SO MANY FAMOUS NAMES, so many memories. In my mind I can still see Dunt King and T.Y. King, the doyen of the respected Chinese antiques fraternity. T.Y. King at the arcade of the old Alexandra House and Dunt King on the ground floor of the old Victory House on the corner of Wellington Street. Dunt King was also advising the City Museum and Art Gallery where John Warner (seen here overlooking a folio of John Thomson’s photographs) (1) was very much in charge until Laurence C.S. Tam (2), his protégé, took over as Chief Curator in 1975. Other now famous names who our friend John Warner encouraged and supported on his staff of those days, include art-historian James Watt (now the Brooke Russell Astor Senior Curator of Chinese Decorative Arts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art) and artist Wucius Wong, while sculptor Cheung Yee’s early recognition is a result of the museum’s acquisitions of his work.
In 1981, Darwin Chen, Director of Cultural Services, led a group of government servants to study world museum architecture. From this trip we have today the modern Hong Kong Museum of Art, the better and more progressive of the group of buildings on the Kowloon Tsimshatsui waterfron
t which form the Hong Kong Cultural Centre complex. In 2004 it was named Hong Kong Cultural Centre Piazza, which includes as well the Clock Tower, Auditoria Building, Grand Theatre, Restaurant, Harbour Piazza and Covered Walkway. As I write my Editorial, the museum is showing a biennial exhibition of the work of younger Hong Kong contemporaries, including conceptual artists, painters, potters and sculptors, selected by an advisory panel from a wide entry.
Other dealer support for our early 1971 days came amongst others from Tai Sing Co. then of Hollywood Road (close to the Man Mo Temple) and S.H. Chan on the mezzanine floor of the Mandarin Hotel which had opened in 1963. But interesting to recall, with the opening of the Ocean Terminal facilitating frequent visits by ocean liners and the expansion of a wealthy tourist business, the serious antiques trade was becoming more focused in Kowloon.
Chinese Arts and Crafts (HK) already had their major art and antiques emporium in Star House, at the Kowloon end of the Star Ferry; and the Chung Kiu Chinese Arts and Crafts centre had opened way down Nathan Road. The combined Boutique De Chine and Chang’s Jewelry were at Kowloon’s Hong Kong Hotel. Pok Art House was selling contemporary Chinese paintings at Granville Road, P.C. Lu was already established at the Ocean Terminal and Yee Woo Co. was located in Hankow Road.
Strong support also was offered by The Hong Kong Bank Group, with its many collectors at all levels, and their justly famous George Chinnery and China Trade paintings collections. These were displayed along the mezzanine corridor which overlooked the banking hall, as well as in high-level special areas and invited guest overnight bedrooms. Overseeing this collection was J.A.G. Saunders, the bank’s Chief Manager, who took a personal interest in the collection. This had largely been assembled by J.R. Jones, the bank’s legal adviser, a kindly though mysterious and quite elderly Welsh figure who took us under his wing. He invited us to tea, cake and sandwiches at his old-style Mid-Levels apartment. By coincidence, we later discovered J.R. Jones was a founder of the Far Eastern Economic Review, then supported by the bank financially for which from time to time I had been writing on Vietnam-China affairs before starting Arts of Asia as a strictly apolitical art magazine.
Looking back, I am interested to be reminded of the strong support that was also received in our first year from airlines. This resulted from the interest of our easily read and informative pages, an international urge to travel more frequently, to a better understanding of Asia’s peoples, their cultural backgrounds, history and arts. Full-page advertisements in prominent positions came from Japan Air Lines, Thai International, Air Vietnam and Cathay Pacific in our first year alone. In my memory, these soon widened to include American and European airlines.
From this point of my Editorial, to avoid repetition, I feel readers would best learn more of our early years by turning to the text and illustrations of “The Early Years: Introduction to the Special Edition” on pages 65-77. However, since writing that introduction I have turned to our photographic library, and while publishing a selection of the photo legacy that is found in the Arts of Asia resources, I note the following to give a fuller picture of the company’s years.
