AFE exhibitors featured Asian art

The Antiques for Everyone (AFE) debut show at London Excel closed on Sunday after three days of trade. First editions of shows like this are always difficult and exhibitors reported widely varying results which ranged from ecstatic to downcast.

Several exhibitors showed items of Asian art but three had a significant part of their stand devoted to the genre. Paul Harris Asia Arts displayed a wide variety of mainly Chinese art, including a very large white ceramic statue of Mao Tse Tung created in 1967. It is believed to be unique and carried a £500,000 price tag. It was not sold but it did become something of an attraction and brought many visitors to the stand. The exhibit recorded a number of ‘modest’ sales.

Paul Harris Asia arts stand LR

The Mao statue, extreme left, on the Paul Harris Asia Arts stand at AFE

Philip Carrol, from Yorkshire, is a regular exhibitor at fairs like AFE. He had secured enough sales to make the venture profitable and was generally positive about the experience. Many dealers pointed out that the costs of showing were modest for a London venue. ‘Where can you show in London at this very modest cost?’ one pointed out, ‘We shall take a long term view and stay on board for such a small outlay. The results will come later.’

Philip Carol stand

Also showing was Koos Limburg from Scotland. The firm is also a regular exhibitor at fairs and were showing a number of Chinese items, including some fine ivory.

Koss Limburg stand

Visitor numbers were somewhat depleted on the opening day: it snowed in London (an event which tends to set off panic in the metropolis) and Southern Rail were engaged in one of their regular strike actions. Saturday seemed to be considerably busier. Exhibitors who had circlated their regular clientele in the London area appeared to be rather busier than those trying to built a customer base.

One significant advantage of the fair, from an exhibitor’s point of view, had to be the ease of set up and breakdown. Exhibitors were given the use of an empty hall right next to the exhibition for car parking during both set up and break down. Reactions to this were overwhelmingly positive.

 

 

‘Unique’ white porcelain statue of Mao Tse Tung to be offered for £500,000 at AFE

An almost life-size white porcelain statue of legendary Chinese leader Mao Tse Tung is to be offered for sale at half a million pounds (sterling) at next month’s Antiques for Everyone Fair: Art, Antiques, Interiors Fair at London’s Excel Exhibition Centre. It is said to be quite possibly ‘unique’ and the only survivor of an edition of just two made in 1967.

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The statue was produced in October 1967 to the order of the Chinese government. It is now owned by Scottish investment company Coldingham Investments Ltd, which has extensive interests in the Chinese art market. Explains managing director Paul Harris, ‘We know that two of these statues were made but there is no trace now of the other one which went to Chinese government offices after completion. This statue of China’s controversial leader may well be unique.

‘It is dated October 1967 which was a landmark time for China as the Cultural Revolution was launched. It is a ‘heroic’ interpretation of Mao at the height of his adulation. As such, it is a vitally important historical relic.’

The 1.42m-tall white-glazed statue is accurate down to every last detail, including the birthmark on Mao’s face. The subject wears the legendary ‘Mao jacket’ with every button faithfully replicated. For many years this statue graced the halls of the Chinese Embassy in Rome but was removed from show when the great leader fell from favour. It is in perfect condition.

According to researches carried out by the vendors, it was made in 1967 in China’s porcelain capital, Jingdezhen. Says Paul Harris, ‘It is notoriously difficult to make a white porcelain statue of this very large size. Accordingly, large numbers could not be manufactured. This perfect example would probably have been preceded by dozens of failures during the firing process. We know of no other surviving examples.’

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The 50 year-old statue is inscribed with the brave legend ‘May Mao Tse Tung live for 10,000 years’. It bears the number ‘2’ and and also bears the date October 1967.

It will be on show at AFE, the first London edition of AFE which has enjoyed a successful run in Birmingham for many years, with an unveiling on Stand E5 (Paul Harris Asia Arts) on the morning of January 13. AFE takes place at the Excel Exhibition Centre in the east of London January 13-15.

Further details may be had by emailing paul@chineseart.co.uk.

20-mao

 

 

Our favorites from Asian Art in London . . .

Wandering around Asian Art in London two weeks ago, we saw a good many desirable things which we would have loved to take home. Here is our selection of what we thought of as the most desirable things to grace our own halls. If we only had the cash, of course!

