May to June 2003 Editorial

DR MADELEINE KIM, who writes the first article (seen on our cover) (1) for this Korea and Japan issue, has recently pointed out to me that her first contribution to Arts of Asia was as long ago as 1981. That was in the July-August edition, when she reviewed for our readers’ pleasure the late G.St.G.M. Gompertz’s scholarly Chinese Celadon Wares (Faber & Faber, Ltd, London, 2nd revised edition, 1980). Gompertz, however, is still best remembered for his book Korean Celadon (1963), also published by Faber.

Interest in Korea and its civilisation was seen earlier in the United States in 1957 with an important exhibition. This was expanded twenty years later with a tour of seven major American museums and the exhibition “5000 Years of Korean Art”. (See the cover of the January-February 1980 issue where it appears as “Panorama of Korean Art” for an article by Patricia Salmon on pages 86-98.) (2)

It was already apparent to us last year that Korea is once again high on the listing of the international scene. For instance, for our recent special museum issue of January-February 2003, “The New Asian Art Museum in the Civic Center San Francisco”, a Korean subject was chosen (3). So for our current magazine we invited Dr Kim to write the article on her husband’s generous donation of the Rhee Byung-Chang Collection of Korean Ceramics and the Annex Building located in the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, in which it is housed. Long-time contributor Sir Hugh Cortazzi, former British Ambassador to Japan 1980-1984 and a well-known scholar and author in his own right, follows with descriptions and illustrations of thirty superb examples courtesy of the museum.

We return to Korean furniture (it also appeared in coverage in our November-December 1979 and July-August 1981 (4) editions) with “Traditional Korean Furniture from the Ewha Womans University Art Museum, Seoul” by Yuling Huang and Sunwha Rha. However this is the first time that it has been covered for us by appropriate Asian writers with drawings of the room arrangements and a large group of the actual trimming and carving tools.

Before moving on further I would like to mention how I have personally very much enjoyed the article by Barry Till, Michiko Wargentyne and Judith Patt, “From Geisha to Diva: The Kimono of Ichimaru”. Though it is said “Throughout her life, her sisters regularly visited her to request loans and she generously gave them money, near the end of her life her housekeeper maid-servant walked off with much of her fortune, thought to be as much as 80 million yen. Ichimaru did, however, leave behind a tremendous legacy to the Japanese music industry and her triumph over adversity, to become an outstanding diva, is indeed a remarkable story.” Her collection of kimono was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by her friend and confidant Mrs Fumi Suzuki of Tokyo. Those readers who subscribed to Arts of Asia last year will remember the excellent preview pictures of the Asian Civilisations Museum’s Empress Place Singapore premises in the November-December 2002 issue. But the main entrance, the oldest part of the original building, was not at that time seen as it was still under restoration. However, for the official opening ceremonies on March 1st, 2003 we were able to photograph the entrance with its Asian Civilisations Museum name up high under the roof eaves and the piers of its entrance arches painted in gallery identifying bands of colours (5).

The next picture shows the official opening on March 1st, 2003 with Guest-of-Honour Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong beating the drum (6). He is supported by (on the left) Dr James Khoo, Chairman, Asian Civilisations Museum, Professor Tommy Koh, Chairman National Heritage Board, Mr David Lim, Acting Minister, Ministry of Information, Communications and The Arts, and (on the right) Brigadier General (NS) George Yeo, Minister for Trade and Industry, and Dr Kenson Kwok, Director of the Asian Civilisations Museum. Amongst the estimated 2000 guests who were present in the museum’s marquee and public spaces I am seen here with Mr K.Y. Ng, Mr Patrick Kwok, Mr Erik Lim and Mr V. Vijay (7). A welcome speech was made by Professor Tommy Koh and the relevant parts are reproduced here:

“The content of the Asian Civilisations Museum reflects who we are and where we came from. From the founding of modern Singapore to this day, we are the product of the confluence of the Chinese, Malay, Indian, Islamic and Western civilisations. Culturally, a Singaporean is part Chinese, part Malay, part Indian, part East and part West. The culture of Singapore is therefore a fusion of these ancestral civilisations. The idea of the Asian Civilisations Museum came from Minister George Yeo. He reasoned that such a museum would help us to know ourselves and help us to plug into an international cultural network. Faithful to his vision, this museum has galleries devoted to the civilisations of Southeast Asia, China, South Asia and West Asia. The Asian Civilisations Museum has another salience. It is important for Singaporeans to understand Southeast Asia because we are an integral part of the region and the region is part of us. It is important for Singaporeans to understand China and India because they are rising economies and great civilisations from which we have much to learn. In the post-9/11 world, it is imperative for all of us to have a better understanding of Islam, the Islamic civilisation and its roots in Asia. The opening of the Asian Civilisations Museum is a milestone in Singapore’s quest to deepen our cultural roots and broaden our cultural sensibilities on the basis of who we are and where we are in Asia and the world.

