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Asian Art 101: What Is a Handscroll?

Perhaps the best online explanation of a Chinese handscroll can be found on The Metropolitan Museum of Art Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History—Dawn Delbanco's beautifully penned description is pasted below:

A significant difference between Eastern and Western painting lies in the format. Unlike Western paintings, which are hung on walls and continuously visible to the eye, most Chinese paintings are not meant to be on constant view but are brought out to be seen only from time to time. This occasional viewing has everything to do with format.

A predominant format of Chinese painting is the handscroll, a continuous roll of paper or silk of varying length on which an image has been painted, and which, when not being viewed, remains rolled up. Ceremony and anticipation underlie the experience of looking at a handscroll. When in storage, the painting itself is several layers removed from immediate view, and the value of a scroll is reflected in part by its packaging. Scrolls are generally kept in individual wooden boxes that bear an identifying label. Removing the lid, the viewer may find the scroll wrapped in a piece of silk, and, unwrapping the silk, encounters the handscroll bound with a silken cord that is held in place with a jade or ivory toggle. After undoing the cord, one begins the careful process of unrolling the scroll from right to left, pausing to admire and study it, shoulder-width section by section, rerolling a section before proceeding to the next one.

To mimic the experience of viewing a handscroll from right to left, scroll all the way to the right first, then use your mouse to slowly move left across the image.

Lo Ping (1733-99)
Dreaming of Retirement at Lou-t'ai, 1774
Handscroll, ink and color on paper
5.2 x 139.2 cm (10 x 54 3/4 in)
Image courtesy of Kaikodo LLC

The experience of seeing a scroll for the first time is like a revelation. As one unrolls the scroll, one has no idea what is coming next: each section presents a new surprise. Looking at a handscroll that one has seen before is like visiting an old friend whom one has not seen for a while. One remembers the general appearance, the general outlines, of the image, but not the details. In unrolling the scroll, one greets a remembered image with pleasure, but it is a pleasure that is enhanced at each viewing by the discovery of details that one has either forgotten or never noticed before.

Looking at a handscroll is an intimate experience. Its size and format preclude a large audience; viewers are usually limited to one or two. Unlike the viewer of Western painting, who maintains a certain distance from the image, the viewer of a handscroll has direct physical contact with the object, rolling and unrolling the scroll at his/her own desired pace, lingering over some passages, moving quickly through others.

Hai Tao
Look Forward to Peace, 2012
Ink on rice paper, handscroll
12 x 97 1/2 in
Image courtesy of M. Sutherland Fine Arts

The format of a handscroll allows for the depiction of a continuous narrative or journey: the viewing of a handscroll is a progression through time and space—both the narrative time and space of the image, but also the literal time and distance it takes to experience the entire painting. As the scroll unfurls, so the narrative or journey progresses. In this way, looking at a handscroll is like reading a book: just as one turns from page to page, not knowing what to expect, one proceeds from section to section; in both painting and book, there is a beginning and an end.

Shao Mi (1592?-1642)
The Filial Liu Mourning his Parents, 1631
Handscroll, ink on paper
28 x 87.5 cm
Image courtesy of Kaikodo LLC

Indeed, this resemblance is not incidental. The handscroll format—as well as other Chinese painting formats—reveals an intimacy between word and image. Many handscrolls contain inscriptions preceding or following the image: poems composed by the painter or others that enhance the meaning of the image, or a few written lines that convey the circumstances of its creation. Many handscrolls also contain colophons, or commentary written onto additional sheets of paper or silk that follows the image itself. These may be comments written by friends of the artist or the collector; they may have been written by viewers from later generations. The colophons may comment on the quality of the painting, express the rhapsody (rarely the disenchantment) of the viewer, give a biographical sketch of the artist, place the painting within an art-historical context, or engage with the texts of earlier colophons. And as a final way of making their presence known, the painter, the collectors, the one-time viewers often “sign” the image or colophons with personal seals bearing their names, these red marks of varying size conveying pride of authorship or ownership.

Thus the handscroll is both painted image and documentary history; past and present are in continuous dialogue. Looking at a scroll with colophons and inscriptions, a viewer sees not only a pictorial representation but witnesses the history of the painting as it is passed down from generation to generation.

Delbanco, Dawn. “Chinese Handscrolls.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (April 2008)

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Chinese Toggles: Promising Playthings

Asia Week New York dealer participant Nicholas Grindley recently published a fascinating article on Chinese toggles on his website, written by Rebecca Gardner and Jane Oliver, and pasted below. Enjoy the read!