I do mention my early Assistant Editor, R.H. Leary, in my “Introduction” and here he is seen taking notes at my interview with Duncan Macintosh (3, 4), the author of Chinese Blue and White Porcelain, David E. Charles, London, Vancouver, jointly with Charles Tuttle & Co., Vermont and Tokyo, 1977. Duncan Macintosh, a prime mover of the 1974 founding of The Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong, was Honorary Secretary at the time.
The occasion was the first exhibition by the society of “Chinese Blue and White Porcelain and related Underglaze Red”, introduced by Sir John Addis, President of The Oriental Ceramic Society, London. It was held in association with the Urban Council and the City Museum and Art Gallery, Hong Kong, February 1975.
Also seen at that exhibition was Dr Philip Wen-Chee Mao (5), President of the Hong Kong society, talking to prominent collector of snuff bottles, Paul Braga, and J.A.G. Saunder’s personal administrative assistant, Ms Margaret Goldney. She was closely associated with The Hong Kong Bank Group’s China Trade paintings collection, is also a snuff bottle collector and still our valued subscriber.
A landmark exhibition at the Hong Kong Museum of Art during the curatorship of Laurence C.S. Tam was the exhibition of one hundred pieces of “Chingtechen Porcelain of the Ming and Ch’ing Dynasties from the Collection of the T.Y. Chao Family Foundation” held January through March 1978. The catalogue introduction is by Julian Thompson, with each piece illustrated and described and marks set out reign by reign as an appendix.
Interior designer, furniture maker Charlotte Horstmann was first seen in our pages in the article by my husband with the title “Charlotte Horstmann’s Ming Furniture” in our May-June 1971 magazine. Charlotte, glass in hand, was relaxing seated on her famous Ming “opium bed”, which was destined to find a distinguished place in a famous American museum collection of Chinese furniture. The décor was typical 1960s Charlotte, as was her work for some of the special suites of the Mandarin Hotel in Hong Kong.
Her aide, and later business partner, Gerald Godfrey became the company’s owner when in later life Charlotte retired. Gerald, a connoisseur collector-dealer in many areas of Asian arts, is best known for his jade collection, race-horse owner, generous party- giver and Honorary Consul General for Morocco. He is accompanied by his wife Cecily (6).
Next I am seen seated with Simone and Alan Hartman at an early Hong Kong auction (7). Looking back to our records I have only just come across this picture or it would have appeared with my “Introduction”. How many sales did Simone generously sit through to keep her husband Alan, an inveterate auction goer, happy and Arts of Asia readers informed?
Later, following the May-June 1984 magazine, Alan Hartman, President of Rare Art, Inc., was to pass on his contract for the outside back cover of the magazine to Isadore Chait (8) of I.M. Chait Gallery, also a longtime supporter. And later again I.M. Chait Gallery was to start its own popular auction house, I.M. Chait Gallery/Auctioneers at 9330 Civic Center Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, USA. The picture of Isadore Chait studying a reference is from a “Behind the Scenes 11” report by his wife Mary Ann Chait, where auctions are seen in progress. Adjoining is a picture of Sylvia Fraser (later Sylvia Fraser-Lu) (9), a prolific early contributor and later academic author taken I think at the time she wrote her first article, “Liu Li Chang; Peking Shopping Quarter” for our September-October 1974 magazine.
Sent to me in 1978 by my friend Mamie C. Howe, of Sotheby Parke Bernet (Hong Kong) Ltd, is a group picture (10). It is a “studio shot” I know older readers will surely find interesting. From the left are: Mrs T.Y. Chao, Mr R.S. Huthart, Mrs Mamie Howe, Mr G.D. Llewellyn, Miss Lydia Dunn (Mamie’s younger sister, today the Baroness Dunn) and Mr T.Y. Chao. Those were happy days and the picture sold itself for the “slot” rather than many other alternatives.
We publish, ad hoc, two pictures which particularly appeal to me-Bob C. Stevens (11), the author of The Collector’s Book of Snuff Bottles, taken by my husband in our offices, as also perhaps was Australian Brian Cuthbertson (12). By profession a publisher-editor in his own right, Brian wrote ten articles for Arts of Asia in our early years dating from 1976. An expert on Macau, he has an impressive personal print and drawings collection that document that historical neighbouring city to Hong Kong across the estuary. But first he wrote for the magazine on “The Central Museum in Jakarta”, which was quite recently updated by our “Precious Collections of the National Museum, Indonesia” issue of September-October 2003, largely organised by myself with the dedicated work of our son Robin.
