January to February 2004 Editorial

I DEDICATE OUR Japanese issue for 2004 to the memory of Raymond Bushell, the world-famous netsuke collector, great netsuke authority and author who I first met through our joint friendships with another American expatriate living in Tokyo, the snuff bottle collector Bob Stevens. At the head of the Editorial is a charming picture of Frances and Raymond Bushell, the perfect Asian dutiful wife and American husband theme. They are seen with their family cat Willy in their Tokyo residence in 1986.(1) I will always remember on a Tokyo visit Raymond lifting the carpet and the floorboards of his living room to bring out their treasures for our handling, admiration, education and enjoyment.

Frances has written the following five paragraphs for further personal insights for our international readers: “Tuyet Nguyet has asked me to provide a few words about Raymond’s collection. “Raymond purchased his first netsuke in September 1945 at the age of thirty-five. He saw a little ivory priest in a hotel arcade in Osaka. He had long had an interest in small carved objects, and he found that little priest intriguing.

“In time he became aware of the fledgling magazine Arts of Asia. He wanted to meet the founder, Tuyet Nguyet. A year after Raymond and I married in 1952, we were on our first trip to Hong Kong, and it was some years later that we arranged for an introduction to meet Nguyet and her husband Stephen Markbreiter. They were very gracious and invited us to lunch. Thus began a relationship that was to deepen over the decades. Whenever we embarked on our annual trips to Hong Kong, we always looked forward to visiting with Nguyet and Stephen.

“Raymond and I began to travel extensively and frequently in pursuit of netsuke. Over the years, Nguyet would recognize Raymond’s knowledge and enthusiasm deepening, and she asked Raymond to contribute to her magazine. In those days very little was written about netsuke. He was a prolific writer and was honored to be asked. In 1995 he wrote his last article for Arts of Asia, “To Donate or Not to Donate”, which caused a furor among netsuke collectors for its emotional topic. Raymond passed away on January 17th, 1998, little more than a year or two after his last contribution.

“The development of Arts of Asia is a remarkable story in its own right. Under the guidance of Nguyet, it grew from an obscure small magazine to become one of the major forces in the world of Asian art, and Raymond was honored to be a small part of her large success.”

Frances, I am glad to hear, has seen our presentation of Hollis Goodall’s article for our readers. She has commented that it is “wonderful and typical of the careful work that Nguyet does. My heart is filled with happiness and gratefulness as it is a dream come true.”

Hollis Goodall, the writer of the cover article, has been working with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art at Associate Curator level since 1997. She is the author of The Raymond and Frances Bushell Collection of Netsuke: A Legacy at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with essays by Virginia G. Atchley, Neil K. Davey, Christine Drosse, Sebastian Izzard, Odile Madden and Robert T. Singer. Published by Art Media Resources in Chicago, Illinois, the assemblage of this important netsuke work was completed in mid-2003. More information on the 552-page massive cataloguing with 847 entries, more than one thousand colour illustrations and 535 artists’ signatures, together with the details of five books by Raymond Bushell, his co-authors and translators can be seen on pages 20–21 of this magazine.

While I was writing my Editorial Dr Stephen Markel, Curator and Department Head of South and Southeast Asian Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, called to tell me about his Himalayan exhibition “The Circle of Bliss; Buddhist Meditational Art”, and also how very proud they were that our January–February 2004 issue features his museum’s Japanese netsuke from the Raymond and Frances Bushell Collection on the cover. The reason I wanted to place it there is because twice when I went to the museum’s Japanese Pavilion I found very few people seemed to know about it. So I wanted to do whatever I could to inform collectors from other parts of the world of the strengths and appropriateness of the Bushell netsuke gallery. Already, since we have been actively preparing this issue, through our efforts dealers have been talking about it and more people have been going there. Now that the special Japanese edition will be printed and distributed around the world I hope more of our readers will want to make the journey to see the collection.

In her acknowledgements on page 10 of the Art Media Resources book, Frances says, “I am very excited, pleased and thrilled that our gift to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art of more than eight hundred netsuke is featured in its own catalogue.” I would like to join Neil K. Davey who concludes his own essay on page 21 with the sentiment, “However our gratitude is directed more to Raymond and Frances for their great gift, which allows us as well as future students to learn from and enjoy the netsuke displayed.”