One of the most whimsical Chinese objects is the belt toggle, a palm-sized carving in nearly every natural material transformed into a miniature sculpture. Compared to the avid collecting of Japanese netsuke, Chinese belt toggles have been oddly overlooked. No longer the curios of Chinese markets, toggles are becoming rarities that are beginning to catch the eyes of collectors who can appreciate their inventiveness and quirky charm.
Chinese belt toggles, or zhuizi (墜子), are ornaments worn principally by men. Traditional Chinese dress does not have pockets, so small bags for tobacco, pipes, money and other accoutrements were suspended from the belt by cords, counterweighted by the toggle. In other circumstances, the toggle adorns the loop of a tobacco pipe or a woman’s embroidered bag for perfume and medicinal powders. Like the netsuke, the Chinese toggle was devised primarily for function and only achieved its status as a unique accessory over time. These toggles became treasured objects of identity and expression, the wearer selecting toggles that were not only decorative but that had seasonal, magical, medicinal or auspicious connotations. The material chosen and the motif represented were personal statements of style and of symbolic meaning.
Chinese toggles come in an astonishing range of materials—from wood and ivory to seashells, seeds, brass, glass, porcelain, jet, turquoise, amber and jade. Though we might assume that the wealthier would select a precious material such as crystal or jade, wooden toggles have broad significance. Boxwood (huangyangmu) was ideal for the carver. A widely available timber, boxwood is slow growing and has a very fine grain and density, which make it perfect toggle material. Carvers could work in minute detail and add intricate and precise designs without splitting the wood. The choice of boxwood also was dictated by the belief that box, being an evergreen plant, was highly auspicious—evergreens retain their leaves throughout all harsh conditions, surviving hard winters and summer droughts. The Chinese consider boxwood to be the essence of long life, energy and good health, representative of the yang principle in the harmonic structure of the cosmos. Box leaves themselves were used in medicine, and ash from burnt box timber was used medicinally from cooling fevers to helping ease labour pains for women in childbirth. Practically then, a householder wearing a boxwood toggle had his very own first-aid kit.

Each toggle symbolises something, be it the wood itself for good health or for auspicious reasons. The carvings are as varied as their materials—from temples and immortals to longevity fungus, animals of the zodiac, lions, legumes, babies, dustpans and shoes. A toggle in the form of a reed mouth organ, a sheng, is a homophone for sheng, “to rise in rank” or “to give birth”; a water bucket is a homophone for “unite” and “boy,” a fortuitous wish for marital bliss and fecundity. With their infinite possibilities for word play and association, toggles eclipsed their practical purpose and have become successively prized as objects of fascination.
Like ornaments on modern key rings and mobile phones, toggles were important to the wearer but not always to contemporary documentarians. This has made it difficult to trace their histories. Like interest in the netsuke of Japan, scholarly attention to Chinese toggles has been generated by modern Westerners. Caroline Bieber, an American who lived in Peking during the 1920s and 1930s, assembled a comprehensive collection of toggles that she donated to The Field Museum of Chicago. Schuyler Cammann, the curator of Far Eastern Art at the University Museum, Philadelphia, published the Bieber toggle collection in Substance and Symbol in Chinese Toggles (1962), still one of the definitive works in the field. A recent addition to the literature is Margaret Duda’s Traditional Chinese Toggles: Counterweights and Charms (2011). She illustrates a toggle carved with frog and lotus similar to the boxwood toggle we show here dating from the Qing dynasty, 19th century. The toggle has two frogs climbing down one side, a single frog climbing down the other, the underside with lightly incised seed pods and the stem curving over to form a loop for the cord. In discussing the fertility symbolism of the frog, Cammann comments that the Chinese, unlike most Westerners, found the frog an intriguing creature inhabiting two worlds as an amphibian with prolific powers, despite its lack of obvious generative organs (p. 130). Duda adds that the lotus is a homophone for “continuous connection,” implying a blessing for a long line of sons.
Still affordable and with an appealing diversity of subject, symbolism, style and material, Chinese toggles are ideal collector’s objects for those looking, as Schuyler Cammann put it, for “subtle beauty, glimpses of inner wisdom and sheer pleasure.”


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Hot Off the Press: A Mystical Realm of Love

The latest publication from Asia Week New York participant Francesca Galloway is a beautifully illustrated addition to the study of Pahari painting. A Mystical Realm of Love: Pahari Paintings from the Eva & Konrad Seitz Collection, with meticulous research by J.P. Losty (curator emeritus British Library) and a foreword by Konrad Seitz, gives readers unparalleled access to one of the most outstanding collections of its kind.

Eva and Konrad Seitz have put together over many years a collection of some of the most famous and important of all 18th century Pahari paintings, including miniatures commissioned by the Rajput rulers of the Punjab Hill states (1650-1850). Pahari paintings have been the focus of Eva and Konrad Seitz’s collection since the couple first went to India in the late 1960s for Konrad to take up his position as a young diplomat at the German embassy in Delhi. They were drawn to Rajput paintings (Indian miniatures from the Hindu schools of North India and Rajasthan) which were then available in Delhi and Mumbai, and later in New York, as several princely collections were being dispersed. Eva and Konrad were part of a small group of pioneer collectors who recognized the importance of Rajput painting at a time when Mughal and Persian painting was far more sought after in the West.

The Seitz collection lures you into the enchanted domain of the Hindu gods, their epics and the never-ending trials and tribulations of divine and erotic love. What attracted and intrigued Seitz to Rajput paintings in particular was their ability to induce in the viewer a kind of poetic trance – which he saw as distinct from a more Western tradition of descriptive realism.

A Mystical Realm of Love is not only an opportunity to explore Pahari painting through one couple’s lifelong passion and dedication to the subject, but represents a major addition to the scholarship through Losty’s pioneering research. He attempts a new approach in documenting their role as parts of illustrated manuscripts of religious and poetic texts, and also puts forward a revised view of the development and chronology of Pahari painting in the 18th century.  

