Look east: dealers, auction houses and museums come together in London for the 15th edition of the Asian art showcase.
Asian Art in London (AAL) celebrates its 15th anniversary this year (1-10 November). This annual event was one of the first open-house dealer initiatives, introduced to focus the eyes of the world on the extraordinary and unparalleled range of works of art from across the entire continent that is available for all to enjoy in London. A great deal of it is in museums, and a surprising amount is to be found in the city's commercial galleries and salerooms.
AAL's success stems from the fact that it has never been simply a trade event but one that brings together a global community of enthusiasts--whether scholars, dealers, curators, collectors or the merely curious. Their invitation is to dip into a diverse programme of exhibitions, special displays, conferences, lectures, study days, workshops, concerts, performances and, of course, sales and receptions that transform Mayfair, St James's and Kensington Church Street into temporary street parties. Full details are published in a pocket-sized guide, and are also available at www.asianartinlondon.com and via a free iPhone app.
Since its inauguration, Asian Art in London has extended its reach beyond the city, and also welcomed oversees dealers as participants. Apart from the likes of 'Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire' at the British Library (9 November-2 April 2013) and the Royal Academy's culturally all-encompassing 'Bronze' (15 September-9 December), this year's event also coincides with the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford's 'Threads of Silk and Gold: Ornamental Textiles of Meiji Japan' (9 November-27 January 2013), and the final days of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge's unmissable 'The Search for Immortality: Tomb Treasures of Han China' (5 May-11 November).
Salisbury auctioneers Woolley and Wallis join with Sotheby's London, Christie's London and Bonhams to promote their Asian art auctions. As for the overseas exhibitors, they come not only from continental Europe and the US but the Far East too. What is on offer? The answer is almost everything, from 2nd-3rd century Gandharan sculpture (Jonathan Tucker and Antonia Tozer Asian Art), to Chinese scholar's rocks dating from the 17th to the 19th century (MD Flacks), as well as the likes of Keiko Masumoto's ceramic Octopus/pot (2011), courtesy of ICN Gallery (Fig 6).
Ceramics make a strong showing this year. Eskenazi, for instance, stages its first ever show devoted exclusively to Qing porcelain by presenting 20 imperial pieces, each the epitome of Chinese taste, from a private collection. The early to mid Qing period under the reigns of the emperors Kangxi (1662-1722), Yongzheng (1722-35) and Qianlong (1735-96) was a time of extraordinary technical experimentation and innovation at the Jingdezhen kilns, which resulted in a proliferation of new glazes and enamelling techniques--and ever more complex and laborious processes.
A perfect exemplar of the currently highly prized technical tour de force of the period is the famille rose pear-shaped vase with a lush ruby ground (Fig. 4). It bears the mark of Qianlong and was no doubt made for the emperor himself under the direction of the kilns' celebrated supervisor, Tang Ying. Not only is the perfectly potted vessel finely painted in overglaze enamels with a western-inspired pattern of lotus blooms and stylised scrolling leafy vines--and with western-style shading and use of white to create light and shadow--but the enamelled ruby ground is also intricately incised with a 'pattern of flower brocade'. Perhaps too frigidly, mechanically perfect, it does not have the joie de vivre exhibited in the more freely painted and abstracted clouds wafting across the collection's rare pair of Yongzheng mark doucai waterpots. Prices here are 'up to several million'.
Famille verte rather than famille rose enamels takes centre stage in Jorge Welsh's show of 'Biscuit: Refined Chinese Famille Verte Wares', which flourishes the likes of a Kangxi period hawk perched on a rocky outcrop (Fig. 3). Much earlier ceramics feature too--Tang (618-907) at Berwald Oriental Art, Song (960-1279) at Priestley & Ferraro, and at Dries Blitz an engaging 12th- or 13th-century stoneware pillow modelled in the form of a crouching tiger, painted in tan and dark brown slip. The nostrils, ingeniously, served as air vents to prevent the pillow from exploding during firing.
Marchant presents another palette and another private collection in its exhibition 'Dr Lowell Young Collection of Chinese Blue and White Porcelain'. The 38 late Ming and Qing examples assembled here, including some imperial pieces, were all selected for their rich underglaze blue and for the quality of the drawing of the landscapes or figural scenes. Dr Young had a particular penchant for brush pots and there are 15 here made for the scholar's desk. Prices 7,500 [pound sterling]-280,000 [pound sterling].