Incidentally, Neil Davey the netsuke expert has been announced as giving the first lecture at 9:30–10:30 am on Tuesday January 27th, 2004 to The International Netsuke Society Convention. This is being held in Honolulu, Hawaii at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, from January 26th to 31st, 2004. I understand from Honolulu-resident dealer Robyn Buntin’s website (www.robynbuntin.com) that Neil Davey’s lecture title is “I Must Go Down to the Sea Again”. The titles of other netsuke lectures that follow at the same times are on Wednesday January 28th, “21st Century Netsuke” by Robert Kinsey; and on Thursday January 29th, “Tobacco Accessories” by Arno Ziesnitz. On Friday January 30th a panel discussion will be led by Sharen Chappell on “The Ocean: It’s Lore, Materials & Creatures”. On Saturday January 31st, “A Drop of Mystery” by Guenther Heckmann, the noted restorer and connoisseur, will give a fresh look at lacquer netsuke, inro and related items.

Registration, followed by opening dinner with Hawaiian entertainment sponsored by Sharen Chappell, is on January 26th, 12–5 pm. This is a biannual gathering of the society and its members attended by many netsuke dealers and carvers with daily workshops and social gatherings.

I welcome the strong support of Sir Hugh Cortazzi, diplomat, author and former Ambassador to Japan for Great Britain, for his two Japanese subject articles in this number, which take us through six centuries, with “Kazari: Decoration and Display in Japan 15th–19th Centuries” and “Koyama Fujio, a Potter’s Dream (1900–1975)”. Dr Jan Dees for his Japanese lacquer subject describes and illustrates the little known in the West eccentric lacquer work of Rokkaku Shisui (1867–1950), who “found inspiration for renewal in ancient Chinese lacquerware excavated in Korea”.

Carlos Prata, the owner of Hanlin Gallery in Hong Kong, reviews the latest book-catalogue on Japanese woodblock print revival artist Kawase Hasui, by Hotei Publishing of Amsterdam, which I am pleased to recommend. In this case the review deserved, I am sure you will agree, to be illustrated in colour with seven of the artist’s best woodblock print production.

Finally, Bernard P. Stoltie, to bring up to date our Collectors World section for our readers, describes in his survey how Japanese kigata or wooden moulds, with which Japanese confectioners once made colourful wagashi or tea sweets for special occasions, can be used by the ceramicist today to cast attractive paperweights.

Those in the vicinity of New York City should make a point of visiting Flying Cranes Antiques, Ltd (1050 Second Ave, New York, NY 10022, USA), who are specialists in Japanese Edo and Meiji art. Until January 31st, 2004 they will be showing an exhibition and sale of ikebana dynastic artist-craftsman family baskets, which extend in their dating through the 19th to the 20th century. Seen in the photograph is a group of five intricately woven bamboo sculptural objects in various shapes and colours by Japanese masters Chikuunsai I, Chikuunsai II and Hogetsu.(2) While such “baskets” (one is a tray) in the Japanese context were both functional and aesthetically pleasing, they are now strongly appreciated by Western designers and homemakers for the elegance of their forms, lightness, evocativeness of nature and appropriateness for ikebana-type arrangements.

Erica Yao of the gallery of Sandra Whitman (361 Oak Street, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA) has told me that their next exhibition of antique and old Chinese rugs will be titled, “Persistence During Times of Change: Chinese Rugs and Textiles during the Ming-Qing Dynasty Tradition”. This is planned to run from February 12th to March 15th, 2004. The opening of their exhibition follows the San Francisco Arts of Pacific Asia Show to be held at the Fort Mason Center, Festival Pavilion, February 6th– 8th, 2004. The goal of the Sandra Whitman gallery exhibition is “to explore constancy and change in carpet weaving in Ningxia China, between the late-Ming and early- Qing dynasties”. It will demonstrate the evolutions in Chinese rug design during the 17th century to mid- 18th century, which is a high point in Ningxia Chinese carpet weaving. Illustrated is a 19th century Khotan piece, Xinjiang province, western China, measuring approximately 8 by 4 feet, which will be exhibited at the Arts of Pacific Asia Show.(3)

You can expect to hear more about the subject of the article “Introduction to Indian Drawings: A Selection from the Subhash Kapoor Collection” by Aaron M. Freedman featured in this issue.

