Fine Art Asia marks 10th anniversary

Fine Art Asia opens with a preview in Hong Kong on October 3. The Fair, which marks its 10th anniversary this year, runs from October 4-7. The event runs in parallel with Sotheby’s Hong Kong Fall sales and the date coupling ensures that serious Asia art and antiques enthusiasts will flock to Hong Kong at the end of this week.

Andy Hei Founder Andy Hei

The event is organised by Art & Antique International Fair (AAIF) and the men behind it are Hong Kong-based Andy Hei, the well known HK art and antique dealer, and Calvin Hui, who joined the event in 2011. It is, as a rule, attended by a significant number of Western galleries seeking to establish an Asian clientele.

The range of goods on display is wide: Asian art of all periods and types and traditional European art and antiques. Most of the visitors are from Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China. Recently, they have been supplement by a small, growing band of collectors from SE Asia. There are 23 exhibitors in all.

Side events include a loan exhibition of Chinese Imperial furniture, porcelain, etc. and a lecture programme.

The event takes place at the prestigious Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on the Wanchai harbour front. More information at

Fine Art Asia Fine Art Asia at Hong Kong’s Convention and Exhibition Centre


L&T present ‘China Insight’ Sunday school

lr China Insight slide

Edinburgh-based auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull yesterday presented their first Sunday event titled ‘China Insight – Appraising the Market and Your Antiques’. Four speakers addressed an audience made up of a collection of collectors, dealers and journalists specifically involved in the Chinese market. Around fifty people attended – what the event lacked in quantity was probably more than compensated for by the quality of the attendees – to hear four speakers address very different areas of the current market.

James Robinson, Keeper of Art & design at The National Museums of Scotland, reflected on the success of the current exhibition Ming: The Golden Empire (closing October 19). He also outlined the renovation plans for the NMS in Chambers Street, Edinburgh. The Asian Gallery is currently closed and will reopen in a more modern style sometime between 2016 and 2018 ‘dependent on funding’.

lr James Robinson NMS uned

James Robinson addresses attendees at L&Ts China Insight in Edinburgh

L& T’s own Asia department chief Lee Young gave an entertaining account of the human stories behind the sales of some of their most successful Chinese items over the last eight years (a summary of this talk will form the basis of a future posting).

After lunch, former British diplomat Claire Smith, formerly based in China and Hong Kong, identified the links between Scotland and China: sailors, captains, botanists, explorers, civil servants, soldiers and employees of the East India Company. The latter allowed its employees to trade on their own account and engaged a disproportionately large number of Scots. One of that number, William Jardine, went on to found the company which would become Jardine Matheson and the company would go on to give preferential treatment to young Scots when it came to employment. Factors such as this have led to the presence of a surprisingly large amount of Chinese antiques, collected purely as ‘souvenirs’, in Scottish houses.

The last speaker was Douglas Strang Stewart, a Scottish-based expert in ceramic conservation ( He identified many of the challenges facing restorers and conservationists.





Attitudes to Chinese art dealers . . .


Seen at the current National Museum of Scotland exhibition Ming The Golden Empire.


Plus ca change, toujours la meme chose! This was Li Rihua’s view of the Chinese art market at the beginning of the 17th century. Many people would say that not much has changed in 300 years . . .

Manchester is UK focus for Chinese contemporary art

Manchester is poised to become the focus in the UK for Chinese contemporary art. From the end of next week (September 27) the Harmonious Society series of exhibitions opens in six city centre art spaces. It is the largest series of exhibitions within an even larger event in Manchester named Asia Triennial Manchester 2014 (ATM 2014).

The Harmonious Society exhibitions (until November 23) feature over 30 major artists from mainland China, Hong Kong and  Taiwan. There are six city centre art spaces involved: The Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA), ArtWork, The John Rylands Library, Manchester Cathedral, The Museum of Science and Industry and The National Football Museum. There is a wide range of work including painting, audio and video art. The theme of ATM 14 is Conflict and Compassion  and exhibits have been selected accordingly. The events are supported by The Arts Council of England, Stanley Chow and Capital Properties.

The CFCCA is based in Thomas Street, Manchester, within the city’s throbbing Northern Quarter. It was established 28 years ago and has been within its Thomas Street HQ, partly financed by the Arts Council, for ten years.

The Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art and the University of Salford are also presenting the Harmonious Society Conference as part of the wider Harmonious Society programme of exhibitions and events within the Asia Triennial Manchester 2014.
Tickets: £20 (concessions £10), including lunch and drinks reception. Places are limited and booking fast so book your place early: click here for more information and to book your place.
The conference brings together leading international curators and academics with exhibiting artists from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, to review and examine the significance of Chinese contemporary art in the West. The conference provides a unique opportunity to discuss practice-led curatorial research, which critically examines Chinese contemporary art, and the strategies for its curation, from cultural and socio-political perspectives.  Simultaneously the conference offers a rare and detailed insight into the artistic practice and ecology of artists’ development of those participating in the Harmonious Society programme.