The aesthetic of the rustic 18th-century e-shino chawan or tea bowl, decorated with a simple design of bamboo leaves and shown by Kitsune Japanese Art, could not be more different (Fig. 5). Lovers of Japanese Arita ware might well prefer the ferocious arched-back dog in white porcelain, his red collar and gums offsetting a mouthful of sharp fangs. Dated to the 17th or 18th century, this beast is offered by Manuel Castilho (Fig. 9). Sculpture is also impressively represented in terms of medium, geography and period. Galerie Christophe Hioco, for instance, is presenting a show of Jain pieces (neatly complementing the display of Jain manuscripts and paintings on display at the V&A until 31 December). Jainism prescribes a path of non-violence, and its philosophy and practice emphasise the need for self-effort towards divine consciousness and liberation. Like Buddha, Vardhamana Mahavira, who lived in the 6th century BC, left his family home to wander the valley of the Ganges. At the age of 32 he attained enlightenment and became a Jina, a winner, the word that gives Jainism its name. In pride of place here is the 114cm-high sandstone Jina Parsvanatha, dated to the 12th century and from either Rajasthan or Madya Pradesh (Fig 1). The serene nude figure is set within a richly carved and three-dimensional figural setting.
A phyllite carving of Shiva as Yoga Dakshinamurti, from the Pala dynasty and late 11th-century Bengal, is shown by John Eskenazi. Rossi & Rossi presents a Tibetan Akshobya Buddha, a gilt bronze inlaid with silver made around 1400 (Fig. 2). Christie's South Kensington offers an 18th-century Chinese carved bamboo figure of a seated Shoulao in its 9 November sale, while Rutherston & Bandini offers a carved ivory Gentoku on horseback, attributed to Sanko and dated around 1780. Most original is the exhibition of jalis--perforated stone screens --that were a key element of Islamic architecture in India. These screens filtered sunlight and encouraged ventilation, the best of them a vehicle for virtuoso carving and imaginative abstract design. Over 20 examples grace the gallery of Sam Fogg.
Screens play an architectural role too. Japanese specialist dealer Gregg Baker, for instance, presents a pair of six-fold paper screens atmospherically painted in ink on a gold and buff ground with rocks and waves, Hasegawa school, 17th-century Edo period (Figs. 7 and 8). For exuberant colour, it is hard to beat Indian miniature painting, of which there is a good variety this year. Prahlad Bubbar offers a splendid page from the Mughal 'Third Akbarnama' manuscript, in which the imperial army pursues Ali Quli Khan Zaman. The painting, of around 1598, is attributed to Dhanu and Khem Karan.
Nicholas Shaw offers Mughal cotton panels of the late 17th or early 18th century in his show of 'Floral Tributes: Flowers in Islamic and Indian Art'. Jacqueline Simcox presents a set of four late Ming ivory silk panels almost 2m high, embroidered in Guangdong style with flowers and antique vessels. S&J Stodel offers Chinese export silver vessels, Robert Kleiner Chinese jade snuff bottles and Amir Mohtashemi, the likes of a Deccan brass zoomorphic aquamanile in the shape of a peacock (18th century). Given the current Chinese taste for all things Qing, it's hardly surprising to find dazzling cloisonne enamel vessels on show too. Roger Keverne offers a rare vase of flattened double-gourd form with the characters 'Da Ji', which invoke the wish for 'great fortune'. The form of the vessel itself is a symbol of longevity.
A range of materials feature in Ben Janssens' offering of Chinese boxes, which includes a Qianlong period pair carved in red cinnabar lacquer. The Japanese lacquer furniture and accessories offered by Grace Tsumugi, Mingei Arts and Simon Pilling East Asian Art & Interiors are there to remind us all that Asian Art in London is also about the functional. More often than one might think, it also embraces the relatively affordable.
Asian Art in London takes place in various venues across the capital from 1-10 November (www.asianartinlondon.com).
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|Title Annotation:||ASIAN ART IN LONDON|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2012|
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