HEADING MY EDITORIAL is a great photograph of Robert Brooks, Chairman of Bonhams, and Julian King, Head of Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art in Bonhams Hong Kong, with me at the Arts of Asia offices on February 22nd, 2013. During our pleasant meeting Mr Brooks said he and his wife Evelyn had a splendid stay in Hong Kong and very much look forward to coming back here again soon. He also told me about the exciting activities taking place at Bonhams London as well as the expansion plans for the auction house in Asia and other growth locations. So I wanted to share some of his thoughts with my international readers:
“The art market has never been a more global commu-nity, with incredibly fast and easy access to huge amounts of information. We have been pretty successful in Asia since we expanded our auction business into Hong Kong five years ago. Having said that, I am in no doubt that the Asian region will remain for me and my Board at Bonhams the single most exciting opportunity within our worldwide structure. The po-tential for growth in our business here is immense.
“In fifty years, our future colleagues will still be developing the wide ranging business plan that we are creating now. It’s an awesome challenge for a Western auction house, but Asia is an awesome continent. We’re not just talking about Chi-nese art, though obviously this is most people’s focus at the moment. We closely monitor all the cultural areas of the re-gion, as indeed you do very successfully at Arts of Asia. My col-leagues are optimistic about other Asian cultural markets too; Japan of course, but also Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, even Burma which is likely to emerge into the cultural mainstream quite soon.”
This perfectly brings us to our Special Burma Issue. The cover with the attractive silver wine cup in the centre looks very European and is a reflection of the Colonial influence on Burmese art. The other objects featured—paintings, lac-querware, animal-shaped weight and gold ring—give readers a sneak preview of the delights inside the Arts of Asia May-June 2013 magazine. We are confident you will enjoy this special edition which has taken one and a half years to arrange, and I also wish to take this opportunity to warmly thank all the Asian art scholars for their expertly written articles in this truly unique issue.
Burma (Myanmar) is a country in constant motion, and this is perhaps what makes it so beguiling. As it moves towards democracy and the accompanying progresses, there is still quiet charm squirrelled away in the corners of the country that modernisation has not touched. The roads of ancient capital Bagan (Pagan) lead to temples where you can lose yourself in a bygone era, and the villages surrounding Inle Lake (Shan State) are set from a simpler time. Yangon (Ran-goon) may no longer be the capital, but it is in this bustling city that the country’s state of fl ux is best witnessed. However, one constant is that visitors from abroad will often receive a warm welcome and a betel-nut stained smile.
In addition to the excellent article “Burmese Silver from the Colonial Period” (pages 69-81) with co-authors Wynyard R.T. Wilkinson and Mary-Louise Wilkinson, Barbara Harding writes in her Correspondence letter (page 14) that it is pos-sible to fi nd Burmese decorative arts at Yangon’s Scott Market (Bogyoke Aung San Market). However, you do need to know your way around the shops and Barbara gives invaluable ad-vice for those contemplating a trip to Burma. Here in Hong Kong, I can recommend Altfield Gallery to collectors of Bur-mese utilitarian and religious objects in media such as stone, wood, bronze, lacquer, silk and cotton. These items provide a comprehensive overview of Burma’s diverse artistic produc-tion, representing its rich cultural heritage and the skilled workmanship of their artisans. Lacquerware is found in most Burmese households—the durability and affordability of this medium has enabled it to penetrate all levels of society—with vessels produced for both religious and secular purposes. Objects on display are primarily used for food storage and ceremonial temple offerings, such as betel-nut boxes, raised trays, bowls and votive vessels. Sylvia Fraser-Lu’s fascinating article “Visual Narratives in Burmese Lacquer” (pages 82-94) describes the lively pictorial stories and scenes depicted on a variety of fine decorative works.
TEFAF Maastricht opened with a Private View on Thurs-day 14th March and it was as impressive as ever. Guests from all over Europe and beyond attended, despite the icy condi-tions and disrupted transport. The European Fine Art Fair is renowned for displaying a magnificent array of works by top craftsmen and artists. They are presented by the world’s lead-ing antiques dealers who are committed to excellence, exper-tise and elegance. Early sales were strong and masterpieces were bought by both private collectors and museum buyers with many other items being reserved for consideration. For example, Ben Janssens Oriental Art, London, reported a very good start to the fair selling a significant number of items to both new and established collectors including the centrepiece of his stand, an important Chinese bronze vessel, fanghu, from the Warring States period to early Western Han dynasty, 4th-3rd century BC.