Chen Chieh-Jen, Realm of Reverberations, 2013, still. Image courtesy of the artist.
Conference schedule:
09:30   Registration 10:00   Welcome by Prof Allan Walker, Dean of School of Arts and Media and Sarah Fisher, Director, CFCCA 10:10   Introduction by Prof Jiang Jiehong 10:20   Keynote: Prof Lu Xinghua (Shanghai)
11.20   Tea and coffee
11:30   Panel Discussion 1 Chair: Jiang Jiehong  Discussants: Lu Xinghua, Yang Zhenzhong, Zhang Peili and Mei Huang . (Please note that this session will be conducted in Chinese, translated by Li Bowen)
12:40 Lunch Break
13:30 Keynote: Prof Wu Dar-Kuen (Taipei) 14:30 Panel Discussion 2  Chair: Wu Dar-Kuen  Discussants: Chen Chien-jen, Yao Jui-chung and Chou Yu-Ling (Please note that this session will be conducted in Chinese, translated by Li Bowen)
15:30 Tea and coffee
15.50 Panel Discussion 3 Chair: Ying Kwok Discussants: Leung Chi Wo and Pak Sheung Chuen 16.50 Plenary Discussion
17:30 Drinks reception

Auctioneers L& T launch Asia Day initiative

As competition for new Asian items for sale builds, Edinburgh auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull are hosting a day-‐long programme of talks on Asian Art with expert speakers and valuers. Valuations will be available – either of complete collections or individual items – throughout the day and, rather more interestingly, a range of disparate talks will be given.

Speakers at the ‘soft sell’ event on September 28 include a former diplomat involved in the Hong Kong takeover, Claire Smith, who will share her insights into historical trade relations between Scotland and China, including the origin of collections; ceramic conservationist Douglas Strang, an expert on the care and conservation of Chinese porcelain will assess the care and restoration of objects; and James Robinson, Keeper of Art & Design at the National Museums of Scotland, who will provide an inside track on plans for the Museum in the wake of the successful exhibition Ming: The Golden Empire, which is running until next month. All attendees will be offered free tickets to the NMS exhibition.

Also talking will be L&T’s own China expert Lee Young, Head of the Asian Department and a contributor to The Antiques Roadshow, who will talk about the Chinese and Japanese market today and, hardly surprisingly, of the successes enjoyed by Scottish families who have sold through L&T.

The event takes place on September 28 starting at 1100 hours. It will wind up at 1700 and takes place in L&T’s elegant and historic auction room in Edinburgh’s Broughton Place.

L & T preview May 13 (5)

Lyon & Turnbull’s Edinburgh auction room on a recent private view night. Photo Paul Harris


Chen Yifei painting comes to market

 Chen Yifei - Two Reclining Beauties


When Armand Hammer was due to meet with China’s premier, Deng Xiaoping, in the late 1980s, he did not have to think long about what would constitute a suitable gift.  He took with him an early work by Chen Yifei, a young Chinese artist he had discovered in New York, who was (most untraditionally for a young Chinese artist in those days) painting in oil on canvas.

Now Bonhams will be selling another work by this artist – a massive 10ft by 6ft oil depicting two elegant ladies – at its sale of Chinese Classical and Modern Chinese Works of Art on November 17th in Hong Kong for an estimated HK$ 12,000,000 to 14,000,000 (£900,000 to £1m).  The painting titled Two Reclining Beauties was bought by the current owner directly from the artist’s studio, brokered by legendary London dealers Marlborough Fine Art.  This is the first time that it has been seen on the auction market.

The artist Chen Yifei marked the emergence of a radical new direction in the commercial market for Chinese art, painting Western-taste subjects in an oil medium which had not hitherto been at all popular in China.

Chen Yifei has never looked back from the patronage of a famous American collector, and his most expensive work sold two years ago for US$8m.

Armand Hammer (1898–1990) was a hugely successful American entrepreneur, most closely associated with Occidental Petroleum, a company he ran for decades. He was also well known for his art collecting and his philanthropy and his close ties to the Soviet Union.

Hammer’s business interests around the world and his “citizen diplomacy” helped him cultivate a wide network of friends and acquaintances.

Colin Sheaf, Bonhams Asia Chairman, comments: “Since 2007 we have dramatically increased range and quality of the finest Chinese art we offer in Hong Kong. By securing for sale this exceptional oil painting, a masterpiece by one of China’s most innovative and successful painters of the last fifty years, we demonstrate once again that Bonhams’ scholarship, marketing, sale presentation, and record prices are all very reassuring to top consignors around the world.”

Asian Art in London publishes 2014 Guide

Asian Art in London, which takes place from October 30 to November 8 this year, has published its guide to all the 2014 events. The pocket/handbag sized guide is bigger – that is to say, thicker – than ever before as the event, now in its 17th year, continues on a course of expansion.

Most users will, we suspect, find the printed guide most useful as they tramp the streets of London in search of the multiplicity of events. However, for the technologically inclined there is also an App available from the website If you want to get hold of the printed guide you can either telephone 0207499 2215 or email

As usual, there is a packed programme of events: special lectures, prestige auctions and events in galleries private and public. The champagne reception takes place on the evening of Thursday October 30 at the British Museum and the cost of the £60 ticket is somewhat defrayed by free entry to the much vaunted BM exhibition Ming: 50 Years that Changed China.

