As part of its Conservation Lab column, The Creators Project blog recently ran an article on the restoration of an ancient Japanese scroll at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. The beginning of the article reads as follows:
"If you visit the Museum of Fine Arts Boston these days, you can witness conservation in action on an enormous Japanese hanging scroll, which is currently being remounted in the Asian paintings gallery. Hanabusa Itchō’s masterpiece The Death of the Historical Buddha was painted in 1713 and entered the MFA Boston’s collection in 1911. Though it was last on view in 1990, the scroll hadn’t been treated since 1850. “Usually these scrolls are remounted every 100 years or so, which is why the project was a priority,” Jacki Elgar, Head of Asian Conservation at the museum, tells The Creators Project.
As time goes on, scroll mounts can begin to fail or damage the painting, she explains—this is the most common reason for treatment. A painting might also become a candidate for remounting if the mount is inappropriate (for example, a 16th century painting that is mounted in a 20th century style), or if it was put inside a frame by a Western collector, in which case it can be returned to its original, hanging scroll format.
At 10 feet tall by 6 feet wide, Death of Buddha is the largest scroll in the MFA Boston’s collection, and conservators knew the project would take some extra sets of hands. Lucky for them, the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery is currently closed for renovations, so two of its East Asian painting conservators were able to travel north and join the effort. The MFA Boston began working on the logistics of the project three years ago, and hands-on work in the lab finally began in the spring of this year. In August, the scroll was moved to the Asian paintings gallery so the public could watch the process."
We asked some of our participants for their favorite Asian art-related books—both fiction and non-fiction. For Part III of our reading list, we are focusing on Indian, Himalayan, and Southeast Asian art. We hope you'll find inspiration in these pages. These are all available on Amazon, but do support your local bookstore if you can!
Leiko Coyle of Christie's deems both of these volumes "must-haves for Himalayan art."
"This splendid collection, while not representing all the major styles of sculpture that flourished on the Indian subcontinent from 700-1900, is certainly one of the most comprehensive among American and European museums," reads the synopsis.
This is another of Coyle's must-haves. It "illustrates, explains and celebrates 241 examples of Tibetan sacred art of the 9th to 12th centuries," according to the synopsis. "The authors discuss the religious meaning and use of tangkas, Buddhist iconography and the aesthetics of tangka paintings, sculpture and mandalas."
"It is the BIBLE when it comes to Himalayan metalwork," comments Suneet Kapoor of Kapoor Galleries Inc. "Although more valuable for the pictures, it is indispensable when researching the subject matter. No serious Himalayan art enthusiast/scholar is without this book in their library!"
Kapoor also recommends this two-volume set, calling it "a perfect primer for those who seek to gain an understanding into the various religions of India & South Asia." The synopsis promises "a unique product of scholarship and photography, which presents a view of Indian Art that is believed to be the most comprehensive ever undertaken."
"The book is engaging to novice readers, yet the illustrations will serve as reference for seasoned collectors, scholars and curators," says Kapoor. "From a personal standpoint, this is a special volume, as both authors were frequent visitors to my father’s gallery during the 1960’s, when he had a gallery in South Extension Market, New Delhi."
We asked some of our participants for their favorite Asian art-related books—both fiction and non-fiction. For Part II of our reading list, we are focusing on Japanese art. We hope you'll find inspiration in these pages. These are all available on Amazon, but do support your local bookstore if you can!
Jeffrey Olson, director of the Japanese department at Bonhams, recommends this title, which "tells the story of the tightly knit group of nineteenth-century travelers—connoisseurs, collectors, and scientists—who dedicated themselves to exploring and preserving Old Japan," according to the synopsis.
"I have always loved and treasured this insightful and elegant small book-essay," shares Joan Mirviss. "Written in 1933, it brilliantly captures the essence of the particular aesthetic sensibilities of the Japanese."
"This novel is about the talented artist, Katsushika Oi (ca. 1800 – ca. 1866), who lived under the shadow of her father, the great 19th century Japanese artist, Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)," says Katherine Martin, the director of Scholten Japanese Art.
She also recommends two novels by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, Naomi and The Makioka Sisters, adding: "These both capture the dynamic time before World War II in Japan, and some of the art I handle seem to be portraits of the female characters brought to life in these novels."
We asked some of our participants for their favorite Asian art-related books—both fiction and non-fiction. For Part I of our reading list, we are focusing on China and Chinese art. We hope you'll find inspiration in these pages. These are all available on Amazon, but do support your local bookstore if you can!