The 400-page book costs $120 and will be available in November 2017. To order, email [email protected].


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September 2017 Asia Week: Auction Calendar

Sotheby's Highlight: Zhang Daqian, Blue Cliff and Old Tree

Our five regular auction house partners are holding auctions and viewings during September 2017 Asia Week, from September 8–16. We have compiled a calendar of all the sales for your convenience:


10am – ASIAN WORKS OF ART at Doyle




10 am – FINE CHINESE PAINTINGS at Christie's


10am – FINE JAPANESE ART at Bonhams



10am and 2pm – IMPORTANT CHINESE ART at Sotheby's








10am and 2pm – FINE CHINESE CERAMICS AND WORKS OF ART at Christie's



Doyle Highlight: Chinese Aloeswood 'Chenxiangmu' Brushpot

Bonhams Highlight: YABU MEIZAN (1853-1934), A large and highly important Satsuma presentation vase. Meiji era (1868-1912), early 20th century

Christie's Highlight: Untitled oil on canvas by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde (1924–2001), 1996.

iGavel Highlight: Chinese Archaistic Gold and Silver Inlaid Bronze Tapir, Qing Dynasty. Length: 15 inches (38.1 cm).


The iGavel Interiors: Chinese Snuff Bottles, Jades, and Ceramics from a Southern Collector on iGavel will be live September 15–October 3, 2017, followed by the Asian Works of Art auction, which will be live October 6th–25th, 2017.

The works can be viewed in New York during September 2017 Asia Week:
September 9th – 16th | 10AM – 5PM
Closed Sunday
227 East 120th Street, NY 10035
[email protected]

Christie's is also holding three online sales this fall and winter. Learn more here.

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Gallery Exhibitions During September 2017 Asia Week—And Beyond

From September 8–16, it's September 2017 Asia Week in New York. Many of our participating dealers are open to the public, showcasing traditional and contemporary examples of the best of Asian painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography, jewelry and object design. Think of it as a teaser for the March 2018 edition of Asia Week New York! Here's our guide to the exhibitions on view. Many shows remain open past September 16—please check each listing below for details.

Blind Man’s Buff/Hide and Seek. Pahari, Kangra, India, circa 1775-80. First generation after Manaku. Opaque watercolors heightened with gold on paper. 10 x 8 in. (25.4 x 20.32 cm.)

Kapoor Galleries is presenting “A curated selection of works from India and the Himalayas,” including this depiction of Blind Man's Buff, a game of six or seven players. “One of them, 'the thief' has their eyes covered, while the others hide. The thief then runs in search of the others. Those who have hidden try and return to the khutavam, the place where the thief’s eyes were shielded. If the thief can touch a player before he reaches the khutavam that person becomes the next thief. The subject is a deep allegory, as 'everything is illusory: the natural world is subsidiary to Krishna’s game; and to the moral lesson it teaches.'” On view September 8–16, Monday through Friday from 10am to 5pm, at 34 East 67th Street.

A Chinese Jichimu (“chicken-wing wood”) Brushpot. Height: 18.4 cm. Qing dynasty, 19th century A.D.
A Korean Lacquered-Bamboo Brushpot. Height: 21.5 cm. Joseon dynasty, Late 19th-early 20th century A.D.

The title of Kaikodo’s fall exhibition in New York, “Sharpening the Tools: Imagery and Accoutrement from the Scholar’s World,” was inspired by a passage from the Confucian Analects: “The Master said: ‘The workman who wishes to perfect his craft must first sharpen his tools.’” This exhibition focuses on those “tools” and on images inspired by the world of the “workmen”—the calligraphers and painters, the scholars and officials of East Asia.  The tools, popularly referred to today as scholars’ objects,  include everything a literatus requires to do his or her work—inkstones, waterdroppers, seal-ink boxes, brushpots—to objects gathered for inspiration, such as scholar’s rocks. The exhibition also focuses on paintings depicting subjects ranging from historical gatherings of scholars to landscapes where a small hut deep and high in the mountains is the only signal of the scholar within, enjoying escape from the dusty world. The Kaikodo exhibition will feature scholar’s objects from China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam as well as paintings of the literati life from China and Japan. On view September 8 through December 9, 2017 at 74 East 79th Street in Manhattan.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892), Eight Views of Warriors in the Province: Fushimi in Yamashiro, 1871, woodblock print 14 1/4 by 9 1/2 in., 36.1 by 24.1 cm

Scholten Japanese Art is presenting “Darkening Skies: The Tumultuous Times of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi,” a continuation of the gallery's March 2017 landmark single-artist exhibition on Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839–1892), one of the last great ukiyo-e artists of the 19th century. Drawing from a collection assembled over a period of nearly ten years and recently published in a full-color catalogue featuring 180 prints, the September show will display approximately 40 prints that focus on the dynamic and tumultuous times in which Yoshitoshi lived, as reflected in some of his more violent imagery. “In the end, Yoshitoshi’s oeuvre is a manifestation of the supposition that without the darkness, there can be no light,” says gallery director Katherine Martin. On view September 7–15, 2017 (Monday through Friday, 11–5) at 145 West 58th Street, suite 6D.