Dr Clare McAndrew, author of The TEFAF Art Market Report 2013—The Global Art Market with focus on China and Brazil, pre-sented the report at the “TEFAF Art Symposium: Rising Stars of the Art World” on Friday 15th March. According to the re-port, the Chinese art market began to decelerate for the first time in three years with sales falling by 24% to Euro 10.6 bil-lion, so the United States resumed its traditional place as the world’s biggest market with 33% share. The United Kingdom remained in third position with 23% market share. Amid slow-ing growth and continuing uncertainty in the global economy, the worldwide market in art and antiques contracted by 7% from Euro 46.4 billion to Euro 43 billion in 2012.
A few days later on 19th March the fair announced that it has entered into exclusive discussions with Sotheby’s to explore the possibilities of developing a high-end art fair for China in 2014, via Sotheby’s Joint Venture in Beijing with Ge-Hua, a state-owned company. Ben Janssens, Chairman of the fair’s Executive Committee, had the following to say about “TEFAF Beijing” and this ground-breaking collaboration: “It has always been TEFAF Maastricht’s aim to be responsive to global trends in the art market. We feel now is the time to further develop our presence in China, one of the most im-portant art markets. TEFAF is committed to contribute to the further growth of the market for European art in China by facilitating a high end art market platform for Chinese collec-tors and international art dealers.”
When the fair closed on Sunday 24th March, more than 70,000 visitors came from all over the world including some of the most active international private and institutional col-lectors from around the globe. The list of museums that sent delegates to the fair ranged from small regional museums to major international institutions and included the Asian Civili-sations Museum, Singapore; The Metropolitan Museum, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; and The Louvre, Paris. Wim Pijbes, Director of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, commented, “Even the most indulged museum director will see things at TEFAF that are so unique that surprising pur-chases can be made”.
I was also rather touched when I heard that The European Fine Art Foundation, which runs TEFAF Maastricht, is provid-ing financial assistance to help villagers in Myanmar rebuild their monastery and recover precious religious relics follow-ing disastrous floods which almost totally washed away their community. Tropical Storm Two on the Myanmar-Bangladesh border on October 19th, 2011 caused major flash floods af-fecting more than 35,000 people in the region, of whom 150 were killed, and destroying some 2500 homes. Bravo to the fair and its directors for using its considerable resources and connections to give invaluable financial support to those in difficult circumstances.
Kai-Yin Lo, the international jewellery designer and art and cultural advisor, told me that she and her friends from Hong Kong had a wonderful time at TEFAF. Prior to her arrival in Maastricht, she had the honour of giving the inaugural “Cross-Culture” lecture at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, London on 6th March. As a designer Kai-Yin is rec-ognised to be “a pioneer in elevating semi-precious stones to become a mainstay in jewellery design, and a forerunner in reinterpreting culture and heritage into original and highly wearable art that reflects China and Asia’s past and present”.
Professor Jeremy Till, Pro Vice-Chancellor Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, welcomed an enthusiastic crowd at the packed LVMH Lecture Theatre for an evening of cross-cultural discussion with Professor Jane Rapley OBE in conversation with Kai-Yin Lo. Distinguished guests included British architect Thomas Heatherick who created the UK Pavilion at Shanghai Art Expo 2010.
Sir John Tusa, Chair of the Court of Governors, University of the Arts, introduced Kai-Yin as one of the first Chinese de-signers to successfully break into the international market and described by the Wall Street Journal as a “Renaissance Woman”. During the lecture Kai-Yin shared her experience of design-ing, collecting and cultural exchange in the East and West: “Today’s cultural art and design worlds are all striving to arrive at ‘interesting’ and forward-looking variations and solutions that employ unusual materials, techniques and technologies. For me, while we do our utmost to reconsider and reconfig-ure future solutions in brave new ways, it is equally vital that we learn to embrace and reinterpret the eternal, spiritual and aesthetic beliefs and values of the past. Ultimately, such inspi-rations were not only powerful and sustainable yesterday, but remain so as today becomes tomorrow.”
Dealers at Asia Week New York 2013 reported it was their best year ever, including Joan B. Mirviss Ltd, Scholten Japa-nese Art, Erik Thomsen Asian Art, J.J. Lally & Co., Kapoor Galleries Inc. and Dr Robert R. Bigler who exhibited for the first time and is pleased. Lark Mason, a renowned expert in Chinese art and antiques, and the President and Founder of iGavel Auctions, had the following insights: “Over forty dealers and galleries participated this year and five sponsor auction houses, resulting in a combined focus on Asian art that arguably exceeds that of anywhere else in the world. The program’s cultural events have proven popular with the thousands of visitors to New York City, and the updated and improved Asia Week website has been of enormous benefit to out of town guests.”
