. Hui Collection”. (For information on this notable collection, and the “Treasured Snuff Bottles of Mr and Mrs Denis Low”, refer back two issues to the September-October 2002 magazine.) Amongst the many devotees present on this occasion were (from the left of our photograph) Peter Y.K. Lam, Director of the Art Museum, who wrote also for the September-October issue on “Inside-painted snuff bottles by Gan Xuan”, Berthe and John Ford (President, The International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society), myself, Helen and Humphrey Hui (4).

The International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society Singapore Convention 2002, held at the Ritz-Carlton Millennia Singapore, October 22nd-25th, was voted by the more than 100 participants to be one of the most successful and rewarding yet. Many of our friends had passed through Hong Kong on their way to Singapore, and I am seen here at a magazine and book display in the convention’s Singapore dealer’s room, with Christopher Sin, designer and publisher Rosanne Chan (CA Design), John and Berthe Ford, Humphrey Hui, and Rosanne’s brother Tony (5).

Robert Kleiner, the snuff bottle expert and considerable author on the subject was euphoric. “Exhibitions outstanding…the convention is very well organised…warm hospitality by the local collectors…a very nice crowd…enthusiastic, serious convention members…business was good as well…one of the best conventions I have ever attended since 1974” are among the things he has enthused to me. It is remarkable the first convention took place in 1969, New York City, that long ago.

No doubt the Singaporeans were very generous. A first-day dinner was hosted by Joe Grimberg, Quentin Loh Sze On and Gary Nolan Davis. Seen before the next day lunch is organising committee member Mayling Yeo (far left) (6) with hosts Vanessa F. Holden, Lai Choi Kuen and Patrick Kwok.
The second-day dinner was hosted by Denis Low and his wife Seok Eng. That dinner was prefaced by a viewing in the Low home of their fantastic Collection (Part 1) named from the Sanctum of Enlightened Respect. Mary and George Bloch, up to now undoubtedly the foremost and most widely published snuff bottle collectors, were full of compliments and praise of the Low bottles.

Though I was only in Singapore a few days, I was able to see all four major exhibitions. These were Denis Low’s Collection (Part 2) at the new Asian Civilisations Museum, Empress Place; the local collectors’ exhibition, travelling by coach to the National University of Singapore Museum; the modern bottles organised by the Chinatown Snuff Bottle Society with inside-painted demonstration by Liu Shouben; and the collection of Joseph Grimberg at the Regent Hotel. In earlier days, Patrick K.M. Kwok, Director at the Kwok Gallery, Singapore, had written for us on “The Joe Grimberg Collection of Snuff Bottles” (Arts of Asia, November-December 1993, pages 92-97). Since then this collection has intentionally been limited by its owner to 200 select examples with upgrading when occasions arise. My most admired of his bottles is the triple-overlay glass example which is indeed unique and beautiful.

As is said at the beginning to the foreword of the catalogue of the Chinese Snuff Bottles exhibition (7), which was held at the NUS Museums, Singapore, from October 23rd-November 10th, 2002: “The collecting of snuff bottles in Singapore has advanced enormously in the past decade, inspired by the on-going formation of the two world class collections, being assembled by Joe Grimberg and Denis Low.” A neat 73-page catalogue, with laminated cover, slightly smaller in format than our own magazine was published in support of the exhibition, and I see seven lenders are listed, with their initials appended to the descriptions of each bottle. Cataloguing in category order and numbers of examples are: glass, 77; enamels, 20; nephrite and jadeite, 53; rock crystal, chalcedony and hard stones, 52; organic and others, 17; porcelain 18; inside-painted, 32. Suggesting that glass, nephrite and jadeite, rock crystal, chalcedony and hard stones are Singapore’s priorities.

I found this exhibition, with its catalogue, a very good effort, and I note the help that is credited to Vanessa F. Holden. She contributed an article, “The Origin of Snuff”, assisted and advised on the production of the catalogue and wrote the entries. The foreword is by Robert Kleiner, and the names of the seven lenders are appended to an acknowledgement page as follows: Quentin Loh Sze On, Gary Nolan Davis, Richard Baey, Tan Suan Phon, Chee Huei Leng, Steven Cheong and David P.L. Chan.