A gold and ruby ring. Java, 9th-12th century. Size: UK N US7. Weight: 31 grams

Sue Ollemans Oriental Art presents “Ancient Rings” from the Near to Far East, with Greek, Roman, Phoenician, Sassanian, Kushan, Indian, Khmer, Thai and Indonesian examples dating from the 5th century BC up to the 19th century. It has been suggested that the ring pictured above—of tapering circular cross section shank and with an ovoid-shaped bezel containing three cabochon rubies—represents the Hindu Trinity. The exhibition runs from September 11–16, every day from 11am–5pm, at 790 Madison Avenue, Suite 705.

From top to bottom: 
HATTORI MAKIKO (b. 1984). Flow. 2016. Unglazed Porcelainous Stoneware. 13 3/8 x 15 3/8 x 15 3/8 in.
KINO SATOSHI (b. 1987). Oroshi-loop 16-47. 2015. Glazed porcelain. 12 1/2 x 25 x 3 1/8 in.
TAKEMURA YURI (b. 1980). Wan mei “Kinginka”: Teabowl “Gold Silver Flower”. 2017. Glazed porcelain, silver and gold leaf. 3 1/2 x 5 x 5 in.
Image by Richard Goodbody

Joan B Mirviss LTD presents “Rising Stars: Hattori Makiko, Kino Satoshi and Takemura Yuri,” an exhibition that showcases three young artists in their first solo exhibitions in the United States. “Hattori Makiko, Kino Satoshi, and Takemura Yuri ave each chosen a highly independent, creative approach to clay that challenges the centuries- old, established traditions of Japanese ceramic art. In the dozen works created for Inside Out: Meditative Forms of Hattori Makiko, the artist has created a captivating body of work that commands close-up viewing with her incredibly intricate, sensuous, yet surprisingly sharp surfaces. Confronting the historically significant art of celadon-glazed porcelain, Kino Satoshi tackles this esteemed tradition with his highly original approach in Quiet Tension: The Sculptural Art of Kino Satoshi. Takemura Yuri, in Dancing Colors of Takemura Yuri, takes the concept and form of the revered Japanese teabowl in a totally new and delightful direction. With contemporary sculptural forms, exquisite glazes, painstakingly intricate and challenging techniques, and refined aesthetics, these three artists have become the young leaders of the next generation of Japanese clay artists,” reads a statement from the gallery. On view September 12 through October 13 at 39 East 78th Street, Monday through Friday from 10am to 6pm.

Koshu Endo (b. 1954), Magical Clouds, 2017, UV inkjet print on UV filtering plexiglass, h. 23 5/8 x w. 35 1/2 in. (60 x 90 cm)

Onishi Gallery showcases the work of Japanese photographer Koshu Endo in an exhibition titled “O-Tsukimi,” after the annual Japanese festival centered around the viewing of the autumn moon, which happens to be celebrated during the period of this exhibition’s opening. “Timed with this ancient lunar event, this show features eight large format photographs on the theme of the moon. In addition, Endo will create a gallery installation that allows visitors to experience the ‘O-tsukimi’ rituals and learn about the history of the festival. These include ritualistic food and drink offerings, and traditional expressions of admiration for the sacred deity that is the moon,” reads the gallery statement. This is Endo's first solo exhibition in the United States. On view September 7–16 at 521 West 26th Street, Tuesday through Saturday, 11am–6pm.

An Ho (b. 1927) 安和 (生于1927). Misty Landscape of Woodstock, NY. 2017. Ink and color on silk. 7.875 x 22.75 in. (20 x 57.8 cm). Signed An Ho with one seal: An Ho

China 2000 Fine Art presents five recent paintings by An Ho who at 90 is yet discovering novelty in the beauty that surrounds her, painting her vision on silk and paper with ever-steady hands and a freshness that astounds. “An Ho’s landscapes are her own poetical fantasy, part memory, part dream,” reads the gallery statement. “Her scenes achieve nobility by their pure expression of a tranquil understanding of the universe, of the harmony between man and nature.” The artist's works have been exhibited in China, Taiwan, Germany, Italy, France and the United States, and are in the permanent collections of several museums and private collections in both the Far East and the West. “An Ho: Recent Paintings” is on view September 6–28 (Monday–Thursday from 11–5) at 177 East 87th Street.

Maha Akshobhya. Nepal, Kathamndu. Dated to Samvat 897, 1776 AD. 22.5 cm (8.85 in). Gilt Copper Alloy.

Walter Arader is presenting an exhibition of new acquisitions, featuring a dated Nepalese figure of Maha Akshobhya and a large gilt wood figure of a protectress from the Kangxi court. On view from Monday, September 11 until Monday, September 18th from 10 am until 6 pm daily at 1016 Madison Avenue.

KATO Tsubusa 加藤委 (1962- ). Square Bowl. Glazed Porcelain. H6″ x D16.5″ x W17″

Dai Ichi Arts, Ltd. presents “Many Shades of Celadon,” with works by modern masters of Japanese ceramics that illustrate the medium's wide range. “Fukami Sueharu’s elegant, sky blue evocations of natural forces transcend the earthy roots of the ceramic arts. Kato Tsubusa’s tender celadon glazes shower over his unique white porcelain, which gives his work a kind of luminous glow. A more subtle crackle graces the surface of Suzuki Sansei’s egg blue celadon wares,” reads a statement from the gallery. On view September 12–22 at 18 East 64th Street, Suite 1F.

