Art fairs

Embarrassment of riches for Asian art collectors at Asia Week, New York

Exhibitions, lectures and auctions span the centuries and the continents


New York

Over the last few years, the collecting base for Asian art has changed dramatically. Once, the biggest buyers in the field were Americans and Europeans. Now, Chinese, Japanese and Indian collectors are increasingly repatriating their cultural heritage. The new rich Chinese have been sending prices rocketing in their favoured field, Qing period, Imperial mark ceramics and lacquer. As the economy recovers, Japanese buyers are gradually returning to the market after an absence of a decade. Indians, both residents of the subcontinent and those based abroad, are flexing their economic muscle and buying art, particularly by Indian artists. Tibetan art has been boosted by a series of exhibitions which have broadened the collecting base for this once arcane field.

New York’s Asia Week, which runs from 28 March to 6 April, attracts many of these buyers as well as Westerners; so many Chinese attended last year's sales that one auctioneer, Anthony Lin of Christie's, even broke into Chinese during bidding at one sale. On offer, as well as the auctions, is a major fair as well as lectures and exhibitions.

The 10th Haughton International Asian Art Fair at the Seventh Regiment Armory (1-6 April) is holding a gala preview to benefit the Asia Society on the evening of 31 March. It will host 58 dealers specialising in every culture and period of Asian art. They include Linda Wrigglesworth, Doris and Nancy Wiener, A. & J. Speelman, The Chinese Porcelain Co., and Liza Hyde, as well as newcomers Kang Collection (Korean art), Mehmet Hassan from Bangkok, and Galaxie Art Company from Hong Kong.

Highlights at the fair include the Indian and South-east Asian sculptures at John Eskenazi, who is showing a 15th-/16th-century sandstone Buddha from Northern Thailand. Samina has a selection of Indian jewellery, including an 18th-century gold Mughal turban ornament (jigha), set with emeralds, rubies and diamonds. Grace Wu Bruce will show a 16th-/17th-century horseshoe armchair of huanghuali wood.

Modern and contemporary Asian art is also well represented, notably by Michael Goedhuis and Marlborough Gallery, which is participating in the fair for the first time.

One notable absence is the Belgian dealer Gisèle Croës, who is instead exhibiting “Inspired metalwork: precious metal objects in early Chinese art” at Danese Gallery

(28 March-8 April). The show will include ritual bronze vessels, a collection of bronze fibulas and belt buckles, as well as silver and gold objects.

Berwald Oriental Art will be at the fair with “Early Chinese stone sculpture”

(29 March-19 April), a show of 15 sculptures dating from the Northern Wei to the Tang dynasty. Giuseppe Eskenazi’s exhibition at PaceWildenstein (28 March-9 April), “Ancient Chinese bronzes and sculpture” consists of 12 objects, dating from the first documented Chinese dynasty, the Shang Period (1300-1027 BC), through the Ming dynasty. A rare Shang bronze you vessel is a highlight of the entire week.

Carlton Rochell will hold two exhibitions at his gallery, both opening on 29 March: “Divine incarnations: art from India and South-east Asia” and “Silken splendour: ancient textiles from China and Central Asia”.

Christie’s auctions on 29 and 30 March are a two-part sale of Japanese and Korean art, including Japanese swords. At the later auction there will be a number of pieces of Chinese ceramics and works of art, including an 18th-century Qianlong imperial vase (est. $250/350,000). An auction of 88 snuff bottles from the J&J Collection, also on 30 March, is expected to fetch $3 million because it contains extraordinary examples, such as a rare 18th-century Imperial Kangxi blue enamel snuff bottle from the Palace Workshops in Beijing (est. $180/250,000).

Sotheby’s auction of Chinese ceramics and works of art on 31 March will include a group of 10 sketches of Imperial guardsmen (est. $100/150,000). One of the masterpieces at the Indian and Southeast Asian art sale on 1 April is a 17th-/18th-century Mongolian bronze sculpture of Maitreya from the workshop of Zanzabar in Ulan Batar, (est. $250/350,000).

The Asia Society is holding several exhibitions, including the first-ever US show of contemporary Indian art, “Edge of desire: recent art in India” (1 March-5 June), which includes 80 works—sculptures, paintings, videos, and installation art—from 1993 to today. Bodhi obfucatus (space baby), an installation by the American-born Korean artist Michael Joo (1 March-1 May), contrasts with the exhibition of more traditional works, “Imperial elegance: Chinese ceramics from the Asia Society’s Rockefeller Collection” (until 1 May).

The Rubin Museum of Art, which opened last October, is the first Western museum dedicated to the art of the Himalaya region. Two exhibitions will be held to coincide with Asia week: “Tibet: treasures from the roof of the world” (until 8 May), includes over 100 examples of Tibetan sculpture, paintings, and textiles, and “Paradise and plumage: Chinese connections in Tibetan arhat painting” (5 March-22 May), which illustrates the artistic interchange between the two cultures.