You may remember Mrs Yannan Wang, President of China Guardian Auctions Co., Ltd, who visited our offices in Hong Kong and is pictured being interviewed in my September-October 2002 Editorial (page 10). It was my pleasure to return that visit in Beijing at her China Guardian autumn 2002 auctions in early November. Seen here (8), she is seated at the centre of the auctioneer’s table with a bouquet of flowers and at the podium senior auctioneer Mr Gao is conducting the sale. Highlights of the afternoon on Sunday, November 3rd was a pair of 17th century huanghuali compound wardrobe cabinets which made an astonishing RMB9,438,000 (estimate RMB4.5-5.5 million), equivalent to US$1.27 million (9).

According to Mrs Wang, the auction house was founded in May 1993 and their first auction was held in spring 1994. Since 2001 each of their departments now have been allocated two specialists. They can also call on advisors such as Mr Qi Gong, a ninety-three years old gentleman who is expert in classical paintings, while other experts specialise on certain name artists. For instance Fu Baoshi came from Nanjing and there are a group of Nanjing Museum experts who also can be of help.

The Qi Baishi hanging scroll, titled Shrimp and a Bird and dated 1929, fetched RMB682,000 (estimate RMB350,000-450,000) (10). The painting was purchased by a successful Beijing artist still in his forties who said when he was very young he studied and grew up with a print of this very painting. It was published in collections of Qi Baishi’s works in 1963 in Beijing and 1967 in Taiwan.

Hot on the heals of China Guardian are Huachen Auctions, whose principals of the two houses I should stress are both on good terms. Huachen’s president Mr Gan Xuejun, who was formerly working with China Guardian Auctions Co., Ltd, says he has his own thoughts on the art market and is always looking for a new opportunity to accomplish his ideas. His auction house is under the umbrella of the Ministry of Culture, however it is neither state owned nor an organisation of the government. Rather, main investors are China Cultural International Exhibition Centre, China International Cultural Travel Service and China Sight Cultural Development Company Limited.

In the picture, Mr Gan is shown on the left. On the right is Mr Zhao Yiming, a director and manager of Chinese paintings and calligraphy (11). Mr Gan, who says he is very lucky to have a good team to work with, also introduced me to two others of his staff who were formerly of China Guardian: Mr Dai Dai, director and manager of Chinese porcelain and works of art and Ms Wei Lijun, director and vice president (12).

Formed in 1997, Huachen Auctions offers objects for sale from collections of private individuals from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Europe. Pieces coming from outside China receive an official export permit, which means they can be taken out of China again. At Huachen Auctions the commissions are 10 per cent both for buyers and for sellers. Most Chinese national museums, it seems, are now also buying from auctions with monies coming from various sources. The government appears to be more open about this than before, as they realise their museums also need help in forming worthwhile collections.

Following our trip to Beijing our executive editor Robin Markbreiter went on to “Asian Art in London”. He was very active and in five days attended over forty gallery and museum exhibitions. One of the first events he covered was the November 8th lecture at Bonhams, “Collecting in Context: Lord Cunliffe, Chinese Ceramics and English Taste, 1700-1960” by Colin Sheaf, International Head of Asian Art. Colin is seen in the left of Robin’s picture together with Lady and Lord Cunliffe, son of the original collector the 2nd Baron Cunliffe (13). Colin’s report on the highly successful Cunliffe sale appears on our pages 112-113.

Also that evening the “Asian Art in London” launch party, a champagne reception, was held at the Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery of Oriental Art at the British Museum. The organisers were thrilled all 500 tickets (at £50 per ticket) were sold for the party. Many guests enjoyed the venue and prefer the cocktail party format rather than a formal sit-down gathering. They can mingle in the gallery and catch up with old friends. This year, however, it was noticeable that not as many overseas collectors and dealers were present at the launch party.