Jyoti Bhatt, Still-Life with Parrot, 1955. Oil on board, 16.2 x 28 inches.

DAG Modern presents “Group 1890: India's Indigenous Modernism,” a commemorative exhibition that examines the story of Group 1890's rise and later disbanding from the perspective of the ensuing decades. It features artworks from the 1960s and later decades by the member artists ­– J. Swaminathan, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Himmat Shah, Jeram Patel, Ambadas, Jyoti Bhatt, Raghav Kaneria, Reddappa Naidu, Rajesh Mehra, Eric Bowen, S. G. Nikam and Balkrishna Patel. The exhibition traces the importance of these artists, through their individual art practice, and the position they advocated as a group in 1963 when they issued a group manifesto. DAG Modern’s exhibition is the first to bring the work of these twelve artists under one roof, under the rubric of Group 1890, and examine their historical significance. On view now through September 30, 2017 at 41 East 57th Street, Suite 708, Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 6pm, and on Mondays by appointment.

Ding Ware Carved Peony Plate, Northern Song Dynasty. 22.8 cm diameter.

Zetterquist Galleries will be featuring an important Ding Ware Carved Peony Plate from the Northern Song Dynasty. This piece is remarkable for its masterful carving of intertwined stalks of peonies, the only other published example of which is from the National Palace Museum in Taipei. The piece is in excellent condition, and from a private Japanese collection. Six other Ding-yao and related Xing and Dongyanyu kiln pieces will also be on view, offering an exceptional opportunity for viewers to compare the piece above with others from the 10th through 13th centuries. On view September 9–16, by appointment, at 3 East 66th Street, #1B.

Ishikawa Shōun (1895-1973), Handled Hexagonal Flower Basket, Showa era (1926-1989), circa 1950-1980, H 14 3/4 in. (37.5 cm)

Erik Thomsen Gallery presents “Masterpieces of Japanese Bamboo Art,” highlighting works by some of the most prestigious names in the history of this medium, including Tanabe Chikuunsai I and Iizuka Rōkansai, who is represented by no fewer than nine outstanding and varied pieces. “Our selection establishes Japanese basketry as one of the great East-Asian art forms and affirms our confidence in the important role it is set to play in the international art market, with major collectors active throughout the Americas, Europe, and China, as well as in Japan itself,” says Erik Thomsen. “The timing is especially auspicious, since 2017 has already proved to be a pivotal year for the worldwide appreciation of Japanese basketry thanks to two major exhibitions: 'Bambu: Histórias do Japão' in São Paulo, Brazil, and 'Japanese Bamboo Art: The Abbey Collection' which opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, on June 13.” The exhibition at Erik Thomsen Gallery is on view from September 11 to November 10, Monday–Friday from 10am to 5pm, at 23 East 67th Street.

Myong Hi Kim (B. 1949). Girl. Oil pastel on chalkboard. 20 1/2 x 14 1/4 in. (52 x 36 cm)

HK Art and Antiques LLC presents an exhibition of contemporary Korean art entitled “Life Movement.” On view at September 13–23, Monday through Saturday from 11am to 5:30pm, at 49 East 78th Street, Suite 4B.

A cast and chased parcel-gilt bronze incense burner. Ming / Qing dynasty, 17th century. 5 x 5 1/4 in.

Nicholas Grindley is exhibiting some pieces from the private collection of Ken Greenstein. The selection of Chinese scholars’ objects shown reveal some of the more personal pieces belonging to the New York-based collector. He originally started out with an avid interest in snuff bottles but over the years his passion for Chinese art saw him collect a wider range of scholars' objects. He explains that this transition enabled him to discover exactly how profound and interesting scholars’ objects could be and embarked to collect a variety of pieces. On view September 11–15, daily from 10am to 5pm, at Hazlitt, 17 East 76th Street, 2nd Floor.

Carole Davenport presents a sneak peek of her October exhibition “ZEN INK & CLAY” along with recent acquisitions on September 11–13 from 4 to 7pm daily (or by appointment) at 131 East 83rd Street, Suite 7D. She writes: “Powerful and often unassuming ink paintings and calligraphy inspired by Zen philosophical thought expressed as calligraphic poetic phrases and spare, austere ink paintings coupled with the influence of Zen meditative outlook on tea ceremony ceramics in the form of teabowls, tea caddies and jars construct the basis of this reflective exhibition.” The complete show will be held October 26 to November 2 at Tambaran Gallery, 5 East 82nd Street, from noon to 6pm daily.

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Summer Museum Exhibitions, Part 3: Asian Art in Europe

Burial mask of the Princess of Chen, Liao dynasty (907–1125), Excavated from the tomb of the Princess of Chen at Qinglongshang Town in Naiman Banner, Gold, Inner Mongolia Archaeological Research Institute. On view at the Drents Museum—more info below.

We asked our participants to share the museum exhibitions they are most looking forward to this summer—here are their recommendations. For the final part in this 3-part series, we're focusing on Europe. If you find yourself there this August, don't miss the following exhibitions:

1. Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave at the British Museum in London, England

“Many years in the making and numerous recent Hokusai exhibitions later, this monumental exhibition showcases the unrivaled breadth and depth of Katsushika Hokusai’s mature and late work, as well as gives the visitor an insight into his personal life and beliefs. The world’s top scholars on the subject, who brought us the unrivaled show on Utamaro years ago, Timothy Clark of the British Museum and Asano Shûgo of the Abeno Harukas Art Museum, Osaka, have made this exhibition a must-see event due to the tremendous range, depth and quality of the work selected from collections worldwide, revealing in new ways, the brilliance and creativity of arguably Japan’s most celebrated artist,” says Asia Week New York founding participant Joan Mirviss. The exhibition is on view at the British Museum until August 13; view more information here.

Exhibition view of The Great Liao

2. The Great Liao: Khitan Relics from Inner Mongolia, China at the Drents Museum in Assen, The Netherlands

This exhibition highlights the splendor of an Inner Mongolian nomad dynasty. “The major archaeological exhibition The Great Liao tells the remarkable story of the mighty Liao dynasty in the 10th and 11th centuries—an empire with an area of more than 4,000 km, extending from the Sea of Japan in the east to the Altai mountains in the west. Spectacular archaeological finds that have come to light in the past thirty years give visitors a unique impression of the Liao culture,” writes the museum on its website. Through October 29, 2017.

Exhibition view of The China Collection at KODE Art Museums

3. The China Collection at KODE Art Museums in Bergen, Norway

From the museum's website: “The China Collection is one of Europe’s largest collections of Chinese art and artisanal handicraft, and numbers 2,500 items. The collection contains all kinds of Chinese art, and spans a time period ranging from the early Stone Age to the beginning of the 20th century. […] The China Collection was donated in its entirety by the adventurer and general Johan Wilhelm Normann Munthe (1864–1935). He lived in China from 1886 to 1935, and first worked for the Chinese customs agency before becoming a general in the Chinese army. After living in China for some years, Munthe took an interest in the country's art. He eventually built a large art collection.” The gallery was recently renovated and has now reopened; more information can be found on the KODE Art Museums website.

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Summer Museum Exhibitions, Part 2: Asian Art in New York and Boston

Vajradhatu (Diamond Realm) Mandala. 14th century, Central Tibet, distemper and gold on cloth. On view at the Met's Cosmic Buddhas in the Himalayas exhibition.

We asked our participants to share the museum exhibitions they are most looking forward to this summer—here are their recommendations. For Part 2 of this series, we're focusing on the New York and Boston areas. If you find yourself in the Northeast this August, don't miss the following exhibitions:

The Buddha Vairochana Presiding over the Cosmic Axis, Panel from a Buddhist Ritual Crown. Early 14th century, Central Tibet, distemper on wood.

1. Cosmic Buddhas in the Himalayas at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
“Being reborn in one of the heavens inhabited by a living Buddha offered a clear path to enlightenment for Himalayan Buddhist communities. Vairochana, the emanation of the historic Buddha Shakyamuni, sat at the center of the cosmos, while each of the Pure Lands in the four cardinal directions was presided over by a celestial Buddha. The vast and complex Mahayana and tantric pantheon of Buddhist gods and goddesses are emanations of these living Buddhas, while individual deities associated with them personify ideas such as compassion, abundance, learning, or protection. This exhibition draws together works of the highest caliber and places Vairochana at the center of the gallery, and the directional cosmic Buddhas on the four walls along with some of their most significant manifestations, presenting this complex Buddhist pantheon of deities in a startlingly simple way,” reads the exhibition description. Learn more and view additional exhibition objects on the Met's website. On view through December 10, 2017.

Tide by Fujitsuka Shōsei (Japanese, born 1949). 1978. Timber bamboo and rattan.

2. Japanese Bamboo Art: The Abbey Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
“Featuring works of Japanese bamboo art dating from the late 19th century to the present—the period when basketry in Japan became recognized as an art form that transcends “craft”—this loan exhibition showcases more than 80 bamboo baskets and sculptures created by accomplished artists, including all six masters who have received the designation “Living National Treasure.” Highlighting key stages in the modern history of Japanese bamboo art, the exhibition is drawn from the Abbey Collection, one of the finest private collections of Japanese baskets and bamboo sculpture; most of the works have never before been presented in public,” reads the exhibition description. Learn more and view additional exhibition objects on the Met's website. On view through February 4, 2018.

3. Dreams of the Kings: A Jade Suit for Eternity, Treasures of the Han Dynasty from Xuzhou at China Institute
From China Institute's website: “In 201 BCE, the first emperor of the Han Dynasty knighted his younger brother as the first king of the Chu Kingdom, which was centered in Peng Cheng, today’s Xuzhou, in northern Jiangsu Province. Ruling under the emperor’s protection, and given special exemption from imperial taxes, elites in this Kingdom enjoyed a lavish lifestyle. Twelve generations of kings lived, died, and were buried in sumptuous tombs carved into the nearby rocky hills. Since the mid 20th Century, nearly hundred tombs were excavated, revealing contents that testify to the Chu kings’ affluence, as well as their beliefs in immortality and the afterlife. One of the most stunning finds was an elaborate jade sarcophagi burial suit, assembled from thousands of pieces of jade, the precious stone adored by Chinese people since the Neolithic period as an auspicious material that could ensure immortality. This exhibition will feature the jade suit, and other tomb contents that highlight how these powerful and wealthy kings prepared for death and envisioned their afterlife to come.” On view through November 12, 2017.