“This museum is a happy example of partnership: partnership between the government, the business community and philanthropic individuals; partnership between Singapore and the governments of India and the Netherlands; and partnership between the ACM and private collectors and the Tareq Rajab Museum of Kuwait. The Singapore government has contributed S$79 million towards the physical infrastructure and S$16 million towards the museum’s collection. We have raised S$17 million in private donations to the museum’s collection. In addition, we have secured the long term loans of objects worth S$132 million and another S$124 million in short-term loans.

“Today, I want to acknowledge our special thanks to the Government of India for the long-term loan of archeological and museum artefacts; to the Tareq Rajab Museum of Kuwait for the loan of part of its wonderful collection of Islamic art and to the National Museum of Ethnology of the Netherlands for the long-term loan of a number of ancient bronzes. “I would also like to acknowledge the generosity of a number of Singapore individuals and institutions. The Kwek family [who are seen with the Prime Minister] (8) has donated S$2.8 million to our building fund. We are very pleased to name our China gallery after the patriarch of the Kwek family, Mr Kwek Hong Png. Mr Edmond Chin has donated his magnificent collection of Southeast Asian jewellery to the museum. We have named one of the three Southeast Asian galleries after Edmond’s proud parents, Mary and Philbert Chin. We have named our auditorium as the Ngee Ann Auditorium in recognition of a generous donation of S$1.5 million from the Ngee Ann Development Pte Ltd. We are also greatly indebted to the long-standing support and generosity of the Tan Tze Chor family, the Singapore Leisure Industries, the Shaw Foundation, the Lee Foundation, Andy Ng and Pamela Hickley….”

Following Tommy Koh’s speech the official Guest-of-Honour Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong made presentations to three major benefactors of the Empress Place Building Project: Hong Leong Foundation, Mr Edmond Chin and Ngee Ann Development Pte Ltd. Readers will have noticed that since our November-December 2002 issue Chubb has been advertising on the inside back cover of our magazine. I have received some information from Jennifer Scally of the Personal Insurance Department of Chubb Hong Kong who has been responsible for the launch of Masterpiece™. Ms Scally, Assistant Vice President, Personal Insurance Manager, Federal Insurance Company (a member insurer of Chubb Group of Insurance Companies), has provided answers to my queries of the relevance of Masterpiece™ to our readers who are collectors. She explains, “Chubb Masterpiece™ is a comprehensive insurance policy for homes, cars, boats, valuable possessions and collections, and personal liability. It has been especially created for those with significant assets to protect and who demand the reassurance of superior levels of coverage and service. The coverage and service that it offers are unique in the industry and are beyond our customers’ expectations.”

It is appropriate that while our May-June 2003 issue has been under production the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies has sponsored an exhibition at the Hong Kong University Museum and Art Gallery titled, “Ancient Taoist Art from Shanxi Province”. This coincides with a Hong Kong Taoist Festival and the 50th Anniversary of the Museum’s opening. I will make a point of visiting the exhibition at 94 Bonham Road, Hong Kong once this issue has successfully gone to press and I am relieved from my publishing pressures.

I surely do wish to learn more about Taoism and this would seem to be a good way. Taoism is still widely practised in South China (as also of course in Hong Kong) and is built upon the teachings of Laozi which were developed into religion during the Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 220). The essence is harmony and transcending our mortal time thereby preserving health and prolonging lives.

Of the sixty works of art that are displayed in the exhibition I have chosen as most representative a blue and white rouleau Qing dynasty (1644-1911) vase with scene of Laozi on his mule retiring to the mountains (9).

