PUBLISHER AND EDITOR of Arts of Asia since 1970, and a serious Chinese art collector since at least ten years before then, I have personally selected for the cover of the July-August 2005 magazine the superb exhibit titled “Green Jade Cold Mountain, and the ‘Listening to Snow’ Pavilion”, from the De An Tang Collection ( 1 ). Its authentic inscribed poems of the Qianlong emperor reflect the emperor’s spirit and purpose. To head this editorial we illustrate the reverse side.
It is to my mind, the most remarkable of the more than thirty illustrated and discussed jade subjects which are appearing in this eagerly awaited jade issue. As well as jade mountains and carved boulders, included are examples of a carved jade bi -disc, boat, teapots and vase, buffaloes, goats, elephant, fish, and an imperial jade pendant and album in a fitted zitan box. I am truly proud to publish this article by Chinese jade collector Michael S.L. Liu (member of the prestigious Min Chiu Society) as the most recent of the many topical articles on jade that I have published, since notably Qu Zhi-ren (James Watt) wrote his original article, “Jade in Ancient China”, for Arts of Asia ‘s unique and now historical first edition of January-February 1971.
For the many long-time supporters who retain their back issues, I recommend they turn back to our July-August 1986 issue. This is of particular interest for its special relevance today. In that issue, museum curators, Barry Till and his wife Paula Swart, wrote on “Mountain Retreats in Jade”, with notable illustrated examples drawn from the Beijing Imperial Palace, the prestigious jade collections of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Seattle Art Museum, and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, as also the Floyd and Joseph Segal Collection.
Looking back, I find also that my husband Stephen Markbreiter’s article in the same July-August 1986 magazine, with title “Addendum to Jade Mountains – Modern Carvings of Kiangsu or Shanghai ”, is still of relevance today. Numerously illustrated, it identified the types of modern Chinese jade mountains that were carved in 17th/18th century styles by mainland Chinese carvers towards the end and after the Cultural Revolution, perhaps encouraged, for commercial reasons, to return to their traditional themes. This was most likely to have been in 1974, or a little earlier following President Nixon’s first visit to China . While many of the examples are identified as having been carved of Sinkiang white jade, notably others are identified as of dark green Burmese jade (or jadeite) coming as is now known from a restricted area 400 kilometres north of Mandalay in the Kachin State.
For Arts of Asia readers of our July-August 2005 number, regular contributor Barry Broman lifts the curtain to describe and illustrate with his professionally taken photographs his visit to the Kachin village and jade mountain. The outcrops and pit workings, the drilling for blasting, the excavation and the washing, cutting and polishing of the jade for buyers’ inspections, are all seen in Barry’s present article.
I find the jade subject still enthralling, and our latest contributions so exciting I have almost already overrun my allotted space. So I draw your attention to the Contents page for this edition (page 3), which includes the full article titles and main author biographies. Briefly, as well as a second Burma (Myanmar) article on that country’s stone caves and their Buddhist statuary, included are features on Chinese bamboo carvings, late mica paintings from 19th century India, Chinese porcelain for Straits Chinese, and Taisho period figurative painting.
For this Editorial, I place the Taisho period chronologically last, though as a subject it is of special interest. Museums are beginning to fill the gaps in their Japanese collections with works from the early 20th century when Western influences were being fused with those of traditional Japan . Notably, only last year the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (Keith McLeod Fund, 2004.242) purchased the 1934 painting with the title Clover , ex-Meguro Gajoen Museum, which I illustrate below ( 2 ). The ink and colour on paper, 180 × 199 cm panel, is by the late Japanese artist Tateishi Harumi (1906-1994).
On these two pages we illustrate fifteen of the group of photographs Robin took while I was conducting exclusive interviews with major exhibitors at The International Asian Art Fair. This was held at The Seventh Regiment Armory, Park Avenue at 67th Street , New York City from 1st to 6th April 2005 ( 3-17 ).
Since the past ten years I have never failed to attend the preview night to benefit Asia Society. So I was happy to meet again many of our American and international friends there. The crowd, including 140 museum representatives, was so supportive of myself and Arts of Asia that it took half an hour for me to move from the fair entrance to the very first booth. According to fair organiser Anna Haughton it was the best ever preview with 1300 guests raising US$800,000.
When we met with Anna again towards the end of the fair she was even more enthusiastic. “It has been packed and so busy which is good for the dealers” she told me. “This is a lovely fair to do. It is very spiritual and calm. Asia Society sold double the tickets this year and Vishakha Desai, the new director, was very happy. Most of the dealers on the floor are very positive, because I feel they have done very good business. We spend a lot of time on every aspect of the fair.”
Anna explained that she and her husband Brian cannot fit in any more dealers than they have now. They try to strike a balance when considering adding new dealers. Last year they introduced two new Korean dealers and feel they are now well represented. When they first came to town the fair was very limited, the auctions were small and since then Asia Week has grown. The fair was certainly the catalyst which brought everything together. It is very important that not only is it vetted, but it is also vetted at the highest standard by the best scholars. The main change from the early years, Anna says, is that they have more Japanese contemporary art. This year fifty-five dealers participated at the fair.
Lesley Kehoe Galleries from Melbourne , Australia was amongst the exhibitors of Japanese contemporary art. Lesley Kehoe explained that after participating for three years she is now selling well, since visitors are more familiar with her. As an exhibitor, people must have time to get to know you. “There are new customers” Lesley says “who are excited by antique Japanese art.” This has been a good start to the first half of the year for her and she was also encouraged to find knowledgeable in-depth buyers who know what they want. As a result, she counts on coming back next year.
Mehmet Hassan , based in Bangkok , was new to the fair but not to Arts of Asia . I spoke to collectors from America , Italy and Australia , all three of whom told me they found Mehmet Hassan ‘s stand especially interesting. He brought with him unusual pieces, such as early textile arts not normally seen. More people are devoting serious study to textiles and were happy to see good collections at the fair.
The Annual New York Arts of Pacific Asia Show, April 1st-3rd 2005 , Gramercy Park Armory on Lexington Ave at 26th Street , had a total attendance of 10,957. Show organisers Elizabeth Lees and Bill Caskey told me for our readers “We were more than pleased with the results this year. Not only was business excellent across the show floor with very few exceptions, but the excitement and enthusiasm we remember from several years past had returned, not just to our show, but to Asia Week throughout New York. There is no question that the appearance of important Chinese collectors and buyers in the marketplace has made a very positive difference, but many of our exhibitors have commented that collectors they hadn’t seen since 9/11 were back, and several people had their best show ever!” ( 18-39 )
It was an exciting show with eighty-two exhibitors. Liz and Bill told me space is limited and they are unable to increase the number of stands. They have also raised the level of the show and added new areas such as Indian and Islamic material. Booth costs range from US$5000 to US$12,000.
According to Robyn Turner, who had her stand at the entrance to the show, everybody did business and seemed very pleased in spite of the fact there were fewer American collectors. The presentation of the stands was much more colourful than before. She felt it was a wonderful opportunity to meet old friends and make new acquaintances. She also saw a sense of comradeship among the dealers.
Stuart and Barbara Hilbert said it was their best show in years as far as business was concerned and they sold mainly to Chinese dealers and collectors, who certainly know how to bargain. His advice for selling to buyers from China is to give them good value and then they will come back again. To a certain extent the show was saved by the prominent buying power of the East Asians. Japanese art and Chinese textiles sold well. Chinese ceramics were very heavily bought.
Mr Sam Lim, a new exhibitor, was happy to participate. I enjoyed his beautiful and unique textiles from Indonesia as well as from Burma , which in Hong Kong we do not have a chance to see. Collectors took note of his important pieces. A jubilant Peter Hardt told me he sold his impressive Thai bronze to an American museum. Han and Tang pottery did not sell as well as before, but Buddhist art was eagerly sought. This 14th Annual New York Arts of Pacific Asia Show was the most successful as yet and on the first day visitors purchased widely and aggressively.
Finally on this page we show some of the galleries which held special exhibitions during Asia Week in New York . Top row from the left is Fabio Rossi ( 40 ) (Mongolian gilt bronzes); Gisèle Croës ( 41 ) (precious metal objects in early Chinese art); James Lally ( 42 ) (early Chinese ceramics) welcoming well-known concert pianist Gary Graffman who is now the President/ Director of the Curtis Institute; Carlton Rochell ( 43 ) (Indian and Southeast Asian sculpture and textiles); Tuyet Nguyet visiting Allan Chait ( 44 ) at his new gallery (724 Fifth Avenue); noted dealer Alan Hartman ( 45 ) in his private viewing room at his extensive gallery (515 Madison Avenue); and James Hennessy and Richard Littleton ( 46 ) (Chinese Ming blue and white ceramics).
Highly respected dealer exhibitions in New York were enjoyed tremendously by serious collectors. Talk of the town were Rossi & Rossi’s Mongolian gilt bronzes. Very early I called Anna Maria Rossi to enquire about two pieces, but I was informed they had already been sold. The bronzes at Gisèle Croës were also unique and of such superb quality rarely found at international auction. I was amongst those who most admired her large archaic bronze vessel, Shengding , of Eastern Zhou period (770-256 BC). At J.J. Lally similarly many early Chinese ceramics from an American collection had already been sold by the time I arrived at the opening. However it was an experience just to be able to study James’ impeccable and fine Chinese ceramics.
I am seen with my old friend Allan Chait at his new gallery directly facing the Trump Tower . With his long family tradition to draw on and extensive library, I recommend readers who are on a learning curve to visit him and gain from his extensive collection formed over many years. Following is Alan Hartman in the private viewing room of his gallery. Both he and Allan Chait confirmed for Arts of Asia readers that the Asian art market will expand. Not only porcelain, jade and cloisonné are popular, but bronzes are also now being sought by wealthy Chinese collectors. As a result advertisers in Arts of Asia are receiving increasing positive results from our loyal and new subscribers.
Many American and international dealers are to be seen in the forty-six colour photographs that accompany this Editorial. I do thank everybody who posed for the camera and my regrets go to those few we were unable to feature due to insufficient space. Most notably amongst them are E & J Frankel Ltd and Eskenazi Ltd, who appeared in my March-April 2005 Editorial.