The first two were found at Ben Janssen’s in Jermyn Street where he had his usual selection of captivating small objects, supplemented by an excellent catalogue. His catalogues go straight to my reference shelves as soon as I get home . . .

ben-janssens-elephant-incense-burner

A bronze incense burner in the form of an elephant

Ming dynasty, 16th – 17th century

Height: 6 1/2 inches, 16.5 cm

Length: 6 1/2 inches, 16.5 cm

A bronze incense burner in the form of an elephant, standing foursquare with its head turned back and its trunk curled between the tusks. The separately cast, openwork cover is decorated with bunched lotus flowers. The elephant wears a howdah engraved with lotus flowers and is richly attired with caparisons composed of ‘jewelled’ straps and tassels. The rim of the cover is engraved with a six-character mark of Xuande (Da Ming Xuande Nian Zi). The elephant’s fittings were originally inlaid in semi-precious stones.

The elephant (xiang) is known to have existed in China during the Bronze Age. Proof that the animal was a popular subject in art from very early times is provided most spectacularly by a large Shang dynasty zun (12th – 11th century BC) in the form of an elephant in the collection of the Musée Guimet in Paris.[ The elephant became extinct in China soon afterwards, but the animal’s enduring popularity as a decorative motif symbolising strength and high moral standards[ is evident from the many extant representations in practically all available materials in Chinese art. A richly caparisoned elephant is often seen in the presence of the Emperor, either as a bearer of tribute gift or as an exotic animal in the Emperor’s menagerie. The hollow body and the openwork cover suggest that this bronze elephant was designed as an incense burner. Although the cover of the present incense burner is engraved with the six-character mark of the emperor Xuande, who reigned from 1425 to 1435, the piece is unlikely to date from that period, but the compactness of the animal and the fine detail of the casting certainly suggests a Ming dynasty date, albeit of a somewhat later period.

ben-janssens-miniature-huanghuali-table

We just love the restrained elegance and delicate proportions of this miniature huanghuali table with marble top which is late Ming to early Qing dynasty, 17th – 18th century.

Length: 13 inches, 33 cm

Width: 5 3/4 inches, 14.7 cm

Height: 5 1/8 inches, 13 cm

It is a miniature table made of huanghuali, supported on two pairs of recessed legs located at both ends. The rectangular top is inlaid with a slab of marble and has everted flanges above a shaped, beaded apron. The frontward curving legs are supported by spandrels carved with chi dragons in openwork. The marble slab combines whitish and greyish colours, together with some linear red veins. The wood is well polished and well patinated.

  • This piece is a miniature version of a large qiaotouan table with recessed legs, and embodies all the characteristics of the form.  Similar small table stands with decorative stone panels are shown in the 18th-century illustrations to the novel Jin Ping Mei (‘Flower in a Golden Vase’), where they support the ‘Three Friends of Incense’ – the incense tool vase, incense burner and incense powder box.[1]  Stone panels are especially suitable for incense stands as they resist scorching, and their figuration evokes images that change according to the viewer’s mood or the side from which it is viewed. A comparable 17th-century miniature qiaotouan table made of huanghuali, similarly inlaid with a marble panel on its top, is in the collection of the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture.[2]
  • Provenance: the collection of Louise Hawley Stone (1904 – 1997), Toronto, Canada. She was the Royal Ontario Museum’s first volunteer and was also a major donor, fundraiser, Board member and committee chair.

[1] Wang, Shixiang and Evarts, C. Masterpieces from the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture, Chinese Art Foundation, Chicago and San Francisco, 1995, p. 82

[2] Wang, Shixiang and Evarts, C. op. cit. no. 86, pp. 182-3

rare-sancai-buffalo

We found this highly unusual blue, straw and amber-glazed model of a recumbent buffalo (Tang Dynasty, 8th century) At Littleton & Hennessey in St James’. It is modelled recumbent on a oblong base with its right foreleg outstretched, glazed in blue with straw-glazed highlights, the base glazed in blue and amber. Dimensions: 18.5 cm wide x 12 cm high

Domestic animals were popular subjects in the Tang tombs, and are amongst some of the most charming and playful examples of sancai-pottery. The current buffalo is unusual in that it is depicted recumbent, while most of the buffalo we see are depicted standing. However, a seated mythical beast in the Tenri Sankokan Museum Collection in Nara, Japan, has very similar modelling, with its left front leg tucked underneath, and right foreleg outstretched. Compare also the model of donkey in the Shaanxi History Museum, which is blue-glazed like the current piece.