Denise M. Gerson, Associate Director of the Lowe Art Museum (1301 Stanford Drive, Coral Gables, FL 33124-6310, USA) has just informed me that her museum is showing a selection of Indian drawings from the private collection of Subhash Kapoor which will be presented in the exhibition, “Mala ke Manke: 108 Indian Drawings” at the Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, from the 31st of January to the 28th of March, 2004.

“This unique exhibition”, she says, “places Indian drawings within their historical and cultural frameworks.

“The collection veritably surveys the range of drawings from 17th to the 20th century, presenting a wide variety of different regional styles and types of drawings, including large-format plans for wall paintings, preparatory sketches, finished works, and unfinished paintings.

“An exhibition catalogue will accompany the exhibition. Featuring stunning colour illustrations and insightful text by Aaron M. Freedman, curator of the exhibition, the catalogue is an exceptional testament to the broad scope and fine quality of the exhibition.”

If it has reached your overseas newspapers you may have heard of the hilarious Hong Kong-Australian crocodile hunt in the “river swamps” of our northern New Territories; so I have chosen for illustration a drawing of a stylised more successful lion overcoming a crocodile.(4) The late 18th century sketch is attributed to Bagta, Rajasthan, Deogarh, India. “Swooping arcs, curves and rounded shapes dominate the composition. The great-cat pounces into the pictorial space from the left and seizes the monster in its jaws. The reptile struggles, but its fate is sealed.”

A letter in the magazine’s Correspondence, on page 24, tells our readers of the progress made in the salvage from the Manila galleon Santa Margarita. By coincidence, these pages had already been made when I received an announcement from Christie’s Australia Pty. Ltd (1 Darling Street, South Yarra, Victoria 3141) of their auction of historic 17th century Ming porcelain from the Treasures of Binh Thuan Shipwreck to be held in Melbourne on March 1st, 2nd and 3rd, 2004. A sample selection of the cargo has been on show since October 2003 in Christie’s venues in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, Japan, Holland, France, England and Australia.

The wreck is occasionally mentioned very early in the 17th century, as is shown in the European chart illustrated here where southern Vietnam and Cambodia are referred to as “CAMBOIA”, central Vietnam as “CHAMPA” and northern Vietnam as “COCHINCHINE”.(5)

Christie’s have provided me with a before publication copy of Dr Michael Flecker’s introduction and history of the finds of The Binh Thuan Shipwreck since the Vietnamese authorities got wind of it off their coast in early 2001. It is illegal to recover historic shipwreck cargoes in Vietnamese waters without a license from the Federal Government and provincial approval. Clandestine operations of fishermen came to the attention of marine police and more than a thousand pieces were confiscated and handed over to the Binh Thuan Culture Department for conservation and cataloguing.

It is my hope that in a later Saleroom News report, from Christie’s Australia, we will be able to publish with the results of their sale, more of the history and background of the salvage than is possible here. This began with a survey by Dr Flecker’s company, Maritime Explorations, and State owned Vietnam Salvage Corporation (Visal) with whom he had been working off and on since 1991.

The Bihn Thuan People’s Committee and Visal have jointly carried out the excavation, in conjunction with the Vietnamese Ministry of Culture. Maritime Explorations signed a secondary agreement with Visal to provide financial support, archaeological consultancy and project management services for the excavation, which is considered a model for commercial and archaeological cooperation. Some information with five pictures about the Christie’s Australia sale can be found on page 25. Featuring over six hundred lots, it is expected to realise in excess of AUD1 million and will sell nearly 17,000 pieces recovered in 2002 from the seabed near Holland Bank, off the coast of southern Vietnam. The early 17th century Ming dynasty ceramics are mostly blue and white Swatow ware from Zhangzhou, China.(6)

It is the right time of the year to mention the E&J Frankel Ltd (1040 Madison Avenue, at 79th Street, New York, NY 10021, USA) exhibition and sale, “Zodiac Zoo” which runs from January 15th through February 28th, 2004. Edith and Joel Frankel have generously allowed us to publish their following information on the animals of the Chinese Zodiac that sometimes appear in the art of East Asia and will be seen in their gallery.

