Highlights of 2015 on Chineseart.co.uk

We look back on the year 2015 as reflected by the pages of Chineseart.co.uk

January 2015

London dealer Anita Gray offered this exquisite Kangxi figure for sale. Hardly surprisingly, it was snapped up in a matter of hours!

BD01-fv-fig-full

February 2015

Brought the sale of contents at Eden Hall, in the Scottish borders, by the Rt Hon Lady Loch. There were several items brough back tothe UK from Yuanminguan by the 1st Baron Loch (background and below a pair of sancai roof tiles).

Rt Hon Lady Loch

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The month also saw a spectacular, hihgly organised theft from Fontainebleau. Fifteen items were stolen from the Chinese collection, many of which had been looted from Yuanminguan by French soldiers. There has been no sign of them being recovered and the artefacts are reckoned by experts to have been ‘repatriated’ to China.

Chateau_Fontainebleau

March 2015

the Shanghai-based sculptor Chen Dapeng announces his participation in the Olympia Art & Antiques Fair, November 2015 (below).

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April 2015

We visit the porcelain city, Jingdezhen, for a series of articles. Below, The Jingdezhen Porcelain Orchestra.

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May 2015

We ask if Chinese billionaire Liu Yiqian (below) has got his money back from producing copies of his US$36m. chicken cup. He drinks from the original below, and also the boxed reproduction which sells at around $60 !

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June 2015

We reported from Taipei on the chronic overcrowding at The National Palace Museum.

National Palace Museum (6)

July 2015

We turned our attention to the Chinese fashion industry in our article The Traditional Etihc in Chinese Fashion goes International. Below is Guo Pei’s stunning twist on Chinese blue and white porcelain. Also fashion label Doudu’s ‘Bodybelt’, a modern piece of lingerie based on traditional underwear.

guo pei hk fashion wk

Sexy-lingerie-Chinese-traditional-bellyband-dudou-embroid-handmade

August 2015

We published this photogrpah of a painting offered for sale at the June Olympia Art & Antiques Fair: the mystery gil with the penetrating gaze, artist unknown. Nobody volunteeered any information who she might be!

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September 2015

London dealers Marchant, Kensington Church Street, celebrated their 90th anniversary with a collection of magnificient jades they had handled over the years.

Marchant jade 2

October 2015

A top Chinese official warns on the widespread destruction of the country’s cultural heritiage at the hands of tomb robbers and property developers. Below a photograph of the unique colonial style Arxan Shan Railway Station in northern China, destroyed by property developers.

 arxan shan railway station

November 2015

Chinese sculptor Chen Dapeng celebrates the opening of his first exhibition in London The Winter Olympia Art & Antiques Fair. His 200 sq m stand was organised by his UK agents Paul Harris Asia Arts. His bust of HM Queen Elizabeth II (below) proved controversial and received massive TV, radio and press coverage. It was, however, only one sculpture out of almost fifty works on display.

Paul-Olympia 29

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December 2015

The Berlin-based online auctioneer Auctionata put up a small Kangxi dragon vase for sale estimated at euro 5-10,000. It started at 5,000 and rose giddily to the heights of euro 875,000 – almost a million dollars.

lot lot34 dragon vase cu

 

Of a Chinese sculptor, a slow press day and a sudden media penchant for art . . .

Featured

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The more perceptive of you, faithful readers of our blog on chineseart.co.uk, will have noted a certain connection between this blog and the Chinese sculptor Chen Dapeng, who last week exhibited more than 40 examples of his work at the Olympia Winter Art & Antiques Fair on his 200 sq m stand, the largest stand at the Fair.

We have, in fact, known Chen Dapeng for some 14 years and have long been admirers of his work which distils traditional elements of Chinese art with a modern twist. Essentially realist in approach, his work reflects a well practised craftsmanship and fascinated visitors to the Fair with its exploration of the Eastern mysteries of Kung-fu and the spirit of China.

Little is known about Chinese sculpture in the West. It is not exactly a sexy subject and spreading the news of Chen Dapeng to the British public presented enormous challenges. Having decided to mount his first exhibition in the UK, the problem was very much how to bring him to the attention of the British public. Generally speaking, the UK media is uninterested in the specifics of art although it will carry news and features based around figures renowned for their activities outside the art arena: a case in point being dissident protester Ai Weiwei, who took on the government of China using his art as a blunt instrument.

Pursuing this train of thought, we suggested to Chen Dapeng that he might think about executing a very British piece of sculpture. And what could be more British than the rightly revered figure of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II? The Chinese sculptor enthusiastically took up the challenge, spending almost five months moulding Her Majesty in clay and then firing her in white porcelain, an enormously difficult medium to fire successfully. On the 13th attempt at firing, a successful version was achieved. We were all hopeful that this might be cause for some useful publicity in the UK . . .

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The unveiling by Chen Dapeng at Olympia on November 2     Photo by Paul Harris

On November 2, when the Olympia Fair opened, Chen Dapeng was totally unknown to the British public. He had half a dozen entries if you had looked him up on Google. Not a single newspaper or magazine in the UK had featured him after sending out hundreds of press releases in advance of his arrival at Heathrow . . . dragging a red draped trolley with what was to become, for the week ahead, the most famous sculpture in the world.

At 10am on Monday November 2, the sculpture was unveiled at an Olympia photocall and press releases were distributed to photographers and journalists. There wasn’t much news around that morning . . . It was what is known in the business as ‘a slow news day’.

By midday, The Daily Telegraph Online had posted a story in which their art critic Mark Hudson likened the appearance of the bust to Tom Hanks. This was the catch line that would propel the story all around the world. Within minutes, the telephone ran red hot: What was our reaction to Mark Hudson’s judgement  – on a sculpture he had never seen ? First on the line was The Daily Mail Online, followed by The Independent. By lunchtime, the story hit New York, as the city woke up, and Vanity Fair and The New York Times came on the line.

Whether or not you agreed with Hudson, this became the hottest story online and in the media worldwide: a quarter of a million Tweets, more than 200 articles and features online (that we have tracked) in more than 25 countries from Greece, Poland, Sweden and Spain to The Philippines, Indonesia and, of course, Dapeng’s native China.

On Tuesday morning, the bust was ceremoniously ferried to ITV’s This Morning for Philip and Holly to open the programme seated beside it. Philip adjudged it ‘impressive’. He was, of course, unlike Mr Hudson, seated right beside it. This Morning would be followed with interviews on Radio 4 and the BBC World Service, pieces on NBC and Fox News,  and, last Friday, with a segment on Have I Got News for You?

People flocked to our stand at Olympia to see the bust. Twelve pages of our Visitors’ Book were filled with comments: 80% positive from those who had actually seen it. Meantime, on social media and on showbiz sites in the US people were posting from offices, attics and basements their own particular view of who it looked like to them: Mrs Doubtfire, Liberace, Martin Sheen, David Walliams and, even, The Duke of Edinburgh, Her Majesty’s husband. Despite all these suggestions, the Tom Hanks label stuck.

Also, many patently untrue suggestions made it once into online print and were relentlessly repeated worldwide without any further research: a particularly unappealing facet of the online world. The Daily Express (to quote the aforementioned Duke of Edinburgh speaking many years ago, ‘A bloody awful newspaper’) told its readers (both of them) that Buckingham Palace had declared it had no knowledge of the sculpture being offered to HM. Well, chaps, I could offer to share with you my five months of correspondence with The Keeper of The Royal Collection. On second thoughts, I won’t!

By the end of the week, Chen Dapeng was the most famous sculptor in the world. More famous, even, than Ai Weiwei. But he was getting a bit doubtful about all the publicity. ‘What about my other sculptures?’ he asked. Of course, the bust of HM was the least important on the stand in strictly artistic terms. His vastly impressive and challenging other works had merited scarcely a mention. But he had become famous worldwide.

It is probably a parable of our times: of a world dominated by the power of an all pervasive digital media. Of a world where real appreciation of anything other than the immediate, the sensational and the easily digested must be regarded as a prized rarity. However, it could be said Chen Dapeng is now a name to be reckoned with. After all, he now dominates almost twenty pages of entries on Google. Is that success, or is it not?

Paul Harris

 

‘Most exciting day of my life’ says sculptor Chen Dapeng

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Chen Dapeng unveils his bust of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on Monday

For Shanghai-based sculptor Chen Dapeng, who is exhibiting his work at the London Olympia Winter Art & Antiques Fair, today has been ‘the most exciting day of my life.’

On Monday night he hosted a champagne reception on his enormous 200 sq m stand at London’s top exhibition venue. It was attended by some 200 people:art critics, buyers, journalists and photographers and, even, some relatives of the British Queen. The focus was very much on his controversial bust of the British monarch which has been offered to the British Queen as a gift but which has got caught up in a diplomatic quagmire.

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The controversial bust. Does it really look like Tom Hanks, Liberace, Prince Phillip or Robin Williams? Some Twitterers said it portrayed her ‘wonderfully’

Today the British press was full of articles about his work. There were features in the prestigious newspaper The Times, the influential broadsheeet The Daily Telegraph and the mass market tabloid Metro. This followed extensive worldwide web coverage on newspaper sites.

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Chen Dapeng with the bust at the This Morning, London, studio today

By 9.30 am today, Chen Dapeng was on the way to the ITV studios with his controversial bust of HM Queen Elizabeth II. At 1030 it was featured throughout Britain with a four minute live slot on This Morning hosted by revered national celebs Philip and Holly.

The reaction to the bust was instant. Thousands of people took to Twitter, some applauding it, others likening it to Tom Hanks, Liberace (who he? Answer, long deceased piano pounder), Prince Phillip (husband of the Queen) and, even, the late Robin Williams.

However, it was at lunchtime that the offers to buy the bust started to pour in. They came from New York (where Vanity Fair had publicised it), from Hong Kong, and from China itself.

However, the European agents for Chen Dapeng, Paul Harris Asia Arts, had already received two tentative offers to buy the bust at their champagne party on Monday night. Said Paul Harris today, “We were approached by two separate very serious people who said that if it was not going to Buckingham Palace they would like it. Then we received by email and telephone further offers from much further afield. This thing has gone viral. We are now fighting off enquiries.”

But what about the offer to give it to the Queen? Said Harris,”It needs the Chinese government to officially ask Her Majesty if she would like it and the bureaucratic channels are clogged up.”

Said Chen Dapeng, “The Chinese Embassy in London is useless. Despite the fact I have been appointed by Beijing as sculptor for UK-China Cultural Exchange Year (2015), they refuse to recognise me or to act until they get direct orders from Beijing. They are incompetent.”

Nobody from the Chinese Embassy attended Chen Dapeng’s champagne party although even the Argentinian Ambassador was there! Nobody at the Chinese Embassy would comment.

And the offers? The bust has been optioned to a British buyer at ‘around’ half a million pounds. However, the latest offers are well into the millions . . . Looks like Chen Dapeng is set for a great future far from his native China.

Chen Dapeng’s secret sculpture is of . . . H M Queen Elizabeth II

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It can now be revealed, exclusively by this site, that the top secret sculpture that Chinese sculptor Chen Dapeng has been working on since May of this year is of the British Queen, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Chen Dapeng with clay QE2

A September 2015 picture of Chen Dapeng working on the clay version of his sculpture of HM Queen Elizabeth II  Copyright Photo by Paul Harris

This information will be revealed tomorrow morning at 1030 Beijing time (0330 UK time) at a press conference being held in the Chinese capital’s No. 1 prestige venue, The Great Hall of the People. It will also be revealed that Chen Dapeng is to be recognised by the Chinese government as official sculptor for UK-China Cultural Exchange Year.

On Friday, Chen Dapeng and his team will leave China and fly to London. The bust of the Queen – the final version is to be in priceless white porcelain crafted by Jingdezhen’s Hanguang Factory – will go on public show on the evening of Monday, November 2 at the opening party for this year’s Olympia Winter Art & Antiques Fair.