Welcome speeches were given by “Asian Art in London” Chairman, Giuseppe Eskenazi, and snuff bottle expert Robert Hall (14), one of the Directors of the Steering Committee. For the second year AXA Art Insurance Limited was the lead sponsor and presented the AXA Art Award to celebrate the craftsmanship and beauty of three-dimensional and two-dimensional Asian art. Theresa McCullough’s impressive late 9th century buff sandstone Vishnu from Uttar Pradesh, northern India, won the three-dimensional award (15), and Simon Ray won the two-dimensional award for an Indian red peacock banner, circa 1775. The two winners with three of the four runners up were photographed at the British Museum-Alastair Gibson for Sotheby’s, Gregg Baker, Simon Ray, Theresa McCullough and Linda Wrigglesworth (16). Also pictured at the launch party are Giuseppe Eskenazi, Stuart Marchant, John Guy, Deputy Head, Indian and Southeast Asian Department at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Mee Seen Loong of Sotheby’s and David Priestley (17). On the following three evenings dealer and auction house openings were held at Kensington Church Street, St James’, and Mayfair. These openings were very lively and are a great way to encourage more people and collectors to go into the galleries to view.

Before returning to Hong Kong Robin made a special trip to Milan to see Renzo Freschi and his exhibition of “Sculptures from India”, formed over ten years, at his attractive gallery located in the city’s most fashionable central district (Via Gesu, 17, 20121 Milano, Italy, email: renzofreschi@libero.it). Renzo is an acknowledged expert in Indian, Tibetan and Himalayan art and this was an opportunity for Robin under Renzo’s tutelage to learn what to look for in assessing stone sculpture. In the picture (18) Renzo is posed next to his Uttar Pradesh, Mathura, 2nd/3rd century sandstone yakshi or “female nature-spirit” feeding a parrot from her right breast. A glimpse is also seen of his very stylish Milan gallery, which compliments his person. Renzo and his charming wife, the editor of an Italian magazine, were extremely helpful to Robin, and they welcome guests to the gallery.

A visit to the new gallery of Carlton Rochell Ltd (41 East 57th Street, 4th Floor, NY 10022, email: info@carltonrochell.com) is most definitely on my visiting list for when I am next in New York. Before then, I am delighted to report that Carlton Rochell (19), seen greeting with a handshake Jodie Eastman and Richard Marks, opened the new gallery with a lively cocktail party on October 17th, 2002. The mix of friends and important guests included museum directors such as Brooklyn’s Amy Poster and expert dealers such as Robert Ellsworth. Seen here, at the centre of the photograph (20), is Carlton’s father-in-law, famous actor Charlton Heston. Left is Carlton Rochell’s wife, Holly Heston Rochell, right is Rebecca Kry.

Carlton Rochell, of course, was for a long time a valued senior member of Sotheby’s American staff, relied on for his specialist knowledge of Indian and Southeast Asian art, having established their first full-time department in 1985. His aim he states as president of his own company is “to work closely with collectors and institutions to further broaden this relatively undeveloped sector of the Asian art market”. I am confident he will succeed in this aim helped by Jeanne de Guardiola Callanan, the gallery director, who was joined at the party by her banker husband William Callanan (21). At Sotheby’s, Jeanne and Carlton were a team working together from 1994-2000, and an important American private collection is already forecast for an inaugural exhibition in March. They assured me they would present the most beautiful and impressive works of art in their field for display in their gallery. During the last year we have made tremendous efforts visiting many countries to promote and widen the Arts of Asia readership as well as to collect great unpublished materials for our editorial contents in future issues. I can truly report that we have won hundreds of new subscribers and I strongly feel that as we create more readers they will eventually turn to be serious collectors of Asian art. This certainly helps the Asian art market and our advertising clients of leading art galleries and auction houses.

As a reminder I am publishing at the foot of the adjoining column the Chinese New Year greetings frame from the April 14th, 1860 Illustrated London News. It is a time of giving presents and exchanging good wishes cards. Mine go to all our supporters for the very happiest, prosperous and peaceful Year of the Goat which commences on January 31st, 2003. Finally I wish our international readers further learning and enjoyment from their studies through our magazine so they can continue to collect with confidence. I forecast this will be a good time to reassess and upgrade their collections. Kung Hei Fat Choi!

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