As in the West, the Chinese Lunar Year, widely used throughout East Asia, is divided into twelve months, and is closely related to the seasonal rites of traditional agrarian society. Thus, the Asian Lunar New Year, which occurs in the middle of our winter, symbolically marks cyclical renewal associated with the onset of spring; indeed, in Chinese, the holiday marking the Lunar New Year is called Chunjie, the “Spring Festival”.

Demonstrating a different and exceedingly longer perspective on the cyclical nature of cosmic time than that with which most Westerners are familiar, an ancient astrological Chinese tradition also divides time into cycles of twelve years, which are in turn grouped together into sixty- year epochs. The concept of the Chinese astrological cycle is attributed to the mythical Yellow Emperor, Huang Di, in 2637 BC. The current, seventy-eighth, sixty-year cycle started on February 2nd, 1984 and will be completed in 2044.

Within this system, each year is represented by an animal sign. The twelve animals constitute the “Chinese Zodiac”. In a Buddhist tale explaining the order in which the animals appear in the cycle, the twelve Zodiac animals are those who answered the summons of the Buddha to come and bid him farewell before he entered final Nirvana. Only twelve were present, and so he honoured them by naming a year for each animal in order of its arrival. First came the Rat, followed by the Ox, the Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and, lastly, the Pig. As with the Western Zodiac, each sign is associated with characteristics thought to be projected onto those born under that sign. As the Chinese saying goes, “This is the animal that hides in your heart”. The coming Lunar New Year is the Year of the Monkey.

For good luck I am illustrating a little later the Frankel’s Ming dynasty scroll weight of a monkey holding peaches.(8)

I take this opportunity to bring Sir Hugh Cortazzi’s article in this issue on Koyama Fujio and his contemporary ceramicists up to date with an example, Settling Cloud (2003),(7) by a younger Japanese artist Takahashi Kazuya (born 1978) who is active today. This is amongst the exhibits James Singer Asian Art (PO Box 1396, Tiburon, CA 94920, USA) will be showing at several art fairs this season, including The New York Ceramics Fair, January 14th–18th, 2004 at the National Academy of Design, and the 8th annual Arts of Pacific Asia Show at Fort Mason, Festival Pavilion, San Francisco, February 6th–8th, 2004.

James Singer, who has thirty years of dealing experience, from being London-based moved to Marin County just north of San Francisco in 2002. Starting with Tibetan and Nepalese antiquities his interests have constantly expanded to include a wide variety of cultures, including classical Indian and Gandharan sculpture, ancient Indonesian art, Chinese textiles and most recently contemporary Japanese ceramics.

Arts of Asia Director and Executive Editor Robin Markbreiter returned from covering Asian Art in London, November 6th–14th, 2003, bringing with him his usual lively photographs of the opening Launch Party on November 7th at The Victoria & Albert Museum. For space reasons I have selected five:
London snuff bottle dealer Robert Hall; Adam Golder, CEO, AXA Art Insurance Limited; Lindsay Hall; and Annie Sheaf.(9)

Colin Sheaf, Head of Asian Art and Director of the Applied Arts Departments for Bonhams auction group, who was presented the AXA Art Insurance Limited Award first prize in the two-dimensional works of art category for a Ming blue and white rectangular plaque, Chenghua period, which sold for £40,630 in Bonhams’ sale of The du Boulay Collection of Chinese Ceramics (see pages 117–119 for Colin Sheaf’s Saleroom News report); and Max Rutherston, representing Sydney L. Moss Ltd, who won first prize for the best three- dimensional object for a set of three 12th century Buddhist bodhisattvas.(10)

New York dealers Suneet Kapoor and his father Ramesh Kapoor, specialists in Indian and Himalayan art; and collector Wasim Zaman who works for the United Nations.(11)

London dealer Ben Janseens; Robin Markbreiter; and photographer Hidde van Seggelen. The picture was taken for him by Mark Schaszberger, Robin’s American cousin who was visiting London’s galleries.(12)