Provenance: The Sze Yuan Tang Collection (思源堂藏)

You will note we have not given any prices on these outstanding pieces. As the old adage goes, if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it!

 

 

 

Asian Art in London III Jorge Welsh puts on impressive Chinese export ware show

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One’s first impression of this exhibition, associated with Asian Art in London and held at Jorge Welsh’s Kensington Church Street Gallery, is of glittering, shiny riches. The brightly lit array of Chinese export ware is breathtaking and leads one to muse how it has been possible to gather together such a cohesive collection of apparently perfect beautiful things.

This exhibition A Time and A Place: Views and Perspectives on Chinese Export Art  focuses on those views and perspectives that show buildings in their settings extending chronologically through the late-17th until the late 19th century, and covering a range of works of art that are illustrative of interest in the subject as a type of cultural expression. While researching for the exhibition and the catalogue, a number of sources such as prints and engravings, for previously unidentified scenes painted in Chinese porcelain were discovered and are in some cases, presented for the first time alongside the actual pieces.

There is a diverse range of works of art, ranging from individual plates, dinner services, tea sets, punch bowls, mugs, snuff boxes, urns, cisterns, vases, and plaques made in porcelain, to folding fans, painted ivory plaques, lacquer, and canvas. These pieces are hybrid objects, both Chinese and European, becoming historical testimonies of artistic interactions between the two cultures.

The exhibition contains over 140 porcelains, paintings and works of art, real treasures of Chinese export art. Below we illustrate just two examples from the show. punch-bowl_jorge-welsh-works-of-art_other-side

Punch Bowl

Qing dynasty

Qianlong period (1736-1795)

  1. 1790

Porcelain decorated in overglaze polychrome enamels and gold

  1. 16.5 cm Ø 38 cm

 jorgewelsh_a-time-and-a-place_macao-wood-panel

Panel with a view of Macao

Qing dynasty

(1644-1911)

First half of 18th century

Wood lacquered in black and decorated with gold lacquer

  1. 85.5 cm W. 59 cm

The show continues until November 11.

 

Asian Art in London II The Oriental Ceramic Society Exhibition is a stunner!

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Far and away, our favourite absolute highlight of AAL has been The Oriental Ceramic Society display in New Bond Street, courtesy of Sotheby’s, CHINA WITHOUT DRAGONS: RARE PIECES FROM ORIENTAL CERAMIC SOCIETY MEMBERS. There have been some absolutely startling pieces of ceramic art on show from earliest times to the late 20th century. The only problem with this stunning exhibition as we see  it is that it is on for such a short time – just a few days, closing November 9. Surely it would have been possible to allow as many people as possible to view these unique pieces during the whole course of AAL?

Here, anyway, are our firm favourites:

ed-ocs-at-sothebys-sancai-horse-figureExtraordinary! The only word for this remarkable object which is catalogued as a pottery zodiac figure of a horse in sancai glaze ‘Tang dynasty 7th or 8th century’. Well, we have certainly never seen anything like this before! There is evidence of a sense of humour here which is not exactly typical of Tang . . .

ed-ocs-at-sothebys-kangxi-blackamoor                    A glazed biscuit porcelain figure of a black attendant standing on a lotus leaf. Late Kangxi and formerly in the Rockefeller collections.

ocs-at-sothebys-20th-c-grisaille-pot An outstanding 20th century piece from the Jingdezhen kilns: brushpot painted in grisaille and coloured enamels.

ocs-kiln Well, cute is hardly the word for this one. Apparently, this is a 19th century glazed biscuit pouring vessel in the form of a kiln decorated with butterflies. It is a beautiful piece but it appears to us remarkably modern in its conception and form. It must have been created by a great talent . . .

If you miss the exhibition, you can at least put your name down for the catalogue. It will be published next Spring, 2017, at a pre-publication price of £50. Enquiries by email to ocs.london@btinternet.com. It will, however, be sent free of charge to members of The Oriental Ceramic Society. Membership for a UK member costs just £55 so it seems a no-brainer to sign up today and get your catalogue f.o.c.!