The most exciting story during Asia Week New York was the sale of a small pottery bowl, finely crafted with an ivory glaze and 5 inches in diameter. A lucky bargain hunter picked up the bowl down the road for a few dollars in 2007 and then displayed it at home. More recently, after becoming curious about its value, the bowl was brought in for expert appraisal. “This piece arrived in a simple looking box and when the top was opened, my first impression was that I was looking at something very, very beautiful…something very special that will be exciting for potential collectors”, said Henry Howard-Sneyd, Sotheby’s Vice-Chairman of Asian Art in North Amer-ica. It turned out to be a thousand year old Ding bowl from the Song dynasty—the only other similar bowl from the pe-riod known to exist has been on display at the British Museum for more than sixty years.
At Sotheby’s on Tuesday 19th March, four bidders in the room and on the telephone battled over the rare find which ultimately went to renowned London art dealer Giuseppe Es-kenazi for US$2,225,000 including the buyer’s premium (esti-mate US$200,000–300,000). Harold Yeo has written for Arts of Asia a comprehensive Saleroom News report featuring the rare Ding bowl and other important lots sold at Sotheby’s New York Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art sales on March 19th and 20th, 2013 (pages 146-148).
Carlo Cristi, a leading dealer in Himalayan and Southeast Asian art, is a regular exhibitor at major Asian art shows in-cluding Asian Art in London and Asia Week New York. He would like Arts of Asia subscribers to know about a new event taking place in Brussels from June 5th to 9th, 2013. He said, “Asian Art in Brussels (AAB), which replaces the Brussels Oriental Art Fair, is the new group of international dealers who in close collaboration with the Brussels Ancient Art Fair (BAAF) and Brussels Non European Art Fair (BRUNEAF) will rejuvenate the event making Brussels a key destination for art enthusiasts. The show will be vetted by a panel of experts to ensure the highest quality throughout.” Of particular inter-est for collectors and connoisseurs will be the special Asian art lectures to be given by scholars including Dr Pratapaditya Pal (“The Story of Tibetan Thangka Painting: From Rags to Riches”), David Pritzker (“Royal Nomadic Court of the Tibet-an Kings”) and Max Rutherston (“How Hate Turned to Love: The Powerful Impact of Netsuke”).
Galerie Lamy (32 rue Ernest Allard, 1000, Brussels) is one of the important galleries taking part at AAB. Georges and Hugues Jean Lamy (father and son) specialise in porce-lain and collectibles from the Middle East to Far East with an emphasis on Chinese works of art from the Ming and Qing dynasties, such as the colourful early Kangxi period cloisonné enamel deep dish illustrated above. Members of the Chambre Royale des Antiquaires de Belgique and of the Syndicat National des Antiquaires (France), they look forward to welcoming international collectors to Brussels in June. For more information regarding the AAB lecture pro-gramme, full list of dealers and other activities, please visit www.asianartinbrussels.com.
Edward Pranger, a Dutch dealer in antique Chinese and Japanese ceramics and works of art, came to see me on 25th March to explain his Asia Week Hong Kong concept which is being organised with Candice Lee and Yifawn Lee. He said, “During the last week of May in Hong Kong there are impor-tant art and antiques fairs as well as many auctions, and we want all these events to collaborate together. The objective is to encourage participating galleries to hold special exhibi-tions to promote the arts to Hong Kong residents as well as to visitors to the city. The event is not just catered for those who are already art lovers or collectors but for those who are interested in developing their knowledge.” His exhibition on Guanyin, the bodhisattva associated with compassion as venerated by East Asian Buddhists, will be held at Pranger Oriental Art (215 Hollywood Road).
K.Y. Fine Art (142 Hollywood Road) will have an exhibi-tion of “Xing Wares from Tang to Five Dynasties” for Asia Week Hong Kong, 22nd-29th May. Mr K.Y. Ng will display around twenty pieces of Xing ware in his shop and feels that the examples of thin-bodied, high-fired white porcelain wares, as well as wares with coloured glazes, will help “widen the understanding of this little-studied but important genre, as well as illuminate their timeless beauty”.