From this personal selection, I reprint our earliest record photographs of author-dealers Edith and Joel Frankel (13, 14) of that named New York company (1040 Madison Avenue at 79th Street). They will be exhibiting for sale, March 25th- May 1st, “Mongolia: A Private Collection of Art”.
Several of our early contributors on hearing of our project to publish this special 200th edition issue have written to congratulate us. Dr Pratapaditya Pal, in a January 21st e-mail to Robin expressing his good luck and best wishes for the publication’s success says warmly, “It is a wonderful accomplishment for all of you, but especially for your mother.” He goes on modestly, “I don’t know what I can say about myself that will interest your readers, but I am glad that I have had such a long association with Arts of Asia which, I think, began in the 1970s when it was not yet fashionable for academics to write for the magazine. It was a pleasure in those relaxed days to work with your parents. In the course of one of my visits to Hong Kong, which was much livelier than it is now, it was nice to discover that one of Stephen’s school chums was a don at Corpus in Cambridge while I was there and with whom I have remained in touch ever since 1965 when I went down.”
Even within the first ten early years of our magazine Pratap had written and we had published ten of his articles, the first, as I mention later in my “Introduction” being “Ruins of Tjandi Sewu” for the July-August 1972 magazine. I note from that time, when he was already the Curator of Indian and Islamic Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, his major publications included The Art of Tibet; Lamaist Art; Bronzes of Kashmir; Vaisnava Iconology in Nepal; and Krishna: The Cowherd King. Arts of Asia reviewed ten of his books commencing in 1974 with The Arts of Nepal. Part I, Sculpture, reviewed by my husband Stephen.
The Volume 2 of Dr Pratapaditya Pal’s Asian Art at the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena (where he is shown with Vishnu and Lakshmi with Avatars, India, Himachal Pradesh, 11th century, courtesy of the Norton Simon Foundation) (15), was published in January 2004 on Art from the Himalayas & China. Dr Pal notes that Volume 3, devoted to the arts of Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, will also be published by Yale University Press in early April.
Since Arts of Asia’s first 1971 publication it has become an outstanding source for in- depth reviews of both academic and more popular works by knowledgeable authors on Asian art and culture subjects, whether written by academic, dealer, collector or researcher. The criteria being that reviews are justly overall positive, the books are well written, where appropriate equally attractively illustrated, and essentially are informative. Every issue, since our initial year, has carried at least one book review, and when there has been space available even more. By 2004 the magazine will have published four hundred serious reviews of books, a veritable encyclopedia of Asian art knowledge.
I would be among the first to admit that some of the earliest articles for the magazine, self-evidently by a range of contributors that include established museum curators as well as more popular writers, are amongst our most informative and re-readable. But the past is the past and with the publication of this “Special 200th Edition” we are looking forward to the magazine’s future.
Here I would like to refer our readers to the “Index to Advertisers” which is my custom to publish at the end of each magazine. With their loyal support, the magazine has achieved its special niche in the collecting and museum world. I would have liked to mention many more of their prized collections but for reasons of space have been confined to these galleries that will be taking part in New York Asia Week either at the Arts of Pacific Asia Show, March 25th-28th (Gramercy Park Armory, Lexington Avenue at 26th Street), The International Asian Art Fair, March 26th- 31st (The Seventh Regiment Armory, Park Avenue at 67th Street), and/or their own host galleries.
Orientations Gallery, who are taking part at the 13th Annual New York Arts of Pacific Asia Show, say that it has evolved into an environment that offers visitors with best quality artworks in each culture and medium along with decorative pieces for starting collectors. They will feature a lacquered gourd-flask by Shibata Zeshin (16), metalwork by Shoami Katsuyoshi and cloisonné enamel by Hattori Tadasaburo. Netsuke and ojime from important private collections will also be seen at their stand.