We shall highlight some of the events in future postings.

Unusual Chinese art image 36 Tuanshan fan


The tuanshan (literally, ’round fan’)is the oldest type of hand fan to be found in China and substantially pre-dates the folding fan (known as zheshan). This type of fan can date back as far as the Han dynasty and was covered, typically, in white silk which might carry calligraphy, paintings or embroideries. The handles were often fashioned from bamboo and they were decorated with Chinese knots, jades or tassels.

Sale of 15th century ‘Lotus Pond Jar’ stirs excitement at Bonhams London

Lotus pond jar 

Bonhams in London have today announced the sale of a Ming object which is causing particular excitement. ‘Once in a while something truly rare, special and unique appears in the art market and the buzz being created at Bonhams by the sale of a small, fairly modest looking jar painted with a lotus motif from the Ming period, is tangible.

‘The ‘lotus pond jar’ is one of the top items in Bonhams next sale of fine Chinese Art on November 6th in New Bond Street, London. Estimated to sell for £400,000 to £600,000 it is evident that these figures may only be an indication of this prized jar’s value.’

The jar has come from a European private collection and has not been seen at auction for over half a century. [Its sale coincides this year with the British Museum’s major exhibition on the art of the Ming dynasty and also that of the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh].

The jar bears the mark of the Chinese Emperor Chenghua who ruled between 1464 – 1487. Earlier in the same century Chinese potters at the Imperial kilns began for the first time to write on top-quality vessels. And this mark is said to be the ultimate sign of Imperial ‘quality control’.

Pond jar 2

For centuries most Chinese connoisseurs have considered Chenghua period ceramics as amongst the finest ever created in China. The exceptionally clear glaze did not require heavy ornamentation but could be sparingly and elegantly decorated. The most sensational development in Ming Dynasty porcelain was the arrival of a lustrous white glaze on which to paint over a design for fixing in a secondary firing of the vase.

Adding to the romance, beauty and significance of this jar is the use of the lotus flower as a decorative device, something closely associated with the Lord Buddha.

The creamy white body is finely painted in a soft underglaze blue with delicate outlines further enamelled in rich iron-red, soft yellow, and vibrant green with an elegantly arranged profusion of variously opening lotus flowers and spreading and crinkling leaves. The design is further highlighted by two small butterflies in flight.

Pond jar 3

Colin Sheaf, Head of Asian Art at Bonhams and the company’s Deputy Chairman and Asia Chairman, says: “Three decades in the Chinese Art trade does not entirely prepare you for an object like this. When I saw it for the first time, after years of storage, it had that certain something, that charisma of the truly spectacular object which creates a frisson of excitement in anyone who knows about Chinese porcelain. Its very simplicity is of course part of its charm, as this reflects the ambition of all great Chinese art.”

The November 6 sale does, of course, coincide with Asian Art in London.

Major UK show for Ai Weiwei at Blenheim Palace

ai weiwei Ai Weiwei

Always controversial and challenging, Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei‘s work is to go on show as the launch exhibition of the Blenheim Art Foundation.Opening at Blenheim Palace, near to London, this autumn, the exhibition will showcase more than 50 artworks by Ai Weiwei produced over the last 30 years in the artist’s most extensive UK exhibition ever.The show will cover the breadth of Weiwei’s career, spanning the early photography dating from his New York period in the 1980s, through to new works conceived in China specifically for the exhibition.A renowned political activist, Weiwei has not been able to leave China since 2011, resulting in his working with the Blenheim Art Foundation team from his home in China on 3D plans and models of the site and grounds.Notable pieces on show will include Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold (2010) and He Xie (2010), comprising 2,300 small porcelain crabs.A series of 55 photographs by Ai Weiwei documenting his time spent in New York from 1983 to 1993 will also be showcased, alongside Marble Surveillance Camera (2010), a poignant reminder of Ai’s current situation, and Slanted Table (1997), a piece drawing on the artistic heritage of the Qing Dynasty.

New works created for the exhibition will include the site-specific carpet Soft Ground (Great Hall), and hand-painted porcelain plates with ‘freedom flower’ details.

Ai Weiwei at Blenheim Palace is the first major contemporary art exhibition to be presented at the UNESCO World Heritage site, which dates back to 1704 and is famously known as the birthplace of British prime minister Winston Churchill.

The exhibition will run from October 1 – December 14.

blenheim art foundation

The Foundation has just presented its mission statement in the following terms. ‘Offering visitors a unique opportunity to experience contemporary art in the historic setting of the Palace and its celebrated Parkland and Formal Gardens, the not-for-profit foundation aims to give the greatest number of people access to the most innovative contemporary artists working today.

It is founded by Lord Edward Spencer-Churchill, son of His Grace 11th Duke of Marlborough. A dedicated collector of contemporary art, Lord Edward has long held the ambition to launch a contemporary art programme at Blenheim Palace. He realises Blenheim Art Foundation with newly appointed Director, Michael Frahm.’