Exciting work by Wang Keping to go on show in London

Regular readers of this site (yes, there are regular readers – more than a quarter of a million of you!) may recall our review of Sylvia Vetta’s documentary-style novel about the Star Group which shook the Chinese art scene to its foundations in 1979. http://chineseart.co.uk/book-review/published-today-an-atmospheric-novel-of-the-days-of-mao-and-the-star-group-of-artists/. Arguably the most important member of this group was sculptor Wang Keping and we were excited to see that Michael Goedhuis will be displaying one of his truly outstanding works in London October 5-9. 

Wang Keping was born in Beijing, China in 1949. In 1979 he co-founded The Stars (Xing Xing), an experimental artists’ collective that was born out of the atmosphere of open political activism during the “Beijing Spring.” He moved to Paris in 1984 where he began to explore the human form with a natural intuition of space and balance.

A self-taught artist, Wang Keping is known for his rounded, stylized wood sculptures, most of which are abstractions of the female body. After carving the figures out of single blocks of beech, ash, wild cherry, maple or oak, he lightly burns and then polishes the surface of each one to produce a smooth, lustrous effect. Wang Keping has exhibited widely throughout Europe, Asia and the United States, and his work has been collected by many notable institutions such as the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University.

Specialist Chinese dealer and enthusiast Michael Goedhuis has told us about his relationship with Keping, ‘Wang Keping and I became friends in the 1990s when I visited his studio in Paris. I had been aware of his significance for the avant-garde movement in China since the 1980s, and his role in co-founding The Stars (Xing Xing) group in 1979, during the time of the Beijing ‘Spring’.

‘We believe that he is the most important sculptor of Chinese origin working in the world today, not just for his critical contribution to the evolution of the Chinese avant-garde, but also for his creativity as an international sculptor. ‘Most of his work, as in Standing (2005), the sculpture illustrated, deals with the poignancy of the blend of vulnerability and resilience embodied in the female form. His love of the different personalities of different woods is a dominant feature of his work, and the carving of different trees – beech, ash, wild cherry, maple and oak – transmits nuances of interpretation. This particular work is of great beauty because of its sculptural form and also its luminous patination, which derives from his treatment of the surface of the wood.

standing-by-wang-keping

‘Wang Keping has attracted a substantial international following and has been acquired by numerous museums throughout the world. I introduced him to Burghley House, the great Elizabethan stately home of the Marquess of Exeter in Stanford in the 1990s, where he carved three enormous sculptures from fully grown trees in the sculpture park. It was a bitterly cold January, and he orchestrated the sculptures from the ground through instructing the woodman who was using an electric saw to scythe through the branches and the trunk in order to create the sculptural figures. ‘

You can see the sculpture Standing on display at PAD London in Berkeley Square between October 5 and 9.

Shanghai painter Wu Lifan exhibits at Edinburgh Festival

P1120111Painter Wu Lifan at the Edinburgh Festival last Sunday  Photo by Paul Harris

Shanghai ink and wash painter Wu Lifan has been showing his work at the China Arts & Culture Festival, part of the Edinburgh International Festival Fringe. Speaking at the Festiuval on Sunday, he made a plea for the survival of traditional Chinese ink and wash painting as China builds and great new constructions dominate the landscape.

Wu Lifan was born in 1977 and has been practising traditional Chinese painting for mpore than 30 years. His accomplished ink and wash style depicts China’s natural subjects like the mountains, rivers, plants, flowers, waterfalls and clouds. He seeks to reflect the spirit of Mother Nature at all times. In that respect, he follows in the established and respected tradition of the scholar-artist but with a modern twist in terms of style. He believes that ink and wash creates texture and quality which transmits a three dimensional sensation when applied to paper. He showed more than 20 examples of his impressive body of work at Edinburgh’s prestigious International Convention Centre.

P1120131 P1120132

Two examples of the ink and wash paintings shown by Wu Lifan at the Edinburgh China Arts & Culture Festival, part of the annual Edinburgh International Festivals programme.