4. New Women for a New Age: Japanese Beauties, 1890s–1930s at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston
“Examine the changing image of Japanese women though prints, book illustrations, and photographs made in Japan from the 1890s to the 1930s. During this crucial period of rapid modernization, traditional ideas of ideal beauty and behavior intermingled with imported styles and concepts. Arranged in roughly chronological order, the exhibition begins with ukiyo-e woodblock prints of the late Meiji era (1868–1912) and postcards that include both photographs and artists’ depictions. A recent gift of kuchi-e prints—color woodblock frontispieces for books of the early 1900s, usually romantic fiction—makes up the exhibition’s core. Shin hanga prints from the 1910s and ‘30s depict beautiful women in both traditional and modern styles. These works can be interpreted in several ways: as glamorized reflections of the lives of Japanese women during a time of rapid social change; as idealized expressions of heterosexual male desire; and as metaphorical images of Japan itself, with the young women standing in for their entire country and its search for national identity,” reads the exhibition description. Learn more on the MFA Boston's website. On view through August 20, 2017.

Lobed Quatrefoil Basin with Four Cloud Scroll Feet, Chinese, Ming dynasty, probably 15th century. Numbered Jun ware: light gray stoneware with variegated magenta and blue glaze; with Chinese numeral 1 (yi) inscribed on base before firing; “Palace of Double Glory” (Chonghua gong) inscription incised on base at a later date. Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Ernest B. and Helen Pratt Dane, 1942.185.56.2. Photo: Harvard Art Museums; © President and Fellows of Harvard College.

5. Adorning the Inner Court: Jun Ware for the Chinese Palace at Harvard Art Museums
“The Harvard Art Museums hold the largest and finest collection in the West of a rare and strikingly beautiful type of ceramic ware used in the private quarters of the Forbidden City, the Chinese imperial palace in Beijing. These numbered Jun wares—so named because each is marked on its base with a single Chinese numeral—have long been admired for their fine potting, distinctive shapes, and radiant purple and blue glazes. Opinions on these vessels’ dates of origin vary widely, and given the scarcity of numbered Jun in most museum collections, a comprehensive study of this unusual ware has never been undertaken outside the imperial collections in China and Taiwan. Drawn entirely from the museums’ permanent collections, this exhibition introduces the typology, technical characteristics, collecting history, and controversies surrounding numbered Jun ware,” reads the exhibition description. Learn more and view additional exhibition images on Harvard's website. On view through August 13, 2017.

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Summer Museum Exhibitions, Part 1: Asian Art in California and Florida

Saito Kiyoshi, Daitoku-ji Temple, Kyoto, 1959. Woodblock. On view as part of the San Diego Museum of Art's Modern Japan exhibition.

We asked our participants to share the museum exhibitions they are most looking forward to this summer—here are their recommendations. For Part 1 of this three-part series, we are featuring three exhibitions to see in California and Florida:

From left to right: Chinese, Vase, Qianlong Period, 1736-1795. 3 1/2 x 1 7/8 in.
Japanese, Nehanzu: Death of the Buddha (detail), 17th Century, 4 x 2 1/2 in.
Indian (Kerala), Venugopala with Attendants and Gopis, 16th century, Bronze, 3 1/8 x 3 5/8 x 1 5/8 in.

1. Show Me the Mini at the Harn Museum of Art
“The art of miniatures takes many forms and exists across time and cultures. Issues of size, scale, modeling, ownership, production, and historical and contemporary functions of miniatures will be examined,” reads the exhibition description. Lark Mason of iGavel Auctions shares with us that “it is a fresh, interesting perspective on a variety of Asian works across several cultures, united by scale. Probably one of the few times one could see in the same exhibit Himalayan gilt bronze figures alongside Japanese woodblock prints, and it works well.” Learn more on the Harn Museum's website. On view through November 25, 2018.

Hashiguchi Goyo, Woman in Loose Summer Yukata, 1920. Woodblock print.

2. Modern Japan: Prints from the Taisho Era (1912-1926) and Beyond at the San Diego Museum of Art
“Combining modernity, scenic tranquility, and Japanese romantic fantasy, Modern Japan: Prints from the Taisho Era (1912–1926) and Beyond showcases several important and well-known Japanese artists and their works from the Museum’s collection of East Asian Art, many for the first time. This exhibition focuses on two major movements, Shin Hanga (New Prints) and Sosaku Hanga (Creative Prints), which arose in the 1910s in Japan, after the end of the Ukiyo-e prints from the Edo Era (1615–1868). The notion of Sosaku Hanga continues to the modern day, so some of these contemporary printmakers, practicing Western printing techniques, are also included in the exhibition,” reads the exhibition description. Learn more and view additional exhibition images on the museum's website. On view through August 13, 2017. 

