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Mainland China's first international fine art and antiques fair opens this month, but Hong Kong and London are not to be outdone.

Shanghai is emerging as the new hub of the international art market in the Far East--little wonder given the city's new wealth, the dizzying pace of its economic growth and its ideal location, just 40 minutes from Korea, an hour from Japan and two and a half from Beijing, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Hot on the heels of 'ShContemporary'--Pierre Huber and Lorenzo Rudolf's bold bid to recreate an Art Basel in Asia--comes the first full-scale international fine art and antiques fair staged in China: 'The Shanghai Fine Jewellery and Art Fair' (12-21 October).

Masterminding this event is art specialist Maximin Berko and China-based businessman Nicolo Mori. The former, who has been in Shanghai since 2001 working on a PhD on Han sculpture, is the son of Belgian 19th-century European paintings dealers Viviane and Patrick Berko. 'Last year I felt a thirst for something new here', explains Berko: 'China's new rich now have their weekend homes, their luxury cars and are travelling the world. Art is the latest thing--it is suddenly in all the magazines and on their covers, and an art TV channel is being launched in January.' He knew a number of European dealers--and not only those selling Asian art--with big clients in China, and conceived the idea of establishing what he hopes will become a national fair.

The Chinese themselves are very much part of the picture, with the fair including some local galleries. 'I want to introduce these two worlds to one another', says Berko. 'I suspect what the Chinese paintings galleries sell may shock western visitors. Chinese contemporary art is not what most Chinese buy or look it, apart from the investors. It is not really their taste.' Although there is no tradition of antiques shops as such, he has also encouraged a group of private antique 'collectors'--who willingly sell as well as buy--to exhibit too. Crucially, the organisation team includes Xiaozhou Taillandier-Xing, a curator at Shanghai Museum. Melka Rive Miao, the first interior designer to operate in Shanghai, is charged with restoring the well-located 1955 Soviet-built Shanghai Exhibition Centre to its original splendour.


Berko is aiming for an all-embracing fair. On offer, courtesy of the 34 dealers from 12 countries, will be everything from furniture, paintings and drawings to jewellery, tapestries and carpets, antiques, antiquities and tribal art. Appropriately enough for a city gripped by the prospect of staging its own World Fair in 2010, Parisian Michel-Guy Chadelaud offers furniture and works of art exhibited in Paris's 1900 Exposition Universelle and at the St Louis Fair of 1904. Paintings range from Old Masters (Salomon Lilian) to Impressionists (Galerie Tamenaga), German Expressionism (Galerie Thomas) to American Pop (Rudolf Budja Galerie) and contemporary (Marlborough present a show devoted to Manolo Valdes). Gisele Croes, one of the world's top dealers in Chinese antiquities, also takes a bow (Fig. 1). Jewellers include Sabbadini and David Morris.


Hong Kong returns to centre stage with Sotheby's HK$1bn (63m [pounds sterling]) autumn series, which launches on 6 October with a sale of important Chinese painting amassed by the celebrated dealer and collector Robert Chang. Included are over 20 works by Qi Baishi, one of the greatest modern Chinese painters. But even these estimates pale beside those for contemporary Chinese art offered on 7 October. Cai Guoqiang's 20m-wide gunpowder on paper Project to Extend the Great Wall of China by 10,000 Metres, for instance, comes with expectations of HK$12m-18m (760,000 [pounds sterling]1.14m [pounds sterling]).

This particularly strong season also offers much good Qing material, be it porcelain, jade or fine art. I illustrate overleaf a recently rediscovered portrait painted in 1760 of the First-Class officer of the Imperial Guard, 'the Steadfast and Brave Hero Yisamu' (Fig. 2), one of hundreds of portraits of meritorious banner officers commissioned by various emperors for the Ziguang Pavilion in Beijing. Only 30 or so are known to survive, and only two of them are in Chinese museums. This example appears to be one of 50 collaborations by Ai Qimeng--the Bohemian Jesuit missionary Ignatius Sichelbarth who began working in the Palace Workshop in 1736 and who painted the face in western style--and the Chinese painter Jin Tingbao. It is expected to fetch over HK$12m.


Another intriguing meeting of East and West is the Venetian portrait of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, the highlight of Sotheby's sale Arts of the Islamic World in London on 24 October (estimate 200,000 [pounds sterling]-300,000 [pounds sterling]). Updating some 30 years later the famous portrait painted in 1480 by Gentile Bellini during his visit to the Ottoman Court, this anonymous painting, from a Singaporean collection, has been widely exhibited in recent years.

Rossi & Rossi continue this East/West dialogue in the inaugural show at their new and larger gallery at 16 Clifford Street. 'Consciousness and Form: Contemporary Tibetan Art' brings together eight artists with a Tibetan heritage, four of whom live in Tibet and four in the West (5-26 October). Perhaps the most innovative show of London's Islamic Week, however, is Sam Fogg's 'Islam in Africa', at neighbouring 15d Clifford Street (9-26 October). This eclectic gathering ranges from 18th-century Sudan manuscripts (Figs. 3 and 4), distinctive in their use of bold geometric decoration and Maghribi script, to a 19th-century calligraphic panel reputedly from Dr Livingstone's house in Zanzibar. There is even a massive 19th-century Berber minbar or pulpit from the Atlas region of Morocco.



After the spectacular success of the group of rare Moroccan gold jewellery sold at Christie's last Islamic sale for around 1m [pounds sterling], this year's Arts of the Islamic and Indian World offers another group of 30 pieces from the same source. The star turn here is a gold circular pendant from 18th-century Fez. Set with emeralds and rubies, its reverse beautifully enamelled, the pendant is suspended by multiple strands of seed pearls linked by openwork and enamelled gold beads.

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Title Annotation:ASIAN ART MARKET
Author:Moore, Susan
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Oct 1, 2007
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