Coming to participate at The 9th International Asian Art Fair is London dealer Linda Wrigglesworth, a leading author/expert in the textile and Chinese costume field. Shown here is her panel of midnight blue silk embroidered with coloured silk floss and couched gold-wrapped thread. The mythical creature has five-coloured tail and mane, and a dragon’s head with a single horn. It probably represents the Xiezhai, a creature thought to be able to detect wrong-doers with its horn, possibly from a late 17th century chair cover (17).
Two exhibitors at the Fair who will also be showing and selling at their galleries are Flying Cranes Antiques, Ltd and China 2000 Fine Art. Flying Cranes (Galleries 55, 56 & 58, The Manhattan Art & Antiques Center, 1050 Second Avenue) will offer through to April 30th impressive collections of samurai swords, blades, tsuba and fittings including these four tantos (short daggers used for hand-to-hand combat and for piercing armour) (18). China 2000 Fine Art (5 East 57th Street) presents an exhibition of large acrylic paintings (72 40 in) depicting face-formed jars entitled “The Human Visage”, March 18th-April 10th. The Shanghai artist Hua Lee explains, “The process of growing up is the experience of emerging from a small jar and entering into a larger one, endlessly repeating until the end of life. My work centres on that idea.” (19)
Six prominent dealers will be showing in New York galleries. Eskenazi of London once again at Pacewildenstein (32 East 57th Street) with an exhibition of “Chinese Buddhist figures”, March 22nd-April 3rd. For a 1978 portrait photograph of Guiseppe Eskenazi see my “Introduction”.
Carlton Rochell (41 East 57th Street) announces his Spring exhibition entitled “Road to Enlightenment: Sculpture and Painting from India, the Himalayas and Southeast Asia”. From the thirty outstanding examples, which will be shown from March 23rd-April 30th, I have selected to show here Carlton’s earliest piece, a finely modelled bust of a Gandharan Buddha, 3rd century, “which combines the Hellenistic traditions of idealised portraiture with Indian Buddhist iconographic conventions for representing enlightened beings.” (20)
Taking part for the ninth consecutive year at Asia Week in New York, Gisèle Croës will once again exhibit her collection at the prestigious gallery of Danese (41 East 57th Street). The detail decoration seen here (21) is from a large circular bronze basin (jian), Spring and Autumn period (770-221 BC), that will be shown at her exhibition, “Ritual Objects and Early Buddhist Art”, 23rd-31st March. Gisèle Croës says the exhibition will provide “a fresh opportunity to reinforce the close relationship I have built over the years with the American museums and their curators. In addition, the contact with a public of enthusiastic connoisseurs always proves an immensely rewarding experience.”
Littleton & Hennessy Asian Art are pleased to announce the opening of their New York gallery at 724 Fifth Avenue. Formerly Oriental Arts UK, Littleton & Hennessy Asian Art will keep their St. James’s premises in London in addition to the new space in the US. Opening a gallery in New York will better serve their American clients; even in this internet age, doing business on a more personal level is still their favoured approach. They have been holding exhibitions in New York for the past three years and are looking forward to having a permanent presence. Littleton & Hennessy’s inaugural exhibition, March 22nd-April 3rd, will comprise a select group of Chinese ceramics dating from the Song to the early Qing dynasties. A highlight is a Ming blue and white yuhuchunping painted with pine, prunus and bamboo, or the “three friends of winter”, dating to the Hongwu reign (22).
A photograph of a young James Lally appeared at the head of my July-August 1976 Editorial when he was Assistant Vice President of Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York (see my “Introduction”). In support of Asia Week New York 2004 his gallery at J.J. Lally & Co. (41 East 57th Street) has prepared an exhibition entitled “Ancient Chinese Tomb Sculpture” which will open on March 22nd and continue through April 10th. We illustrate a Tang dynasty large painted and gilded wood figure of a court attendant, a Tang dynasty white marble figure of a courtesan and a Tang dynasty painted red pottery figure of a man holding a rhyton (23).
John E. Vollmer first contributed to Arts of Asia in our September-October 1978 magazine when he was Assistant Curator in charge of the Textile Department of the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, which has one of the world’s major public holdings of Chinese costumes and fabrics. He has most recently catalogued the Myrna Myers exhibition, “Silks for Thrones and Altars”. The Myrna Myers gallery is based in Paris but is showing at the Neuhoff Gallery (41 East 57th Street) in New York, March 23rd-31st. Illustrated from the exhibition is an unusual 18th century suit of parade armour, kesi, slit tapestry over metal plates (24). Gallery talks will be given on March 27th by Filippo Salviati on jades (3 pm) and John E. Vollmer on silks (4:30 pm).
My hope is that through the lead articles in this celebratory special edition, which is so handsomely supported by our dealer friends’ beautiful advertisements on Asian subjects as a whole, readers will be led to a better understanding and appreciation of Vietnamese culture and art. I have witnessed the growth of the Vietnamese collection of my friends James and Anh Hoang (25) during their residence in Hong Kong the past seventeen years. There is no better American writer about the development of Vietnamese ceramics than James, who not only reads, writes and speaks Vietnamese fluently, but also has a deep understanding of Vietnamese history. Anh Hoang, his co-author, was born in Thanh Hoa, a province rich in antiques just four hundred kilometres south of Hanoi, from which a number of famous Vietnamese kings and scholars originated. They met as undergraduate students at the University of Maryland where they were studying different disciplines, and were married in 1976. Illustrated of their collection is a display cabinet of their Vietnamese ceramics and a detail of several shelves (26, 27).
In December 1987 I attended the Christie’s London auction of Important Annamese Ceramics from the Mr and Mrs Robert P. Piccus Collection, and succeeded in buying several minor lots. I was most impressed with Lot 44, a 14th century blue and white dragon jar. When my acquaintance Mr Seijiro Matsuoka, millionaire Japanese patron of the arts and Tokyo museum owner, who was also present asked my opinion, my advice was to buy. The massive jar was an impressive 64 cm high and 53 cm diameter, and at the end of the auction Mr Matsuoka came over to thank me.
The Matsuoka/Piccus Vietnamese blue and white jar with its painting of two four-clawed dragons was the largest I had seen before I was shown the Brow’s. Theirs, which is decorated with four peonies and leaf sprays and has four moulded masks on the shoulders, at 86.4 cm high and 50 cm diameter is proportionately slimmer, some third or so taller and more graceful. It was made to store rice wine to drink on formal occasions. I stood by the jar to give an idea of its scale (28).
During the past few years, I have often been asked what to collect which is not too expensive and has religious meaning. Fifteen years ago I also found myself in this predicament and turned to collecting “Thogchags-Talismans of Tibet” (see the cover article with this title by John V. Bellezza in the May-June 1998 Arts of Asia, now out of print). In preparing the editorial contents of this “Special 200th Edition” I turned to my expert friend Tony Anninos to write the article on “Tibetan Buddhist Amulets”. His researches took more than two years to complete. In
order that Tony could have easy access to a genuine early collection, I offered my own as an accessible base, which he could photograph when visiting Hong Kong. I agreed for him most willingly to add selected tokche/thogchags from other private and museum collections where needed to make the article fully complete.
I would encourage our subscribers to read the illustrated article by Tony Anninos several times, so they can gain the benefit of the true meaning of tokche and this intriguing amuletic subject. They can then better decide whether or not they would like to collect these accessible and affordable works.
Looking through my personal files I came across an article by Felipa da Costa, published in the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post, Tuesday, July 27th, 1971. Titled “She’ll take her readers all over Asia”, it is written about me and headed with a photograph as I show Vietnamese lacquer paintings to an audience during my first year lecture on the magazine at the YWCA. One of the questions I was asked then and I answered on that reported occasion was, “Why an art magazine?” My reply, still valid today, “When people abroad think of Asia, they think in terms of underdeveloped countries, of the Vietnam war and of dirt and squalid conditions. Asia has a vast potential yet so few Asians have realised this. Asian people should go back to their roots and study their own cultural heritage. The purpose of my magazine is to form a link between the old and the new-not only for the West but for Asians themselves.”
I have truly to the best of my memories and early records recounted the origins of the magazine and its humbler beginnings. The development it has now reached with worldwide recognition is largely due to the faith and support of our international subscribers, our wonderful contributors, and our enthusiastic and knowledgeable dealer friends. I wish with this “Special 200th Edition” to acknowledge and thank you all most warmly.