Published: April 10, 2007
The International Asian Art Fair, the flagship for Asia Week in New York, returned to the Seventh Regiment Armory March 23′8.
Over the past 12 years, this elegant presentation organized by Brian and Anna Haughton has set the tone for the dozens of other events around town, from auctions to gallery displays. Featuring 54 high caliber, rigorously vetted exhibits, the International Asian Art Fair nimbly straddles the line between classic and progressive. This year, the balance threatened to tip to the avant-garde as organizers added more contemporary art.
For those mystified by the contemporary Chinese art craze, Melissa Chu, director of Asia Society Museum, provided a thoughtful explanation in “Chinese Contemporary Art: Ten Things You Should Know,” published in the 2007 IAAF show catalog. Chu writes that when she first began researching contemporary Chinese art ten years ago, her thesis advisor questioned her ability to undertake research in an area not yet defined by scholarship. Times have changed.
With exhibitor turnover high, the International Asian Art Fair is a work perpetually in progress. In part, the show reflects the dynamism, tumult and fluidity of the global economy, notably the maturing of Japan’s economy and the emergence of the BRIC nations of China and India opening their markets to a rush of Western investment.
The changes at the International Asian Art Fair are alarming to some, invigorating to others. The best advice for shoppers is to take it as it comes. Enjoy the show for the fresh inspiration it annually provides.
Some changes in the show have been attributed to underlying market conditions: the increasing scarcity and rising cost of top-quality Asian antiques; heightened concerns about provenance; China’s skyrocketing stock market; and the upswing in interest in contemporary art †an upswing, some dealers say, that correlates with younger buyers and newly made fortunes.
There were a dozen new exhibitors in this year’s International Asian Art Fair.
Among them, Dillon Gallery of New York presented paintings by Chen Wenguang, a Chinese artist in his mid-50s who trained in Japan. Chen Wenguang layers mineral pigments and gold leaf, a traditional Nihonga approach, to create large, abstract works that are both nuanced and richly atmospheric.
Another new exhibitor, Bodhi Art, arrayed contemporary Indian painting, hanging paintings by Prabir Purkayastha, Rajan Krishnan and Atul Dodiya. Bodhi opened its first gallery in Singapore in 2004 and followed with galleries in Delhi, Mumbai and New York.
One of the most personal displays belonged to Alexander Gorlizki, a New York artist who works with Riyaz Uddin of Jaipur, Rajasthan. From a distance, the Gorlizki-Uddin collaborations look like traditional, if large, Indian miniature paintings on paper. Closer inspection reveals whimsical, sometimes salacious subject matter.
Joan B. Mirviss Ltd each year devotes part of her stand to a solo show by a contemporary Japanese potter. This year, she showcased the Bizen ceramist Kakurezaki Ryiuichi, who creates functional wares in arresting shapes and sensuous surfaces. A trailblazer in the area of contemporary Japanese studio pottery, Mirviss this year sold pieces by Kakurezaki Ryiuichi to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Yale University Art Gallery and the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
Last year, the Haughtons broadened the International Asian Art Fair from its original concept to include African, Oceanic and American Indian art. Exhibitors in these categories tend to bring striking pieces of sculpture and arresting textiles that blend well with the Asian art on view.
One noteworthy addition was Phoenix Ancient Art, the prominent Switzerland and New York-based specialists in antiquities. Dealer Hicham Aboutaam and his brother, Ali, were recently profiled in the New York Times , which described their efforts to make the antiquities trade safer for dealers and collectors, fairer, and more transparent. A highlight of Phoenix’s display was a circa 1085‷20 BC Egyptian bronze mask of a god.
The International Asian Art Fair still has at its center exceptional dealers in traditional Asian antiques. Those who come to mind include the Chinese Porcelain Company of New York, which brought a beautifully articulated Tang dynasty painted pottery figure of a braying camel with a monkey rider.
Robert Hall’s jewel-box stand houses Chinese glass and porcelain snuff bottles. Apparently endless in color, shape and ornamentation, these small wonders glow in the purpose-built, top-lit shadow boxes that the London dealer had built for their display.
Boston dealer Kemin Hu devoted his stand to the contemplative study of Chinese scholars’ rocks on intricately carved wood stands.
Sandra Whitman’s focused inventory of Chinese carpets is a revelation, both in its depth and stately beauty.
Erik Thomsen, who opened a gallery in New York last year after being in based in Germany, shows a discriminating eye for traditional Japanese art. One of his most exciting recent finds is a pair of Seventeenth Century Edo six-panel screens depicting in detail the landmarks and citizens of Kyoto.
Impressively, Uragami Sokyu-Do Co. Ltd devoted its entire stand to more than 200 ancient celadon Yue figures from China. In an accompanying brochure, the Tokyo dealer wrote that he planned to end his 11-year participation in the International Asian Art Fair but would welcome other opportunities to connect with collectors in New York.
More than offsetting the modest general admission charge to the show is the wealth of illustrated catalogs that exhibitors freely offer to anyone who asks. Among them: Gregg Baker’s “Autumn Leaves,” illustrating the London dealer’s exquisite collection of Japanese gilt screens; “Recent Acquisitions 2007,” S. Marchant & Son’s weighty compendium of Chinese porcelain from a variety of well-known collections, including those of Evelyn Annenberg Hall, Hon Mrs Nellie Ionides, Ira and Nancy Kroger, J.P. Morgan, and Laurence S. Rockefeller; and Kaikodo’s hefty journals, containing scholarly essays on traditional Chinese and Japanese painting and works of art.
Reported sales included a monumental painting by Natvar Bhavsar at Sundaram Tagore Gallery of New York; Thai and Indonesian stone sculptures at Douglas Dawson of Chicago; an Indo Portuguese embroidery at Cora Ginsburg LLC; five sets of Tibetan medical paintings at Ghankar Ah-nhey Asian Art; and a screen by Katayama BokuyÇ (1900‱937), exhibited at the Imperial Art Exhibitions in 1928, to a Midwestern museum at Kagedo Japanese Art of Seattle.
Westboro, Mass., dealer Ned Jalbert, the lone Native American art specialist in the show, sold a Hamatsa mask from British Columbia. Kang Collection Korean Art of New York sold a pair of Seventeenth to Eighteenth Century tomb guardians and a mother-of-pearl inlaid lacquered box. Lea Sneider of New York sold a Chosun dynasty temple figure. London dealer Grace Tsumugi parted with a Seventeenth Century screen marked $100,000.
An opening night party drew more than 1,200 guests and raised more than $850,000 for Asia Society. A loan exhibition from China Institute featured Yixing teapots from the late Ming to the Qing dynasties. Visitors also enjoyed lectures on Japanese Zen figure painting, tips on collecting contemporary Chinese art, a Chinese tea tasting, and a panel discussion on Japanese baskets hosted by Bard Graduate Center.
Visitors to the fair included groups from the Brooklyn Museum, Cornell University Museum of Art, China Institute, the Chinese and Taiwanese Consulates, Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), Japan Society and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.
For information, www.Haughton.com or 20 7734 5491.
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