The staff at J. J. Lally & Co. say this is "the best book for the general reader looking for a good overview of the basics of Chinese art and culture, and an excellent resource for scholars. The essays are well-written and accompanied by beautiful color illustrations. Even though the book was published over 20 years ago, the scholarly research still stands today and provides a reliable outline of the history of Chinese art."
Recommended by Carol Conover, director of Kaikodo LLC, this novel centers on Lia Frank, an American appraiser of Chinese porcelain. "When she is sent to Beijing to authenticate a collection of rare pieces, Lia will find herself changing in surprising ways…coming alive in the shadow of an astounding mystery," reads the synopsis.
Michael Hughes recommends this history book, which provides an "insightful analysis of the principal changes that Mongolian concepts of community, rule, and religion underwent from 1500 to 1900 while offering new insights into Qing and Buddhist history," reads the synopsis.
The staff at J. J. Lally & Co. recommend this title, describing it as "a catalogue of an excellent exhibition of ancient Chinese, Central Asian and Middle Eastern art and artifacts all found in China. The beautifully illustrated book shows many famous sculptures, including rarities not well published anywhere else. In the wide-ranging catalogue essays by Annette Juliano, Judith Lerner and five other scholars, the story of the mercantile and cultural interaction across great distances over the now famous ‘Silk Road’ is presented in a work of high scholarship. Fascinating to read."
The exhibition The Power and Pleasure of Possessions in Korean Painted Screens explores the genre of Korean still-life painting known as chaekgeori 冊巨里 (loosely translated as books and things). Chaekgeori [Check-oh-ree, 책거리) was one of the most prolific art forms of Korea’s Joseon dynasty (1392–1910), and it continues to be used today. It often depicts books and other material commodities as symbolic embodiments of knowledge, power, and social reform.
For the first time in United States, more than twenty screen paintings dating from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries of the Joseon dynasty are on view at the Charles B. Wang Center at Stony Brook University in New York from September 29 to December 23, 2016.
Chaekgeori, the Scholar’s Accoutrements. Late nineteenth-century Korea. Ink and color on paper, Ten-panel screen, 78" (H) x 152" (W). Private Collection.
Curated by a group of Korean art experts that includes Byungmo Chung (professor, Gyeongju University), Sunglim Kim (professor, Dartmouth College), Jinyoung Jin(Director of Cultural Programs, Charles B. Wang Center), Sooa Im McCormick (Assistant Curator of Asian Art, Cleveland Museum of Art), and Kris Imants Ercums (Curator of Global Contemporary and Asian Art, Spencer Museum of Art), this collection showcases marvelous and rare examples of chaekgeori screens alongside the works of a diverse body of contemporary artists who continue this genre into the twenty-first century. Seven contemporary artists featured in the exhibition are Stephanie S. Lee, Seongmin Ahn, Kyoungtack Hong, Patrick Hughes, Sungpa, Young-Shik Kim, and Airan Kang.
Initially intended as a means to maintain and promote the disciplined Confucian lifestyle of Joseon Korea against an influx of ideas and technology from abroad, King Jeongjo (1752–1800, r. 1776–1800) encouraged court painters to emphasize books as the main subjects of royal screen paintings and to embrace the power of books and the ideas contained within them. He even went so far as to replace the screen behind his throne with a new chaekgeori screen—an extraordinarily dramatic break from tradition at that time. Realizing that books were vehicles of change in his society, King Jeongjo worked hard to popularize the idea of books as symbols able to transcend the tangible originals among Korea’s artisans and other elites. Yet in process, the value of physical books actually increased, and books were highly sought-after. This desire for books and other commodities in Korea set in motion a significant social and cultural shift toward materialism that continues into the twenty-first century. One can say that chaekgeori paintings not only have the ability to teach and inspire, but they also possess the power to shape the values of a society.
After its run at the Charles B. Wang Center, the exhibition will travel to the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas (April 8–June 12, 2017), and then to the Cleveland Museum of Art (August 5–November 5, 2017). An exhibition catalogue will be available soon.
Chaekgeori, the Scholar’s Accoutrements. Late nineteenth-century Korea. Ink and color on paper. Six-panel screen, 59" (H) x 114" (W). Private Collection.
Stephanie S. Lee. Cabinet of Desire II, 2016. Natural mineral pigment, colored and gold pigment, ink on Korean mulberry paper. 48" (H) x 50" (W) x 2”(D). Courtesy of the Artist.