Mee Seen Loong, responsible for International Business Development at Sotheby’s; and generous donor to the British Museum Sir Joseph E. Hotung, a major collector and prominent member of the historic Hong Kong family.(13)

Leading and respected London dealer Giuseppe Eskenazi (10 Clifford Street, London W1S 2LJ), Chairman of the Asian Art in London Steering Committee, was also photographed at the Launch Party. But I have chosen to publish here a recent photograph taken by Sotheby’s specialist in Chinese ceramics and works of art Nicolas Chow when the auction house celebrated its 30th anniversary sales in Hong Kong on October 26th and 27th, 2003 (see pages 113–116 for Robin Markbreiter’s Saleroom News report).(14) I took this opportunity to ask Giuseppe for his reflections on my following questions which I sent to him in London:

Tuyet Nguyet—Very early subscribers to Arts of Asia may recall your attractive full-page colour advertisements appearing on the inside front cover page of the magazine since the July–August 1972 edition. For example you featured a blue and white early 15th century saucer dish, a 1st millennium BC Ordos bronze mule, a pair of Japanese screens, a 13th/14th century Guanyin wood sculpture, a Tang dynasty saddled horse and many other important pieces. I was also very impressed when you recently told me that you have never missed a Sotheby’s Hong Kong auction in the past thirty years. Can you tell me your recollections of the first Sotheby’s Hong Kong auction held at the Mandarin Hotel?

Giuseppe Eskenazi—I believe I have attended every single Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong since 1973, except the “Sars” one.

The first auction, as you know, took place at the Mandarin on November 16th, 1973. There was a lot of speculation as to how it would go as it was a very experimental auction. Julian Thompson took a great risk, however it was a calculated one. The catalogue was a mixture of archaic bronzes, early potteries, Song wares as well as Ming and Qing porcelains. The sale was conducted in pounds sterling. There were two superb Ming blue and white porcelain pieces.

A flower- shaped Xuande bowl (15) and a Chenghua dish (16) which fetched £190,000 and £160,000 respectively, both went to Japan—we underbid the Chenghua dish and at the time they were enormous prices. At that time the market was really in Japan and Sotheby’s attempt to sell in Japan had failed so the next most obvious place was Hong Kong. In fact that proved in the next 30 years to be the best market for auctioning Chinese porcelain in particular. The Mandarin ballroom was relatively small by today’s standards and there was a lot of tension and excitement in the room. The experiment paid handsomely.

T.N.—In the early years Sotheby’s held one auction a year. Now they have Spring and Autumn sales. Do you think this was a good idea?

G.E.—The sales grew to two auctions a year as a result of the market growing and therefore the demand.

T.N.—Can you describe some of the important collectors you have met over the years who have bought at Sotheby’s Hong Kong and played an integral role to help bring success to this auction house?

G.E.—There were and there are several very important collectors. Some, both in Hong Kong and Taipei, like to remain private and buy anonymously—I don’t think it’s my place to mention them, however the more public and major ones have been T.Y. Chao, J.S. Lee, Roger Lam, B.L. Au, C.P. Lin, I.P. Yee, Jack Chia, to mention a few, and of course more recently a major player in the field has been T.T. Tsui. They, with two important dealers—Joseph Chan and Robert Chang—have helped to make Hong Kong the success it is today.

T.N.—What do you think are the reasons for Sotheby’s success in Hong Kong?

G.E.—The success ultimately has to be attributed to Julian Thompson; he really sorted the market out. He provided expertise and a constant supply of first class material. Furthermore, the auctions were conducted in a most professional way.

T.N.—How can Sotheby’s Hong Kong widen their market of potential buyers and sellers?

G.E.—Now, I don’t think they have to do any more, i.e. the new emerging markets come to them because of their reputation and the geographical position in the Far East of Hong Kong. Take the example of mainland…they now come to Hong Kong and are a very strong presence in the market.

T.N.—What areas of Chinese art do you think dealers and auction houses should develop?

G.E.—This is very much something which goes in cycles. At present the Qing market followed by the Ming is very strong, however each time a top example from another period comes up it also commands a very high price.

