Published: April 5, 2011
When the Arts of Pacific Asia show opened Wednesday, March 23, at 7 West 34th Street, international preview-goers arrived eager to build their collections. Fifty-five international dealers met their desires with strictly vetted treasures from China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, India and Southeast Asia.
In fact, the vast array of offerings reflected the artistic tastes of the many cultures along the ancient Silk Road that carried export wares from China to Europe.
At Dennis George Crow of Los Angeles, life in these exotic lands was represented by collections of early photographs. Outstanding were the well-documented travels of Sir John Thompson, whose images of Canton’s Pearl River captured the essence of life in river huts and tearooms, river pagodas and Chinese junks.
Thomas Murray Asiatica-Ethnographica, Mill Valley, Calif., offered a Tree of Life exhibition in trade textiles that decorated numerous walls throughout the show. From the Bodhi tree under which Buddha gained enlightenment to the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Life was ritualized in painted cotton, silks and embroidery.
Given the connection between art of the East and its spiritual heritage, it was no surprise that nearly every exhibition offered some form of deity. At Buddhist Art of Berlin, a large Northern Qi dynasty head of Buddha that had once resided in an old New York collection, dominated a collection of bronze gilt deities.
A.B. Levy of Palm Beach, new to the show this year, offered carved ivory Lohans from the collection of Sir Victor Sassoon. Well over 50 years in the making, the collection was begun as a means of supporting monasteries that were financially devastated after World War I.
Mark Walberg Fine Art and Antiques, from Northumberland, Penn., featured a 24-inch-tall Guanyin with silver inlay wire and high relief. A silver Burmese bowl with high relief commanded great interest but was not around long enough for one to linger over.
Many of the Chinese buyers in town for the round of Asia Week auctions were in search of antique Chinese ritual pottery, which they found at Nicholas Pitcher Oriental Art Ltd of New Bond Street, London. A Tang dynasty “Fat lady” of good size, shape and form that had been a highlight of the collection was taken home opening night.
For still others, antique Chinese porcelains and export ware were the subjects of studied interest. Imperial Oriental Art, New York City, provided category depth. Glass vitrines were filled with delicate water sprinklers and vases. Among the more eye-catching was a large Ming famille rose ewer styled in the Tibetan manner.
Knapton and Rasti, the London team, offered an Imperial Fifteenth Century blue and white Chinese water sprinkler. Its sale early on was followed by significant sales of important jade carvings.
Jade Dragon of Ann Arbor, Mich., brought the outside in with a pair of Chinese landscapes that sold quickly. The booth then became a popular destination for the small intricately carved jades popularized as “handling objects.”
Along the route, the unique arts from Japan beckoned loudly. Flying Cranes of New York, for example, stopped traffic with a wide collection of articulated jizai. Formed of bronze, shakudo and iron, the okimono, with moving parts as seen in nature, were rendered as katydid, stag, beetle, grasshopper and other insects. Jean Schaefer, proprietor, explained that jizai became the domain of Japanese metal workers who once fashioned armor, after it was no longer needed.
At Michael Ayervais Gallery, New York City, a large gosho ningyô was the centerpiece. The Nineteenth Century doll of paloma wood with oyster shell lacquer, wore an embroidered silk kimono and silk apron and was resting on a silk brocade pillow. Popular with the nobility during the Edo period, these figures usually had complete wardrobes of kimonos. Interestingly, at the entrance of the booth stood two massive Japanese vases, reputed to have been props used by MGM Studio.
David Baker, London, kept the animal theme going with a sculpture of a hawk on a branch. Captured in neither repose nor flight but in preparation for fight, the late Nineteenth Century piece was a masterpiece of nuance. Several fine Japanese cloisonné vases showed off the virtuosity of their makers. With bodies of copper, silver wires and enamel, the vases where fired and then polished, a process so painstaking that it is no longer used today.
At Galen Lowe Art & Antiques of Seattle, Wash., the appeal was kanban (shop signs), among other things . A dog holding an umbrella in its mouth, and made of gilded wood, implied the steadfastness, reliability and duty of the umbrellas in the shop over which it hung. A tabletop display featured a small Japanese scholar stone and a set of square lidded dishes used in the tea ceremony in the Kikko pattern.
Orientations Gallery of New York City, showed a collection of ceremonial incense boxes, censers and storage chests. Among the 20-piece collection was a silver clove oil censer with enameled leaves and coral inlay that had formerly resided in the collection of the Museum of Boston. In another vein, a bronze okimono of a fish on a wave crest was said by David Cole to symbolize the ascent of the carp to the dragon’s gate. In other words, the journey to manhood.
Nankai, the one Tokyo-based gallery at the show, offered several important ceramic pieces from Vietnam. Among these was a Twelfth Century ewer with an amber glaze. Others included an early bowl with blue glaze intact and an Eleventh or Twelfth Century covered ewer in the shape of a lotus blossom
Several galleries showed contemporary Japanese works of art. Among these was the Tolman Collection of limited edition contemporary Japanese works on paper, New York City. One intricate work by Sarah Brayer, titled “Higashiyama,” 1996, a color aquatint on handmade paper, defied the eye. In the scene of houses and snow, creating holes in the paper made the snow effect. Also on display were contemporary lacquer figures by Masaki Takizawa.
Over at Scriptum, Inc, from Berkley, Calif., there was a historical offering of Japanese works on paper as well as contemporary pieces.
Cavin-Morris of New York, which specializes in fired works, led with a striking contemporary organic sculpture of bent-and-sewn bamboo measuring more than two feet in three directions. It was one of the first items that sold opening night.
Among the galleries that mixed Chinese dynastic treasures with Japanese works of art and even contemporary offerings, none did it more dramatically than Honeychurch Antiques. The Seattle-based dealer presented his collection in the context of a home situation, which made it easy to see how the items would integrate. Two antique fireman’s jackets made a textile display on the wall while the center of the booth was filled with ritual pottery and scholars items. A Tang dynasty pottery military officer stood guard over all. A contemporary silver screw-form vase by Hiroshi Suzuki provided balance.
Finally, the exhibition of Galerie Peter Hardt, from Radevormwald, Germany, added another aspect of Silk Road travel and this was an Eighteenth Century iron horse saddle. Deities from Burma, Siam and Nepal dominated the booth, offering collectors both wall-size and altar-size reflections of faith.
When Arts of Pacific Asia wound down on Sunday, March 27, collectors were already asking about the dates for the 22nd running of Arts of Pacific Asia. Caskey-Less will be announcing the dates shortly.
For information, contact Caskey-Lees at 310-455-2886 or www.caskeylees.com .
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