We want to alert all participants in Asia Week activities to proposed legislation by the US Senate, which would greatly affect the collecting and trading of antiquities. Last month, on 16 September 2016, a bill called “Terrorism Art and Antiquity Revenue Prevention Act” was introduced in the US Senate as Senate Bill 3499, in the form of an amendment to the National Stolen Property Act, a criminal statute.
The purpose of the bill is to provide a means to prevent the import into the US of Iraqi and Syrian antiquities, which have been looted by ISIS and are being sold to fund their terrorist activities. None of us objects to the goal of thwarting ISIS, but the extreme and all-encompassing measures outlined in the proposed bill would create extraordinary risks and penalties for all collectors, curators and dealers handling any kind of ancient art from any country in the world. The bill would give US Federal agencies virtually unlimited discretion to seize and repatriate any cultural artifacts on the basis of the assumption that they may possibly have been removed illicitly from the country of origin. The reach of the proposed bill extends to items, which may have been long traded and displayed in the US.
The proposed senate bill calls for criminal prosecution by amending the National Stolen Property Act to make it illegal to possess, sell or transport artifacts valued over $5,000, which may be considered stolen on the basis of a “national patrimony” or “national ownership” law that is consistently applied in that foreign country.
We strongly recommend that you read the content of this website link and consider supporting them with a donation. We all should do our best to help with efforts to avoid such a wide-ranging overreaching bill as now has been proposed.
We all support the goal of opposing ISIS in every way possible, but the enforcement of all foreign cultural property laws by US federal agencies is not an effective method, and it would give arbitrary power to prosecute and penalize innocent collectors, dealers, and curators seeking to exhibit, study, preserve, and trade in ancient art from around the world.
Geoffrey Bradfield with Liao Yibai's Fake Ring, Pink Iceberg (2010).
Refined, luxurious, exquisitely curated, fearless, bespoke, and completely of the moment—these are the essential elements of Geoffrey Bradfield’s signature style, sought after by Fortune 500 clients and others for whom the firm long ago coined the phrase “silent celebrities,” which include some of the most prominent aristocratic and royal families in the world. Among Bradfield’s many highly celebrated projects are: a major overhaul of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s Westbury, Long Island estate, restoration of the late King Hussein’s mansion in Maryland, and the design of Hollywood director Oliver Stone’s riverside New York apartment. Geoffrey Bradfield Inc. is headquartered in New York.
"I am particularly intrigued with burgeoning Asian artists," Bradfield shared with us. "Their creative vision puts a new spin on the genus. Among the many, Liao Yibai's current collection “Real Fake” is stunning. I am also enamored with the work of the Luo Brothers and Sui Jianguo, whose pieces I have showcased in famed movie director Oliver Stone’s New York residence."
We asked Asian art specialists at Sotheby's, Christie's, and iGavel Auctions for their advice on how to approach auction sales as a budding collector.
"First and foremost, buy what you love," says Leiko Coyle, VP and Senior Specialist in Indian and Southeast Asian Art at Christie's. "Art is about emotion and passion. You should have a visceral reaction to what you collect." Christina Prescott-Walker, Senior VP and Division Director of Asian Art at Sotheby's, echoes the sentiment: "Buy what appeals to you, what you will be interested in researching, and what you would like to see around you in your home."
"Second, do your homework. The best way to learn is to look," continues Coyle. Lark Mason, founder of iGavel Auctions, recognizes that "auctions can be intimidating," but "one of the best strategies is immersion. Fortunately, auction houses are welcoming and there are ample opportunities for a novice bidder to attend an exhibition, purchase a catalog, and pick out a dozen or so objects that are interesting to follow in an auction sale."
"Don’t be afraid to come to an auction house view and handle the objects; handling pieces is the best way to learn," adds Prescott-Walker. "The specialists are also happy to view with you and answer questions." You should also "go to museums to train your eye," suggests Coyle, but remember, at an auction house "you not only get to look, but have the option of handling the work."
So what's next? Mason recommends a practice run:
"Make notes on the condition of the objects you choose and go home, do some sleuthing in the ‘sold lot archives’ and find similar examples that have previously sold at auction, and come up with an amount you would bid if you were really bidding. Once you do your homework, contact the auction house and request a ‘condition report’ for a small number out of your larger selection, and then attend the auction. See who bids and follow the results. You’ll learn a lot and not risk any money, and prepare yourself for the real thing next time."
Prescott-Walker also emphasizes how crucial condition reports are. "Ask for condition reports or print them out online, and view the objects with the condition report in hand. Without knowing the condition of a piece, the final auction result has little meaning."