Namikawa Yasuyuki, Incense Burner (kōro) with Design of Cranes and Pine, c. 1905–15, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift from the Japanese Cloisonné Enamels Collection of Donald K. Gerber and Sueann E. Sherry, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

3. Polished to Perfection: Japanese Cloisonné from the Collection of Donald K. Gerber and Sueann E. Sherry at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
“Polished to Perfection presents approximately 150 works from the collection of Donald K. Gerber and Sueann E. Sherry. Built over the course of more than four decades, the collection contains works crafted by the most accomplished Japanese cloisonné masters of the time including Namikawa Yasuyuki (1845–1927), Namikawa Sōsuke (1847–1919), Hayashi Kodenji (1831–1915), and Kawade Shibatarō (1856–1921). The artists represented in this exhibition raised the art of cloisonné enamel to a level of unparalleled technical and artistic perfection,” reads the exhibition description. Learn more on the museum's website. On view through February 4, 2018.

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Japanese Prints at the Library of Congress

Woodblock print by Andō Hiroshige, 1797-1858, showing a view of Mount Fuji from Satta Point in the Suruga Bay, with breaking waves in the foreground.

High resolution images of more than 2,500 Japanese prints and drawings, spanning the 17th through early 20th centuries, can be viewed and downloaded on the Library of Congress website. The collection includes scenes depicting actors, women, Western foreigners, landscapes, and daily life by Hiroshige, Kuniyoshi, Sadahide, Yoshiiku and others.

“The Library acquired its Japanese woodblock print holdings from a host of different donors and collectors including Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, President William Howard Taft, Crosby Stuart Noyes, and Emily Crane Chadbourne,” writes the Library on its website. “Many schools, traditions, and genres are represented, notably surimono, privately distributed prints combining pictures and poetry, and prints from the Russo-Japanese and Sino-Japanese wars. However, the primary strengths of the collection are the Japanese art forms known as Ukiyo-e and Yokohama-e.”

With summer—and summertime tourism—in full swing, we've selected several scenes depicting travel for your viewing pleasure, below.

Woodblock print by Katsushika Hokusai, 1760-1849: Dawn at Isawa in Kai Province, showing porters carrying bundles and sedan chairs, and travelers departing at dawn, with view of Mount Fuji in the distance.

Woodblock print by Andō Hiroshige, 1797-1858. Print shows five travelers fording a stream, each carrying either a person or a bundle on their back, low buildings in the background, at the Fujieda station on the Tōkaidō Road.

Utagawa Hiroshige, 1826?-1869. Enshū akiba enkei fukuroi no tako (distant view of Akiba of Enshu: kites of Fukuroi), showing people flying kites with open fields and mountains in the distance.

Ikeda Eisen, 1790-1848. Print shows farmers at a mill getting their grain ground on a millstone in front of the miller's establishment; a traveler and a porter pass by, looking back at the operation.

Woodcut by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1798-1861, showing the stream of Asazawa with view of Mount Fuji from the hot springs at Hakone.

Woodblock print by Andō Hiroshige, 1797-1858, showing travelers resting at a teahouse or inn at the Mariko station on the Tōkaidō Road.

To view more scenes of travelers from the collection, go here. To view all prints in the collection, click here.


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Asia Week New York Contemporary: Selections from Onishi Gallery

Shun Sudo (b. 1977)
Acrylic on canvas
31 1/2 x 39 in. (80 x 100 cm)

Shun Sudo (b. 1977) is a cutting-edge artist based in Tokyo. Deeply influenced by American pop culture from a young age, Sudo spent his 20s travelling around the United States. When he returned home to Japan in his early 30s, he began working on paintings that reference his creative roots both in Japanese culture and the contemporary street culture of Western life. As a result, Sudo developed two artistic styles that reflect the two different aspects of his personality. His primary aim is to capture his subject matter in a few stylized brushstrokes—otherwise known as Japanese sumi-e brush stroke painting. He then paints over that image with graffiti pop art which makes for a graphically-animated impression that awakens the eyes, mind, and spirit.

In his current series “Paint Over,” which contains allusions to iconic brands such as Chanel and Nike alongside pop art imagery, Sudo gestures to decades of commercial and counterculture forces. He presents portrait images that feature famous icons in Western culture such as Andy Warhol and John Lennon, but reinterprets the familiar through an original colorful lens. By painting over globally-recognized icons with his own favorite images, such as flowers and hearts, Sudo incorporates his individual worldview into a greater tradition, making viewers re-conceptualize what they already know.

Below are more selections from Onishi Gallery's Asia Week New York Contemporary exhibition, Playful Perfection: The Artist’s Imaginary Universe, on view at 521 West 26th Street, from May 2 to 10:

Tomoko Konno (b. 1967)
Stoneware with nerikomi
h. 21 5/8 x w. 20 1/2 x d. 10 5/8 in. (55 x 52 27 cm)

ITO Sekisui V (b. 1941), Living National Treasure
Sado Island Square Jar
h. 8 5/8 x w. 12 5/8 x d. 9 1/2 in. (22 x 32 x 24 cm)

NAOYA (b. 1958)
PEPO #1.2.1.
h. 33 x w. 17 1/2 x d. 16 3/4 in. (83.6 x 44.2 x 42 cm)

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