Hanlin Gallery (56 Hollywood Road) will be holding an exhibition entitled, “Three Modern Japanese Ceramic Mas-ters: Inoue Manji, Kawase Shinobu and Tokuda Yasokichi III”. According to gallery owner Carlos Prata, “The show presents a fascinating view of three modern ceramic masters’ approach to three classic porcelain types”. Manji (born 1929) was designated a “Living National Treasure” in 1995 for his exquisite “hakuji” white porcelain ware. Shinobu (born 1950) is perhaps Japan’s most outstanding celadon artist working within the traditions of the Song dynasty. Yasokichi III (1933-2009) was designated a “Living National Treasure” in 1997 for his invention and development of the “saiyu” technique of suffusing and contrasting coloured glazes in Kutani porcelain.
There will also be a lecture and book launch for Dragon & Horse: Saddle Rugs and Other Horse Tack from China and Be-yond, designed by Rosanne Chan of CA Design. This will be presented by Dutch author and publisher Drs Koos de Jong in the residence of the Dutch Consul General at 24 Mount Cameron, The Peak, Hong Kong. “This well researched and lavishly illustrated book tells an intriguing story about the origins and development of the tack for horses and other riding and pack animals from the 5th century BC up to the 20th century AD. The focus of the book is on saddle rugs, i.e. the under and top-saddle rugs, flaps and horse-blankets made of felt, woven textile, leather, pile-knotted wool, silk or cotton.” In order to reach the widest possible audience the bilingual book is published in English and Chinese.
During Asia Week Hong Kong, Oi Ling Antiques will be exhibiting scholar’s trays in their new gallery at 58 Holly-wood Road. They are very excited about this show and are also delighted to announce the opening of its new Chinese Cultural Studies Centre (see page 10) on Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, Hong Kong. Located close to the gallery, the library hosts Oi Ling’s vast collection of research materials and rare manuscripts on Chinese history, art and archaeology. As well as the large collection of academic books and journals, the li-brary also has an impressive collection of important rubbings from the Qing dynasty. Oi Ling’s main intent in setting up such a library is “to inspire both interest and scholarship of the different aspects of the great Chinese heritage”.
I am delighted that my son Robin was invited by the Hong Kong Art Craft Merchants Association to attend their 2013 Spring Dinner as we support the aims of the Association, which are to raise the standards of local dealers in Chinese arts and antiques. Henr y Chong provided the following comments about their recent activities: “With the new Chair-man Mr William Lau taking office, the Hong Kong Art Craft Merchants Association is embarking on activities to promote the arts and antique trade on several fronts. Firstly, work in bringing the Association website (www.artcraft.org.hk) up-to-date is being done. Apart from providing the latest in-formation about the membership, there will be articles on interesting subjects of Chinese arts and crafts. With fakes in abundance, the Authentication Service is in heavy demand by users in Hong Kong, China and overseas. Secondly, a new edition of the ever popular buying guide Something Old, Something New is being prepared. The guide has helped many buyers and visitors to Hong Kong source the finest works of art and antiques from reliable dealers. Auction houses also advertise their selling dates in that publication. Thirdly, con-nection is made with the Hong Kong Tourism Board for pro- motion of the Hollywood Road and Upper Lascar Row area as the place for Chinese works of art and antiques. Further down the line, talks on history and art are being planned. It is hoped that there will be one talk per season by historians, scholars, heads of museums and veteran collectors.”
Association members and established art dealers William and Priscilla Chak have been extremely busy preparing for their International Antiques Fair which takes place at Hall 5G of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, May 25th–27th, 2013. They have gathered leading antique dealers for Chinese porcelain, ceramics, works of art, fur-niture, calligraphy and paintings from all over the globe to showcase their collections at the 2013 edition of the fair. Open to the public with free admission, during the fair a se-ries of antiques-related activities will be arranged, including workshops, on-site antiques appraisal services, book launches and tea demonstrations by a famous Kyoto tea master. The 275 years old watchmaking brand Jaquet Droz will also be staging a special exhibition of its distinctive automata at the fair. William said, “The exciting exhibits and rare collectibles will surely stun the eyes and win the hearts of collectors, con-noisseurs, art enthusiasts and individuals who are looking for investment opportunities”.
I wish to congratulate my friends at the University of Hong Kong Museum Society for the 25th anniversary of the found-ing of the Society. It was celebrated in grand style with a Gala Dinner held on March 23rd at Loke Yew Hall, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong. The Society was start-ed to support the Hong Kong University’s Museum and Art Gallery in its activities as well as help to fund some purchases. With over six hundred dedicated members, the Society has organised and supported an astonishing number and vari-ety of activities over the last twenty-five years. On the stage, Chairman Bonnie Kwan Huo leading the champagne toast gave a special thanks to her Executive and Fundraising Com-mittees for their hard work in making the Gala a sparkling success—over HK$3.3 million was generously raised at the dinner which is a new milestone for the Society.