All recommend closely following auction results in order to understand the market. You can also "visit galleries and inquire about pricing," Coyle reminds us.
Once you're ready to bid, do so "in person, by phone or online if you can, rather than leaving a written bid. It will help you get a feel for prices."
From September 9–17, it's Fall 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, and photography. Think of it as a teaser for the March 2017 edition of Asia Week New York! Here's our guide to the exhibitions on view (please consult individual gallery websites for visiting hours—most are open, at minimum, from 11am to 5pm).
Walter Arader is presenting an exhibition of recent acquisitions, including a large scale 13th century Tibetan copper alloy figure of Buddha Shakyamuni seated at 48.7 cm (19.25 in), a 4th century Gupta stone bust of the goddess Varahi, a large scale 18th century Thangka of an accumulation field, and other fine works. On view September 9–17 at 1016 Madison Avenue.
Qian Han (b.1953), Jinan Auto Mechanic, 1976.
China 2000 Fine Art marks the 40th anniversary of the end of the Cultural Revolution with an exhibition entitled "Rejoice Over Victory." “These paintings are more than propaganda, more than a voyeur’s look into a devastating decade for China; they are the prototypes upon which the following generations would base their perceptions of the world,” writes the gallery in an announcement. On view September 6–28 at 177 East 87th Street, #601.
KIYOMIZU Rokubei VII 七世清水六兵衛 (1922-2006). Incense Burner “Seki-toh-yoh 9” 席陶容-九, 1989. Stoneware. 8.6 x 4.8 x 4.6 in (22 x 12.2 x 11.8 cm).
Dai Ichi Arts, Ltd. celebrates the art of incense burners with an exhibition entitled “Scented Splendors.” “Incense is believed to expel evils, to refresh the environment, purify the spirit, and to provide a calming and pleasant atmosphere,” explains the gallery in an announcement. On view September 15-30 at 18 East 64th Street, Suite 1F.
Morita Shiryu. SO, 1963. Lacquer on rice paper. 58 x 46 in.
A diverse array of works make up Carole Davenport's "Recent Acquisitions," including pieces by Morita Shiryu and Hiroyuki Asano. On view September 10–20 at 131 East 83rd Street.
Vishnu in His Cosmic Sleep. Beige Sandstone, Central India (Madhya Pradesh), circa 11th century. 11 1/2 x 22 inches.
Nayef Homsi Ancient Art of Asia is staging an exhibition of Indian stones revolving around the Hindu deity Vishnu, dating from the 9th-12th century. A very early Gandharan sculpture of a seated Buddha, considered the last avatar of the god Vishnu, will also be on view. The exhibition runs September 9–16 at 7 East 75th Street, Unit 1A.
A Large Painted Figure of a Groom. Northern Dynasties, Mid-6th century A.D. Height: 53.3 cm (21 in).
The advent of fall is being observed at Kaikodo with an exhibition entitled "Worlds in Flux," which brings together Chinese and Japanese paintings of autumn, along with a selection of works of art produced during China’s Six Dynasties period—a deeply fragmented era that was also marked by intense creative energy in the realms of art and literature. On view September 9–17 at 74 East 79th Street.
Radha and Krishna under parasol Bundi school, India. Gouache heightened with gold on paper, circa 18th century. Folio: 6 7⁄8x 9 1⁄2 in. (17.5 x 24.1 cm).
This September, Kapoor Galleries, Inc. is exhibiting a selection of quality works from India and the Himalayas. The gallery is open 11am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. Appointments are suggested.
Joan B. Mirviss Ltd is presenting "Waves of Ink: Painting in Porcelain," a solo exhibition of new works by Kondo Takahiro (b. 1958). Celebrated for his “silver mist” (gintekisai) overglaze, Kondo has created a new body of large and small works based on his continuing preoccupation with the 3/11 tsunami and its short and long term effects on the people and landscape of Japan. On view September 13–October 28 at 39 East 78th Street.
IMAIZUMI Imaemon XIV (b. 1962). Vase with Zuika (Mullein) Flower Patterns, 2013. Porcelain with iro-e polychrome enamel painting with light sumi and sumi-hajiki. 14 1/2 x 12 1/4 in (36.6 x 31.2 cm).
In honor of its 10-year anniversary, Onishi Gallery presents a landmark exhibition entitled "Kōgei: Contemporary Japanese Art." With works by 30 contemporary artists, this exhibition introduces Kōgei into the international art market—a category of objects that can be translated from Japanese as "art crafts," and draw upon regional aesthetics and materials. On view September 8–October 8 at 521 West 26th Street.
Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III, 1786-1865). Morita Kanya XI in the role of Saito Tarozaemon Toshiyuki. 1860, woodblock print. 14 3/8 by 10 in (36.5 by 25.3 cm).
Scholten Japanese Art presents "Strike a Pose: Spectacular Imagery of the Kabuki Theater," an exhibition that brings together an array of imagery related to one of Japan’s most distinctive, and yet possibly least understood, cultural exports: the kabuki theater. The exhibition focuses on ukiyo-e woodblock prints portraying popular actors in lavish costumes on stage as well as relaxing off stage. On view September 8–16, and then again November 1–5 for Print Week, at 145 West 58th Street, Suite 6D.
Tomohiro Muda. Mizu 06, 2011. Inkjet Pigment Print, Edition of 25. 47¼ × 31½ in (120 x 80 cm).
Erik Thomsen Asian Art is holding an exhibition of works by Tomohiro Muda (b. 1956). Previously best known for images inspired by sites of religious devotion and pilgrimage, for this New York debut show, Muda has turned his focus to the natural world with a selection of photographs of earth’s most abundant natural resource: water. On view September 12–October 7 at 23 East 67th Street.
Small Sancai Amphora. Tang Dynasty, 618-907 A.D., China. Height: 10.75 cm.
Eric Zetterquist will be showcasing an assortment of Chinese ceramics from the Tang, Song and Yuan Dynasties, along with additional pieces from the Feng Wen Tang Collection and pieces sourced from Japanese and American collections. Open to the public September 9–17 at 3 East 66th Street, #1B.
by Sarah Laursen, Curator of Asian Art, Middlebury College Museum of Art
I first encountered “Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World” two years ago while visiting the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. Curated by tattoo artist Takahiro Kitamura (AKA Ryūdaibori, formerly Horitaka) and designed by photographer/filmmaker Kip Fulbeck, the exhibition consisted of more than 100 stunning photographs of Japanese-style tattoos, ranging from single sleeves to full bodysuits. I knew immediately that I wanted the exhibition to travel to the Middlebury College Museum of Art in Middlebury, Vermont.
In this exhibition I saw an opportunity to reach out to a diverse cross-section of tattooed Vermonters, including some who may never have visited our museum before. According to The Harris Poll, almost one in three adults in the United States has one or more tattoos, and I suspected that the number might even be higher in Vermont. Even those without tattoos, like myself, might be curious or find inspiration in the gorgeous flowers, fish, deities, and warriors who adorn the subjects of Fulbeck’s photographs. However, in a state with such a small population, I knew it would be difficult to get the word out—I needed a special event to capture the public’s attention.
My brother-in-law, Christopher Holt, and his San Francisco-based tattooer NaKona MacDonald bravely volunteered to do a live tattooing demonstration. Although traditional Japanese tattoo, or irezumi, is performed manually by impressing needles attached to a tool into the skin, this demonstration would employ the tattoo machine, which was invented in 1891 by tattoo artist Samuel O’Reilly.
The only potential obstacle was Vermont’s strict regulatory laws. In order to receive a temporary license—in fact, the first temporary license ever issued by the state—I had to convert the café in the Mahaney Center for the Arts (where the museum is housed) into an actual tattoo shop. This endeavor entailed the participation of more than forty people, including the state inspector who walked me through the process, a local masseuse who lent a massage table, the facilities crew who removed the café’s cappuccino machine, the college lawyers who gave the go-ahead, and the student health center staff who contributed hospital-grade disinfectant and needle disposal. I myself had to draft consent forms and make several trips to the store for gauze, razors, gloves, and other provisions.
On July 9th, with licenses issued, NaKona began sketching out the next phase of Chris’ dragon back piece. That week, a Burlington-based newspaper called Seven Days had listed the event as its top pick for that weekend in Vermont, and more than 300 visitors attended the demonstration and exhibition. (On an average summer Saturday, that number is usually closer to forty.) Museum-goers of all ages—from children perched on parents’ shoulders to octogenarians from the nearby retirement center—flocked to the exhibition and to the café-turned-tattoo-shop, where they peppered NaKona with questions and offered encouragement to Chris.
Perhaps the most remarkable outcome of the demonstration and exhibition was the visible transformation of visitors, from curious and apprehensive to comfortable and inquisitive. Tattooing is still considered taboo in Japan, and that stigma does exist to a lesser degree in the United States. However, exhibitions like “Perseverance” challenge those negative views and open the door to endless new forms of artistic expression.
Watch a brief video of the tattooing demonstration below: