Chiswick Auctions head for the high ground

West London-based auction house Chiswick have embarked upon a significant expansion of their activities, not least in the Asian Department.  In advance of their February 27 Asian Art Sale, Chiswick have revealed that they will hold a series of specialist sales within the category.

Their specialist Chinese paintings sales, launched last year, have, they say, been outstandingly successful. In November last year (their second such sale), they sold a Xu Naigu handscroll for a record breaking £267,600. The sale of this outstanding and important work secured for Chiswick a prestigious Asian Art in London award which was present to department head and Asian Art specialist Lazarus Halstead at a champagne gala evening held within the then unopened new Joseph Hutong Gallery at the British Museum.

20171109_201636 Asian Art in London, November 2017 and Lazarus Halstead receives the AAL auction award on behalf of Chiswick for their hand scroll by Xu Naigu, sold for £267,600  Photo by Paul Harris

Buoyed by this success, Chiswick announce a series of specialist Asian sales: Netsuke on February 27; Fine Chinese Paintings on May 14; Chinese Bronzes Song to Qing on May 24/5: and The Dragon in Chinese Art in November. These are in addition to the usual biannual Asian Art sales.

Chiswick recently appointed a Japanese specialist, Yasuko Kido, to supplement the efforts of Lazarus Halstead. Separately, other departments are being expanded: Beatrice Campi has been appointed Islamic and Indian Specialist and three book specialists formerly with Bloomsbury Auctions (now closed) have been taken on board. This is in addition to two fine art specialists who have come from the now closed Christies South Kensington (CSK).

Chiswick’s ambitions have, to some extent, been fed directly by the closure of CSK which is perceived by many to have left a distinct gap in the market for the sale of rather more modest pieces now abjured by the ‘big three’ (Sothebys, Christies & Bonhams). There will, however, be competitors in the market place: London-based Roseberys, Edinburgh & London based Lyon & Turnbull and Salisbury house Woolley & Wallis amongst them. Both regional competitors L&T and W&W now have London offices.

 

Interesting private collection of Republic period porcelain features in Chorley’s sale

HR Red crested crane brushpot (4)Red-crested crane brushpot from Chorley’s forthcoming sale     Pic. Chorleys

In recent years, relatively recently-produced Chinese porcelain has started to make waves in the auction rooms. Early 20th century pieces and many of those created right through the Republic period (1912-49) are now just as much in demand as rather earlier pieces.

Cotswold auctioneers Chorley’s forthcoming sale, on Tuesday 20 & Wednesday 21 March, offers an important private collection of Republican era porcelain.  The highlight will be a set of four rectangular porcelain plaques by Bi Botao (1885-1961) representing the four seasons.  Bi Botao was a member of the well-known group ‘The Eight Friends of Zhushan’.  The group comprised the best porcelain artists of the period and revitalised the Chinese porcelain industry after the political unrest in 19th Century China and the subsequent fall of the Qing dynasty.  The plaques, which are delicately painted with frogs, a spider, turtles and a snake respectively, estimate £18,000 – £22,000 They were acquired by avid collector Peter Wain.

The Wain provenance is particularly important as it was he who was among the first to bring Republican porcelain to the attention of the West. His great-grandfather was a potter in Stoke on Trent and Wain himself worked at the Royal Doulton factory during his holidays when he was a student.  During his army service he was based in Hong Kong from 1968-1971 and it was here that his love of history and of ceramics led him to his vocation.  This was the height of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and he was able to buy 20th century pieces including ceramics, paintings and posters at very reasonable prices.

On leaving the army he became a dealer in Oriental porcelain. He initially purchased Republican era wares cheaply on America’s west coast, where they were generally available owing to waves of emigration from China after the Japanese invasion.  The items purchased in America formed the basis of his first exhibition at Olympia in 1990.  The market was limited but enough people expressed an interest in them to persuade him that he should pursue this line.

Drawing on this encouragement, Wain began sourcing items for his 1993 exhibition ‘Heavenly Pieces’ and undertook his first buying trip to China.  ‘Heavenly Pieces’ turned out to be a huge success – it sold out.  The present sale includes items from this exhibition including a pair of Meiping vases, circa 1920, decorated prunus blossom in bold enamels in the Yongzheng Imperial style.  The inscribed poem refers to immortality ‘One Thousand Autumns’ supposedly conferred by peaches and linghzi, estimate £6,000-8,000.

HR Pair Meiping vases Pair of Meiping vases ca. 1920 in the forthcoming sale at Chorley’s  Pic Chorley’s

After the success of this exhibition numerous buying trips were made; with challenging economic circumstances in China it was possible to buy important pieces without difficulty.  Several such trips preceded the 1998 exhibition ‘Awaiting Spring’ which focused on Qianjiang art on Chinese porcelain. Several items from that exhibition are on offer in our March sale including a pair of square section vases by Zhang Yun (Zhang Ziying) dated 1898 and painted with coordinated landscapes, these are estimated at £800-1200.

HR Pair square vases A pair of square form vases in Chorley’s sale     Pic Chorley’s

Wain believed that the age of a piece or fashion should not impact on our appreciation of the best quality pots.   He acted as agent for the contemporaneous Chinese potter Zlai Xaio Xiang, who undertook porcelain painting demonstrations at his Olympia and NEC fair stands.  One such demonstration piece dating to 1997 is a decorated brush pot. The growth in the market for Republican porcelain was largely driven by Peter Wain and with the rise in prices even they have now begun to be copied – previously only a problem with much earlier Chinese porcelain.  This sale provides collectors with a rare opportunity to buy pieces sourced by Peter Wain and, therefore, of sound provenance.

 

The Year of the Dog beckons . . .

20180126_122126 Two thousand year-old dog! A Han Dynasty figure of a dog from a collection of funerary representations of creatures of the Zodiac. Courtesy www.chineseartinscotland.co.uk

Sunday, February 18 sees the official beginning of The Year of the Dog, the eleventh of the zodiac creatures. So your are prepared for it, and especially what it means if you are a dog (!) here is what to expect in the coming year. Our thanks to https://chinesenewyear2018.com/zodiac/dog/  for the rundown!

According to popular myth, the Jade Emperor said the order of Zodiav animals would be decided by the order in which they arrived to his party. Monkey, Rooster and Dog were in another country, helping a god defeat evil spirits. After, they set off to the party together. Because they arrived at the same time, the Jade Emperor went by the order they met the god in the other country. Thus, Dog became eleventh.

The Dog is also associated with the Earthly Branch (地支—dì zhī) xū (戌), and the hours 7–9 in the evening. In the terms of yin and yang (阴阳—yīn yáng), the Dog is yang.

In China, it is still popular to name dogs Wàng Cái (旺财). It means “prosperous wealth” and comes from dogs’ barking sounds (旺旺—wàng wàng).

Personality and characteristics

A Dog’s most defining characteristic is their loyalty. They will never abandon their friends, family or work.

Honest and just, they are popular in social circles. Everyone needs a Dog friend for advice and help. They are also good at helping others find and fix their bad habits.

Despite how they act, they are worried and anxious inside. However, they will not let this stop them. Once they decide on something, no one can persuade them against it.

ELEMENT YEAR FORTUNE
Metal 1910, 1970 These Dogs are traditional and attractive. They have high self-esteem and don’t like receiving help. But they like helping others, though it sometimes causes problems for themselves. They will take over someone’s position and it’ll open up a smooth road to success.
Water 1922, 1982 These Dogs are calculative planners. They focus on building a strong foundation for their future. But when faced with difficulties, they can become very pessimistic. They work hard, but should create bigger goals in order to use their full potential.
Wood 1934, 1994 These Dogs are trustworthy and polite. If given help, they’ll do whatever they can to repay the kindness. They adhere strongly to their morals and ethics. Others can find it hard to understand. They do well in jobs that require patience and will keep fighting until they succeed.
Fire 1946, 2006 These Dogs are dream chasers. They generally have smaller dreams that are easy to fulfill, which motivates them to continue on. When friends have trouble, they’ll give advice but won’t set out immediately to help. Every step must be thought out carefully before they act.
Earth 1958, 2018 These Dogs are stubborn and never give up. They aren’t very connected with the world and society. Though stubborn, they respect other perspectives. They believe that as long as they work hard, they’ll make it.

Men born in the Dog year are straightforward and genuine. They are energetic, though they’re more pessimistic inside.

Very opinionated, they’re always ready to correct others and defend their stance. It’s not that they want to show off. They just feel it’s necessary to help others realize their mistakes.

These men care deeply for their family. Their stubbornness fades in the face of their loved ones. They work to understand and compromise, resulting in a harmonious family life.

Women born in the Dog year are very cautious. They are indifferent towards people they don’t like, and don’t trust easily. But once they do, it’s permanent. They are intensely protective of their friends and family.

They are genial and independent. They love outdoor activities and being in nature. However, they are also hard workers and don’t give up until they succeed. Security and a stable income are her requirements for a career.

Compatibility

Most compatible with Dog: RabbitTigerHorse

Dogs are the most compatible with Rabbits. They’re attracted to the Rabbit’s kindness, while the Rabbit supports Dogs in the background.

Dogs are often pessimistic and needs a Tiger’s reassurance. Tigers also need a Dog’s loyalty. With Horses, both understand and respect each other’s opinions.

Least compatible with Dog: DragonOxGoat

Dogs and Dragons clash strongly and are the least compatible. Neither trusts each other and they have intense arguments.

There’s a cold relationship with Oxen. They have different interests and can’t interact smoothly. Dogs and Goats are able to tolerate each other, but there’s not much else.

Lucky things for Dogs

  • Colors:green, red, purple
  • Numbers:3, 4, 9
  • Mineral:emerald
  • Directions of auspiciousness:north, northwest
  • Directions of wealth: southeast
  • Directions of love:south

Unlucky things

  • Colors: blue, brown
  • Numbers:1, 7, 8

Careers fit for Dogs

Dogs are loyal and obey all orders. They put in their biggest effort to accomplish any task given to them. Because they aren’t satisfied with being worse than others, a competitive job would suit them well.

They are also sensitive to details and have strong reasoning skills. They see the dangers of being in a position of high status. This is why they’re willing to stay in the background and support others. They’d do well in a behind-the-scenes type of job. Dogs are observant and have strong morals. They judge everyone before deciding if the person is trustworthy. This makes them a good candidate for careers such as referees, lawyers and interviewers.

Health and lifestyle

Dogs are healthy overall, but the status of their health often has drastic changes. Though they seem resilient, it actually hides the symptoms that they may have. The smallest colds can put them in bed for days. Be wary of influenza and other contagious diseases during summer and autumn seasons

They should pay attention to their digestive system during their youth. Their biggest enemy is their unhealthy diet.

Once in the workforce, Dogs will constantly be busy. The stress will lead to headaches and migraines. In extreme cases, it can even lead to hysteria.

To create a strong base, Dogs should begin the habit of exercising early on. Taking breaks as needed and relaxing activities such as yoga are recommended.

Dogs in the Year of the Dog (2018)

The year of one’s zodiac sign is their 本命年 (ben ming nian). It is traditionally the most unlucky year with trouble and danger lurking at every corner.

There will be unforeseeable problems in work. The financial situation is quite risky. Dogs will also find it difficult to communicate with loved ones too.

In order to not make things worse, Dogs should keep a low profile. Thinking before they speak and act is the key.

Career

There are many obstacles and arguments in the workplace this year. Other than working quietly, Dogs must try to interact well with others. Remember to defend but not attack. Financial luck is also poor this year. It’s not a good time to be greedy or ambitious.

Successful months are: Lunar March (April 16-May 14), April (May 15-June 13), September (Oct 9-Nov 7) and December.

The months with most work obstacles are: Lunar February (March 17-April 15), May, August (Sept 30-Oct 8) and October (Nov 8-Dec 6).

Education

It’s hard to concentrate on studies. Dogs will be distracted by other things and they’re grades will slip. They should also keep a low profile so they don’t attract bullies. Dogs should also be careful of safety during activities outside of class.

Health

Nothing too drastic happens to Dogs’ health in 2018. They should rest well to prevent fatigue and exhaustion. Other than that, Dogs should be careful of sharp objects, especially in June. They should also take care of their family’s safety.

Healthy months are: Lunar March (April 16-May 14), June (July 13-August 10) and September (Oct 9-Nov 7).

Months where Dogs must be careful with their health are: Lunar January (Feb 16-March 16), April (May 15-June 13) and October (Nov 8-Dec 6).

Relationships

The social life this year will be full of headaches. There are arguments both at home and outside. Dogs must communicate and resolve conflicts. Otherwise, they may find themselves alone by the end of the year.

The sweet months are: Lunar March (April 16-May 14), September (Oct 9-Nov 7) and December (Jan 6-Feb 4, 2019).

Months where relationship problems will easily occur are: Lunar February (March 17-April 15), June (July 13-August 10), July (August 11-Sept 9) and August (Sept 30-Oct 8).

Lifestyle

The directions of fortune and wealth for Dogs this year are the southeast, southwest and north. It would be the best to put the bed, worktable and sofa in these positions of the room. To avoid bad luck, do not put important furniture in the south and east.

Lucky numbers that will open the road to wealth are 4 and 6.

The lucky colors in 2018 are yellow, red and orange. Decorating the home or wearing these colors will help greatly with changing luck for the better. Colors to avoid are green and gray.

Overall, this is a year that Dogs must get through.

It’s the Chinese tradition to wear red underwear every day during their zodiac year. Dogs can try this to ward off the bad luck.

Once past this year, Dogs can continue on their steady and quiet road to happiness!

 

Qi Baishi becomes the most expensive Chinese painter!

Qi-Baishi-12-Landscape-Screens-WeChat-Image-1024x319

The painter Qi Baishi became the first Chinese artist to join the £100 million club at the end of last year. The week before Christmas, a set of ink brush panels entitled Twelve Landscape Screens (1925), sold for a staggering 931.5 million yuan (well over £100m.) at the Poly Beijing auction house. It is the highest price ever paid for a work of Chinese art at auction.

Only a dozen or so other works—by artists  like Warhol, Picasso and van Gogh—have sold at auction for more than the equivalent of £100 million, although a number of others have reportedly been sold privately in that price area.

There is no doubt that this work was particularly interesting and probably represented value for money as, effectively, the purchaser (unknown) did get twelve pictures for the price of one.

Fantastic animal brings festive cheer

Screenshot_20171214-235448 Fantastic animals are part of the Chinese pantheon and have long been so. This one, however, can be said to be truly fantastic with a distinctly modern twist. It was spotted recently outside the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. Hung Yi’s Dragon Fortune is inscribed with Chinese expressions of good fortune, breathing vibrant colours and auspicious blessings on the doorstep of the Asain Art Museum.

Reproduced courtesy of the Twitter feed @asianartmuseum

Far East from the Wild West now in the West End (of London, that is)

Sky blue jar (Qianlong mark and period) -2 Magnificent Qianlong mark and period vase from the Cody collection now with Littleton & Hennessy in St. James’s London

Occasionally, you see an object which seems particularly beautiful, an object which deeply intrigues. That’s what I thought when I saw this extraordinary sky blue jar with cobalt blue and white slip ‘dragon and cloud’ decoration in the St James’s premises of Littleton & Hennessy during Asian Art in London.

It is so extraordinary that I somehow thought there must be an interesting story behind such an unusual piece. And, indeed, there is . . .  Mark Slaats, of L&H, tells me the piece was formerly in the Collection of Thomas English Cody (1889-1948), whose great-uncle was the famous Buffalo Bill Cody. Buffalo Bill Cody may have brought the Wild West to American audiences; Thomas English Cody brought the Far East to America. In the 1930s, the singer and actor was an avid collector of of Chinese porcelain and hardstone objects and he took his collection to the US, where it was recently dispersed.

The sky blue jar illustrated above has now returned to the UK courtesy of L&H.  A modest 19cm in height, it is, nevertheless, a stunning piece. And it bears to the base labels from important exhibitions. More details from mark@littletonandhennessy.com.

 

Fresh interpretation of early 20th century Chinese art

Craig Clunas ed Professor Craig Clunas ponders a question from the audience   Photo Paul Harris

Earlier this week, Professor Craig Clunas, Professor of Chinese Art at Oxford University, gave his first lecture in a series of three on 20th century Chinese art for Gresham College (founded 1597). It was a public lecture (with free entry) held at the Museum of London and dealt with the topic China: New Nation, New Art 1911-32.

Clunas took as his starting point a highly unusual painting entitled simply Viewing Pictures (1917) by Chen Shizeng (1876-1923) which proved to be particularly apposite to the topic. It was outstanding as a piece of social observation and both stylistically and subject-wise was untypical not just of Shizeng’s oeuvre, but also that of other painters of the day. The painting includes both Chinese and Western visitors to The National Museum at a private view of the type that probably survives little changed to this day. In 1918, however, such an interaction would have been highly unusual and the picture presages the great changes about to take place, the meeting of East and West in artistic terms.

Craig Clinas Chen Shizeng Viewing Pictures                                   Chen Shizeng Viewing Pictures (1917)

I suppose that many of us had, to a very great extent, hitherto ascribed developments in Chinese art after the First World War directly to the influences of Europe, generally, and Paris, specifically. Clunas, however, brought something of a fresh perspective which has widened my own personal vision and, I suspect, that of most of the audience. He examined on some detail guohua (national painting) and the developments that took place in that arena, singling out some dramatic images which clearly demonstrated filtered influences from Europe.

I was particularly intrigued by the Liu Haisu painting Qianmen Gate: a dramatic image of the towering bulk of the architectural mass that was the gate with turbulent clouds behind. If I had been obliged to guess the name of the artist, I would probably have come out with Frank Brangwyn!

Liu Haisu Tianneman Gate Liu Haisu Qianmen Gate

Clunas used two devices to progress his analysis of the period 1911-32. He delved deep into the pages of the Shanghai art magazine Liangyou Luabao, which is the sole source for many images of paintings lost in the turbulent tide of Chinese modern history, and he chose two painters to tell the story: Xu Beihong (1895-1953), particularly, and, to a lesser extent Lin Fengmian (1900-91). It is his view that Beihong, known simply to millions as the man who painted furipusly galloping horses, was central to the development of Chinese art during the 1920s (“a massive influence”). Quite apart from his writing and educational work, he was responsible in large part for the introduction of Western artistic materials to China.

Xu Beihong              Xu Beihong Self Portrait

Professor Clunas will give two further lectures for Gresham College at The Museum of London on February 19 and May 14 2018 under the titles China: Art, War and Salvation 1933-49 and China: Art, Power and Revolutions 1950-76.

Bonhams emerge as top player in The Big Three after Asian Art in London

Last week’s Asian Art in London was particularly notable for witnessing the emergence of Bonhams auction house as the top player, historically regarded as No. 3 after Sotheby’s and Christie’s. Recent months have seen its more famous rivals grappling with problems financial and organisational and the evidence strongly suggests that Bonhams have cleverly snuck in to grab the laurels.

Bonhams Fine Chinese Art sale at New Bond Street London on November 9 made £11,971,313, the highest total for an Asian art auction in London last week.

Leading the Bonhams sale was a set of four Huanghuali Folding Chairs that achieved a well-nigh incredible £5,296,250, winning the accolade for the most valuable Asian work of art to be sold last week in London. As one wag put it, ‘Not bad for a set of deckchairs !’

4 chairs bonhams

The folding chairs appear to be the only known version of this form and type, and may now be considered a masterpiece of Ming Dynasty furniture. They had been estimated at £150,000 – 200,000 and came from an Italian aristocratic vendor. In a packed saleroom, the bidding war finally came down to a tense battle between a bidder in the room and one on the phone, with the chairs finally knocked down to the phone bidder.

The chairs came from the collection of the distinguished Italian diplomat, Marchese Taliani de Marchio, (1887 – 1968) and his wife, Maragaretha, the Archduchess d’Austria Toscana (1894 – 1986). From 1938 to 1946, Taliani served as Ambassador to the Nationalist Chiang Kai-shek Government. Despite spending only eight years in China, the Talianis were shrewd and gifted connoisseurs who assembled a collection of extremely important pieces that convey the rich history of Chinese decorative arts. 

An important and exceedingly rare pair of Huanghuali Tapering Cabinets from the Ming Dynasty from the same collection, estimated at £200,000-300,000, sold for a remarkable price of £1,688,750.

Bonhams International Head of Chinese Art, Asaph Hyman said, “The exceptional prices realised for the rare set of folding chairs and the pair of cabinets are amongst the highest ever achieved for Chinese furniture, a result that reflects their importance. We feel very privileged to have been entrusted with this historic collection.”

Earlier in the week on 6 and 7 November, Bonhams Asian Art sale at Knightsbridge made £2,377,150. The top lot was a famille rose scholar and fisherman dish that sold for £93,750.

Thursday November 9 turned out to be an auspicious day for Bonhams. That evening it was awarded the prestigious Asian Art in London prize for the outstanding work of art offered by an auction house. It was presented to Suzannah Yip, Director of Bonhams Japanese Department, at AAL’s Gala Evening at the British Museum. It was a joint winner with Chiswick Auctions.

The prize-winning object was a beautiful roiro – black lacquer panel – by Shibata Zeshin (1807-91). The panel is decorated with bell crickets on grasses growing on a bank, set against a silver lacquer full moon, and embellished with silver dewdrops.

The award – sponsored by Apollo Magazine and the Antiques Trade Gazette – was judged by museum curators from the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge and Victoria and Albert Museum, London, together with representatives from the sponsors Apollo magazine and Antiques Trade Gazette.

20171108_180114 William Sargent addresses a packedroom at Bonhams London on November 8      Photo Paul Harris

It should also be noted that Bonhams took the opportunity of AAL to mount a series of receptions, lectures and special exhibitions. Most impressive was a display of Chinese tureens made for the Spanish Nobility, which was accompanied by a lecture from William R Sargent, formerly at the Peabody Essex Museum.

All in all, a great performance from Bonhams and a shot across the bows of Sotheby’s and Christie’s who, as one observer put it, ‘will need to buck their ideas up.’

20171108_175706

One of the Fantastic Creatures on display at Bonham’s, London.  Photo Paul Harris

Here is our pick of Asian Art in London at 20

We spent four days seeing as much as we could of the 20th year of Asian Art in London, a veritable panoply of wonderful things on display and many on offer. Here are our favorite objects and exhibits, in no particular order.

20171109_160458 Eskenazi Limestone Hands being a portion of a much larger funerary piece and curiously modern in its appearance. Northern Qi period 550-575. Xiangtangshan Cave Temples. From Eskenazi’s exhibition of Six Dynasties Art from the Norman A Kurland Collection.  Photo Paul Harris

20171109_160633 Eskenazi Two Caparisoned Horses From the same outstanding exhibition, two painted earthenware horses, Northern Qi. Photo Paul Harris

20171109_160903 Eskenazi  Two Figures Earthenware Northern Wei period (early 8th century). As with all the Eskenazi exhibits, superb lighting which made photography a delight! Photo Paul Harris

20171110_105831Marchant  Kangxi Famille Verte Within their Kensington Church Street premises old-established dealers Marchant held a breathtaking exhibition of Kangxi famille verte pieces put together by them from stock items dating back more than a decade and including several bearing the provenance of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. A great show.  Photo Paul Harris

20171109_155703 Ben Janssens  Their lease at an end in their Jermyn Street premises, Ben Janssens put on his show, as usual marked by the exquisite small objects on display, in temporary space in Old Bond Street. We particularly liked the exhibit in the foreground Group of Black Pottery Horses, Figures and a Carriage (Yuan Dynasty 1279-1368).  Photo Paul Harris

20171109_162345 Berwald Our attention was grabbed by this evocative rendering of a Silk Road mercant and his camel. Tang Dynasty. Photo Paul Harris

20171110_161203 Cohen & Cohen showed their usual large selection of Chinese export pieces, this time in the capacious premises of Colnaghis in St James’s which served to show off the exhibits at their best. Probably the most eyecatching was a pair of wall sconces, design attributed to Cornelius Pronck (1736-40) and entitled The Flamethrower. If you need to ask the price, you can’t afford it . . . offers please in the region of £280,000 for these exquisite pieces.   Photo Paul Harris

20171109_132648East Meets West Exhibition at The Design Centre in Chelsea concentrating on the work of contemporary young Japanese and Chinese artists. Centre, The Winter at Lianghe Village (2011) a woodcut  by Yu Chengyou.  Photo Paul Harris

20171109_132749

Asian Art in London celebrates in style in the wake of Her Majesty!

20171109_195543 Roger Keverne, AAL Chairman (right), looks pleased as he makes a point at the Asian Art in London 20th Anniversary Gala Party held in the British Museum’s Joseph Hutong Gallery on Thursday evening.  Photo Paul Harris.

 

The AAL Gala Party is normally a glittering affair and the 20th Birthday Party held on Thursday probably excelled itself. Around 450 celebrants crowded into the newly renovated and redesigned Joseph Hutong Gallery of Chinese and South Asian Art at London’s British Museum. This was very much a preview. The Gallery does not fully open to the public until December and just one rather important visitor sprang in ahead of AAL the day previously, HM Queen Elizabeth II (and rightly so!).