 

 

The Peabody Essex Museum shows significant Chinese art Part 3

We have written over the past couple of weeks about the splendid and quite unique collection of Chinese art to be found within The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachussetts (USA).  Amongst the collections held there is a quite breathtaking series of gouache paintings vividly illustrating the vigorous ongoing trade between foreign countries and the traders of Canton (Guangdong) during the 1820s.

16 images for joss houses 1825 guangzhou

This image is captioned as ‘images for joss stick sellers’. It appears to depict a shop selling Buddhistic and other devotional figures associated with the burning of joss sticks and incense in a devotional situation at the temple or at a personal shrine. Ca. 1820-5, Canton, gouache on paper. Courtesy The Peabody Essex Museum.

These are unique not just as a collection but also because of their freshness and crispness, unaffected by the passage of almost two hundred years. They would have been executed for the export market and are not unique in themsleves. What is, however, very special is the fact that they have been so well preserved as a collection.

16 metal articles Peabody Essex gouache on paper

Metalware store in Canton, ca. 1820-5. This image painted in gouache seems to include many items made in the archaic style (copies of ancient artifacts from early dynasties). Courtesy Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachussetts.

16 porcelain shop 1820 Guangzhou

Chinese porcelain shop, Canton, ca. 1820-5. Note the porcelain garden seats depicted (bottom left) and which are clearly destined for the export market. There are vases of various forms which would be contemporaneous in origin and certainly not antique items. The vases would probably have been manufactured in nearby Jingdezhen. Gouache on paper, ca. 1820-5. Courtesy The Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachussetts.

The Peabody Essex Museum shows significant Chinese art Part 2

18 chinese house peabody essex museum

The Yin Yu Tang Chinese house at The Peabody Essex Museum, Salem Massachussetts. Photo by Rickinmar, via Tumblr

During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), a prosperous merchant named Huang built a stately sxteen-bedroomed home in China’s southeastern Huizhou region, calling his home Yin Yu Tang. This Chinese name implies the desire to create a home to shelter generations of descendants. In 1982, though, the last descendant left the village and it has now been removed, piece by piece, to the unlikely location of Salem, Massachussetts as a result of tha city’s close historic links with the China trade.

Originally, the home was oriented in the village according to well established principles of feng shui, to ensure a harmonious relationship with the landscape and it was constructed according to local traditions of building and local customs. Coins were placed under structural columns to bring prosperity to the home and its occupiers. The first floor bedrooms have intricately carved lattice windows that look out onto two fish pools in a central courtyard. Lots of small details in the building inform the viewer about the aspirations, identity and creative expression of the Huang family, as well as simply telling us about architectural style. There is a magnificent accumulation of furnishings which, again, tell us about things as varied as global trade and connections between China and America, finely developed personal taste and historical preferences.

Yin Yu Tang house Peabody Essex Museum

The Peabody Essex Museum displays significant Chinese art Part 1

17 peabody essex museum

Not only is The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachussetts (USA) possibly the oldest continuously operating museum in the United States, but it also has one of the best collections of Chinese artifacts anywhere in the world. Its holdings in total are some 1.3m. pieces. The present museum had its origins in the East India Marine Society (1799), founded by a Salem-based group of sea captains in the Eastern trade, and it inherited its collection of Far Eastern objets. Its collection wa merged with those of the former Peabody Museum of Salem and the Essex Institute which bnrought about the current curious-sounding nomenclature.

One extraordinary aspect of the Museum’s collection is its acquisition of complete historic houses and contents: it has set these, some 24 in total, in its own grounds, transplanted from their original sites. One of these houses is the home of the Chinese Huang family, a stately six-bedroom house from China’s south eastern Huizhou region known as Yin Yu Tang (we shall write about this remarkable preservation in the coming weeks).

Below we illustrate some of the outstanding exhibits within the Museum.

13a

Detail of a large punch bowl made in China and given to the Salem merchant Elias Hasket Derby in 1786. The Derby ship Grand Turk was only the third American ship to trade with China. In 1801 the punch bowl was presented to the East India Marine Society, which became the PeabodyEssex Museum where it is still on display today. Photo by Rickinmar, via Tumblr.com

14

A blue and white Chinese export platter, date about 1740 and with a view of the 16th century English residence Burleigh House. From thecollection of The Peabody Essex Museum Photo by Rickinmar, via Tumblr.com

15

Detail from a gouache painting of trade in Cantonese waters during the first half of the 19th century. The picture well captures the vigorous, breathless nature of the trade which took place with Europe and the US at that time. Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachussetts.