In Hong Kong Martin and Shirley Fung (10) in November 2002 opened a new 2600 square feet two-floor gallery at 118-120 Hollywood Road. Martin Fung whose parents are from China was born in 1949 in Canton. He studied in Canton and then Hong Kong when he came here in 1962-learning to paint in both traditional and contemporary styles for four years at art school. Martin opened his first shop shortly after marrying Shirley in 1976. She would look after the shop and Martin would supervise the manufacture of furniture and also all the buying and selling. At that time he had many American and European buyers. He was very open and they felt comfortable talking with him. During the 1980s Martin was one of the few Chinese dealers travelling to Europe. He held exhibitions across Asia and also in Germany.

As a result of his earliest studies and background he is particularly knowledgeable on the scholar’s table subject. Early on he had collected bamboo, ivory, miniatures and porcelain pieces as well as whole groups of Chinese porcelain water droppers. Now the market has returned to the scholar’s objects subject, though in recent years he has started to sell more imperial ware, and has also been working with clients in China. In 1989 Martin took his family to Canada. He rented a shop for four years then opened his own 6000 square feet gallery. During that time he still kept open his gallery at 321 Pacific Place in Hong Kong. It worked out well as he could judge the performance of both locations and better assess the Asian art market as a whole. In 1997 he returned with his family to Hong Kong. Although he had created his own customers in Vancouver and established a stable business, the lifestyle was not as exciting as here. Martin and his wife both feel it was a good decision to return. Since the move he has found his old customers have come back to see him. He has also upgraded his merchandise to include imperial ware from the 16th century and fine Wanli and Qianlong porcelain.

Zee Stone Gallery, G/F, Yu Yuet Lai Building, 43-55 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong, relates the paintings of Chinese artist Bo Yun (Li Yongcun, born in China in 1948), Professor at the Central Academy of Fine Art, Beijing, to those of the recognised elder master Zao Wouki (born 1921). Such paintings do have an appeal to both a Western and intellectual Chinese audience who can recognise the traditions that have contributed to their creation. I have chosen to illustrate here Bo Yun’s ink and colour on paper Lotus at Dawn (11), 68 by 68 cm, which can be interpreted by the viewer in several ways. Zee Stone Gallery say Bo Yun’s “landscapes at dawn or dusk have a tranquil, dreamlike serenity as well as a shade of pathos. Large areas of light and heavy ink and mist and clouds dominate the paintings, setting off the vastness of the land and sky”. The exhibition which they have entitled “Lost Horizon” runs from May 16th-31st and should be well worth a visit. For more information contact gallery owner Shaun Kelly.

I am always looking for new affordable areas of collecting for our readers. William Chiang, Director of China Art, G/F, 15 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong, has been collecting masks from China since some time and has been fascinated by the craftsmanship and the legends behind many of them. Until May 4th he is exhibiting a show of 140 antique masks which he has priced from HK$2000 to HK$20,000. William says, “Most of these masks come from western China, from the regions of Guizhou province bordering Thailand and Vietnam. The majority of the masks date from about 1800-1900, although a few were made as early as 1700. Most are life-size and were evidently worn by the performers, although we have a few tiny ones that seem to have been amulets.” Seen here are two character masks worn in most Chinese dramas-the intimidating judge (12) and the sweet young goddess (13) who drives out evil spirits.

We are happy to welcome Dennis George Crow back to Hong Kong. The most recent occasion was in April when he was scheduled to exhibit historic photographs of Hong Kong, Macau and China. Dennis, who grew up in Hong Kong and attended first the Peak School and later King George V in Kowloon, has seen many changes since he was here as a young boy. To recall those days and the years earlier I have chosen to illustrate a view of the Peak Tram just above May Road, 1950 (14). He also announces he has opened a new gallery devoted to historic Asian photographs, art and antiquities. This gallery at 138 North La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90036, USA has a large rotating inventory of images from the Far East and other specialties. I recommend he be contacted first for an appointment, Tel. and Fax: 323-932-0096.

For the first time the studio works of three great Japanese ceramists-Makuzu Kozan, Seifu Yohei III and Ito Tozan-will be shown with 19th century Japanese studio ceramics, on display and for sale in New York City at Flying Cranes Antiques Ltd until June 1st, 2003. Acclaimed in Japan during the reign of Emperor Meiji (1868-1912), the artists’ innovative experimentation with rare glazes and new techniques were shown at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876. For example, Makuzu Kozan’s large and spectacular high-shouldered vase (15), its body executed with a shimmering transmutation glaze and oil-slick patina, Makuzu Kozan cartouche on base, height 16.5 in, Meiji period.