So the surroundings were impeccable, the exhibits on show stunning and, as usual, the champagne flowed in unlimited quantities, fully justifying the £70 ticket price! All was in sharp contrast to last year’s event which took place in a cafeteria atmosphere in Chinatown.

AAL Chairman Roger Keverne, who will resign in December, at which time the Board of AAL will vote on his successor, compered and, in association with Director Virginia Sykes-Wright, introduced this year’s winners of the AAL Awards. The auctioneer section was shared by Bonhams, one of The Big Three, and Chiswick Auctions, which is emerging as a cheeky challenger to the giants – it has just opened up in South Ken and, in the wake of Christie’s abandoning its operations there, has adopted the acronym CSK. Eat your heart out, Christies!

In the dealer category, there was a very popular award to Priestley & Ferraro. David Priestley took the award which came directly as a result of their stunning display of Early Chinese Carved Cinnabar Lacquer entitled The Deeper Picture and which ran through AAL in the lower floor of their premises in St James’s.

20171109_201944

David Priestley clutches his well deserved Dealer Award at Thursday evening’s Asian Art in London 20th Birthday party. Pictured with Roger Keverne and the Editor of Apollo Magazine, Thomas Marks.    Photo Paul Harris

Asian Art in London is in full swing aged 20

The annual celebration Asian Art in London is currently in full swing and visitors are clearly enjoying the 20th anniversary of the event. Doubtless the 21st next year will be equally as enthusiastically celebrated, if not more!

There is the usual mix of private gallery exhibitions, open evenings, auctions of Asian art and public events. For some, the highlight is the champagne reception on the evening of Thursday November 9. This year it takes place in the auguste surroundings of The British Museum, in the newly inaugurated Joseph Hutong Gallery. This exhibition space seems bound to be a long lasting hit with Asian art lovers.

This weekend we shall be posting news and pictures from AAL.

Twelve years, twelve great treasures Woolley & Wallis record their success in a new book

Woolley book cover  Cover of the newly released Wooley and Wallis celebratory volume

There are two times of the year when there is the relentless thud of heavy packages hitting the floor below our capacious letter box. One of those times is April, ahead of the May sales of Chinese art, and the other is now upon us ahead of Asian Art in London (November 2-11) and the plethora of Chinese art auctions in the UK (curently standing at almost three dozen!).

Some of these catalogues are relatively modest affairs, others are massive heavy objects which bring to mind the story told to me by a former well known editor of The Los Angeles Times. In the 1970s, their paper became so large that one reader sent them a legal missive alleging that the destructive force of their paper had killed his dog on its downward trajectory. They didn’t find it necessary to pay up; that is another story.

The story came to mind last week when the Bonhams Chinese Fine Art Sale (November 9) catalogue popped through the letterbox. At just under 400 pages, and printed on 180gsm paper, although potentially a fearsome weapon, it is, in the event, a treasure trove of exquisite objects.

Rather different was a package from Salisbury auctioneers Woolley & Wallis. It was, by far, the most modest and unassuming of the week.s packages. However, it revealed a most beautiful, slim harback book bound in cloth and stamped in gold. Twelve Years, Twelve Treasures is, effectively, the story of the twelve highest achieving Asian lots handled by W&W. It is a chronicle of some remarkable pieces.

Wooley Alexander vasr

The W&W reputation was on the road to establishment in July 2005 when W&W sold a magnificent Yuan dynasty double-gourd vase for £2,600,000 (above), the record price for any object sold in a UK provincial auction house. It became known as The Alexander Vase after its original UK owner (1876). In May 2009 the record was broken again with an Imperial spinach-green jade water buffalo from the Qianlong period (below), which sold for a hammer price of £3,400,000. It, in turn, would become known as The Pelham Water Buffalo, after its former owner Sackville George Pelham (188-1948).

The May 2010 sale outperformed the equivalent Asian sales at the London salerooms, containing the season’s two top lots and becoming the then highest grossing sale ever at any regional auction house in the UK; a record we were to later beat at our November 2010 sale.

Woolley bull

As might be expected, the reproductions are superb and the text represents an important record of the history of twelve distinguished pieces. The book already occupies a permanent place on my crowded Asian art shelves . . .

You can look at the book online at http://www.woolleyandwallis.co.uk