T.N.—You have been one of the most important dealers regularly buying top-quality pieces at auctions. In Sotheby’s 30th anniversary auction in Hong Kong on October 26th you purchased Lot 49, an elegant early Ming Longquan pear-shaped sea-green glazed vase for HK$4,542,400. You were also the underbidder on several other lots. Can you explain why at this sale you were unable to buy more?

G.E.—I bid for the Longguan vase well beyond the order bid I had and finished up buying it for ourselves. However I nearly did not get it because of the strong competition. The other lots for which I was the underbidder were due to strong competition from the mainland.

T.N.—Provenance has become an increasingly important issue in the Asian art market. In your last two or three exhibitions in New York and London I noticed your gallery takes special care to make sure the pieces have good provenance. Can you tell my readers how this issue has affected your business and how it will affect other dealers, the auction houses and the Asian art market in the next five years?

G.E.—At this stage it is very difficult to predict how it will affect the market. What most people outside the Chinese field do not realise is that China has produced millions and millions of objects over a period of 5000 years of uninterrupted production. There are millions of these objects around the world, nearly all of which are undocumented— those objects which have been published or exhibited are very few and unfortunately for various reasons tend to be the same ones, so how the law will apply to the undocumented objects we will have to wait and see.

T.N.—Do you have a special exhibition planned for Asia Week in New York in March/April 2004?

G.E.—At present we are considering what to exhibit in New York and I cannot tell you as we have not taken a decision yet.

I was interested to see Giuseppe’s focus on two main pieces in Sotheby’s first sale at the Mandarin Hotel in 1973, the Xuande bowl and Chenghua dish, as these were illustrated in John K.T. Ma’s Saleroom News report for Arts of Asia of that auction in Hong Kong for our January–February 1974 edition. Some insights into how that came about may be of interest to our readers and Sotheby’s present staff today. The story begins thirty-three years ago.

In the Correspondence of the first issue of Arts of Asia, page 2, January–February 1971, there is a letter from Sotheby’s saying how delighted they were to learn about the magazine. This resulted from the preview promotional issue that was sent in 1970 to potential international supporters.

On March 29th, 1971 John K.T. Ma (whose surname in English today spells slightly differently) wrote to me expressing his delight and enthusiasm at the founding of the magazine and asked if we would be interested in publishing a regular contribution of important Chinese sales at Sotheby’s London.

In our reply in April 1971 we wrote, “We should like to cover all types of Oriental art—Indian, Japanese, Southeast Asian, etc. It would also be much better if it were not confined to Sotheby’s.”

John’s first contribution appeared as “News from Sotheby’s” in the May–June 1971 magazine with a report on the March 2nd, 1971 sale in London and was followed in the May–June 1972 issue with his first report under the Saleroom News heading. This covered in London the Chinese sales at Sotheby’s, and Japanese and Chinese sales at Christie’s.

It was through John that I urged Sotheby’s to bring their auctions to Hong Kong, and it was John who found and made the connection with Mamie Howe, who worked at that time for Lane Crawford Ltd. The two companies joined forces to form the Hong Kong auction house. In the July– August 1973 Arts of Asia can be seen their advertisement announcing their “first ever ORIENTAL ART auction in Hong Kong on 16th November, 1973 at the Mandarin Hotel, Hong Kong”. This was followed by six pages of specific advertisements in our September–October 1973 issue for Sotheby’s in Association with Lane Crawford Ltd, specifying the Sale of Important Chinese Ceramics and Archaic Bronzes, the Property of Various Owners at 10:30 am and at 3 pm on Friday, November 16th, 1973, as well as the Sale of Fine Nineteenth Century China Paintings, Drawings and Watercolours from European Collections at 8:30 pm precisely.

John did a wonderful comprehensive report of the sales which we published in Arts of Asia January–February 1974— and the rest is history. A highly successful history capped by their very latest auction sales dedicated to Sotheby’s thirty years in Hong Kong. This I commemorate in my Editorial with their company group photograph17 taken shortly afterwards and my interview with Henry Howard-Sneyd on pages 14–18. My only regret is that the important initial and longtime auctioneer Julian Thompson was unable to be present, but I was assured he was listening on his London telephone line as the auctions were taking place.

I send both Western and Chinese New Year greetings of the Year of the Monkey most warmly to all the many friends and supporters of Arts of Asia across the world.

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