Following ten years as curator of textiles at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, specialist and author, Mary Hunt Kahlenberg (16) opened Tai Gallery/Textile Arts in 1978. From May 17th through June 14th, 2003, Tai Gallery presents “Textiles for Life’s Transitions”-textiles either as talismatic symbols of protection or to accentuate the happiness of the moment. To celebrate its 25th Anniversary, Rob Coffland (17) of Tai Gallery/Textile Arts, 616½ Canyon Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico, will also introduce to collectors “the amazing three dimensional bamboo sculptures and baskets being created by Japan’s contemporary masters” with a body of new work by the Japanese bamboo master Nagakuru Kenichi. The exhibition will run through July 18th.

The 10th anniversary Spring auctions of China Guardian Auction Co., Ltd will be held from May 17th – 22nd in the Kunlun Hotel, Beijing in seven categories: Chinese Oil Paintings and Sculptures; Modern and Contemporary Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy; Classical Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy; Porcelain and Works of Art; Rare Books; Stamps and Covers; Banknotes and Coins. With 600 plus lots of modern painting masters from Wu Changshuo to Zhang Daqian, etc, a highlight are sixty fans from the same collection in good condition and reasonably estimated. The sale of Chinese Oil Paintings and Sculpture includes works by Fang Junbi, Pen Yuliang, Guan Liang, Wu Zuoren, Lin Fengmian and other well-known names. The 1932 oil, Scenery of Hong Kong (18), is from the later years of Li Tiefu (1869-1952).

I recently heard from Forrest McGill, Chief Curator and Wattis Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art, Asian Art Museum. He says about our January-February 2003 number, “Just wanted to thank you again for the wonderful issue focusing on the Asian Art Museum. It turned out exceptionally well, and we are in debt for a job so beautifully done. Copies are in much demand here.” The museum reopened to the public on March 20th, 2003 in its new facility in San Francisco’s Civic Center. Illustrated here are four pictures of the opening: the museum wrapped in banners created by artist Pop Zhao (19); crowds gathered outside the museum for the opening ceremonies (20); the front banner being raised by Pop Zhao, lead donor Chong-Moon Lee, Commissioner Judy Wilbur, Asian Art Museum Director Emily Sano and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown (21); and visitors to the Himalayan galleries (22).

With this issue we say farewell to Charlotte Horstmann whose friendship dates to the 1950s long before the founding of this magazine. My architect husband’s partner helped to design Charlotte’s Duddell Street gallery, and assigned Charlotte as an interior decorator to furnish some of the special suites in the Mandarin Hotel for which he was the architect. The prestigious hotel was opened in 1963. My husband wrote with his illustrations the seven-page article “Charlotte Horstmann’s Ming Furniture” in our May-June 1971 magazine. In this article Charlotte is seen with her Ming (1368-1644) furniture in her earlier Hong Kong days, including her famous “opium bed” now in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.

I remember vividly Charlotte’s sincere assertion when I talked to her in the 1970s at her elegant apartment on Castle Peak Road, Kowloon, that she had deeply felt her Chinese roots and her Chinese culture even from her early childhood. It was Charlotte’s love and enthusiasm that inspired and convinced her international clients to buy classical huanghuali furniture for their homes and offices. Her ability was to bring lesser known subjects to wider international attention, such as Buddhist art from Thailand and Burma. To celebrate her ninetieth birthday I asked her daughter-in-law, Victoria Horstmann, to write about Charlotte’s life and her achievements. This was published in the January-February 1999 issue of Arts of Asia under the title “Charlotte Horstmann at Ninety”. The tribute was acclaimed internationally by readers amongst whom were many of her close friends.

Last year I was invited with my son Michael to her comfortable apartment in New York City. It was her devoted daughter, Renata de Pepe, who prepared lunch for us including pink champagne. For three and a half hours Charlotte held our attention with her enthralling memories, concluding with her first and most important rule for success as an art and antique dealer: “please your clients and maintain their confidence”. Indeed, Charlotte Horstmann will be remembered affectionately by all who have known her and enjoyed her love of Asian art, her warmth and her generous nature.

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