 

 

Chinese ink painter Li Huasheng is on show at the Mayor Gallery & Masterpiece

Li Meditation Room

Li Huasheng  The Meditation Room at The Mayor Gallery, London

LI HUASHENG | THE MEDITATION ROOM | 02 JUN – 28 JUL 2016

London’s Mayor Gallery is showing a selection of recent ink paintings on paper by Li Huasheng (b. 1944, Yibin, Sichuan Province). This is a rare opportunity to admire the revealing abstract works by this self-imposed reclusive Chinese artist whose paintings have been collected by respected international institutions including the British Museum, Metropolitan Museum, M+ and the National Art Museum of China.

After studying socialist realism, Chinese traditional painting, seal carving and calligraphy, Li quickly became one of the foremost traditional Chinese landscape painters of his generation, distinguishing himself in China and abroad for his original, vibrant and colourful water-and-mountain landscapes. The five-month official trip to the US where he was invited to partake in various lectures and exhibitions in some of the most prestigious American universities in 1987 resulted in a dramatic change in his life and artistic practice. Li’s repeated exposure to works by international artists in the US triggered a chain reaction of reflections on Chinese art history and to an escalating process of radical life transformation.

In near complete seclusion, Li barely painted throughout the following decade. It is in this period that Li began his increasingly frequent ventures to Tibet. During one of these journeys, Li was inspired by the image of the lines formed by the Tibetan monks marching toward Jokhang temple, and by their repeated chanting of the mantra “Om Mani Padme Um”. From that moment, Li began to visualize existence in the form of a line. “Our life is based on time,” the artist commented. “Time represents the preciousness of every person’s existence. Through the flowing of my lines I am preserving and registering my personal time.”

Starting from the late Nineties, the line becomes the artist’s most fundamental expressive cipher and reflects Li’s mental and physical state at the time of its execution. Reminiscent of an ECG trace measuring the electrical activity of the heart, it records the rhythm of the artist’s qi (气, ‘vital energy’), the slightest fluctuations of which are detectable in the inherent character of the brushstrokes—speed, force, turn, pause and direction of the brush. Since the beginning of his breakthrough into abstraction, Li has adopted a strict work routine based on meditation and controlled reiteration of the gesture. Slowly seeping into the overall pictorial structure of his ink paintings on paper, completed from 1997 onwards, this methodology leads to the formal systematization of intersecting freehand linear compositions arranged in grid-like configurations inspired by architectural elements and natural patterns. Alongside his lines and black and white grids, during the last twenty years, Li has developed an increasingly radical formal simplification of both Chinese calligraphy, of which he evidences the track and speed in abstract double-layered compositions combined with grids, and the natural landscape, where the majestic Himalayan peaks are portrayed either in the artist’s sublime “one stroke paintings” style or in his rarefied and highly spiritual series known as “misty landscapes”.

Li’s works are in the permanent collections of the National Art Museum of China, Beijing; British Museum; Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Chicago Art Institute; Art Museum, Shanghai; Guangdong Museum of Art; He Xiangning Art Museum-OCT Contemporary Art Terminal; and permanent collections of Harvard University, Yale University, University of Michigan and University of Washington.

Li Huasheng

If you can’t make it to the show, do at least drop by the Mayor Gallery stand at Masterpiece where there will be a single work on show.

 

Year of the Monkey celebrated in Australia

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‘Yin and Yang’: the year of the monkey celebrated in Cairns, Australia

The Cairns Regional Gallery in northern Australia is currently celebrating the Year of the Monkey with original artworks from two local artists, Hayley Gillespie and Yixuan Ruan. The exhibition explores the meanings of the 12 Chinese zodiac signs.

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Year of the Monkey is described as being a family exhibition which encourages visitors of all ages to learn more about Chinese language and culture. That was apparent when we visited recently as young people drew and sketched and dressed up in Chinese costumes. A must-see for anyone in the area.

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Interpretation of the Chinese tiger zodiac sign

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Interpretation of The Rat