This summer saw the return of fairs and exhibitions, which had been put on hold during the Covid-19 pandemic. There was an air of excitement as people could actually get out and see exhibits in person again, rather than just viewing these online. I was happy to be involved in vetting some of the Chinese pieces at the Masterpiece Fair again in late June.
I also really enjoyed being able to travel again with relative ease and undertook business in Paris, Lisbon, Munich and Seoul, South Korea and I have outlined some of my activities in the post below.
Asian Art in Paris: 07-09 June
I decided to visit Paris for their Printemps Asiatique Paris, as I felt that it was important to engage with the market in Europe post Brexit. It was great to see that the committee had organised some really interesting events, which included a series of specialist lectures and private tours of the Asian collections of the Louvre, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, the Guimet, Musée Chernuschi and Fontainebleau.
The Fair at the CT Loo Pagoda
It was with some anticipation that I arrived at the evening viewing of the fair at the CT Loo Pagoda on Rue de Courcelles. I had passed by the building on several occasions when visiting Paris and had never seen inside. Arriving at the gate and passing up the stairs, I entered an elegant space of panelled ceilings and red walls that mirrored those of the exterior.
Ching Tsai Loo established the Pagoda as his business premisses and place of residence in 1926 after having converted a townhouse into a striking Chinese pagoda. Only two of the floors were being used by fair exhibitors, which included four London visiting dealers, Brandt Asian Art, Malcolm Fairley, Grace Tsumugi and Sue Ollemans. There was also a number of local dealers present, including Galerie Nicholas Fournery who had sold an impressive pair of Chinese export famille rose jars and covers.
Of the auctioneers, Christie’s was the only house present, with a selection of highlights from their July sale. This included a rare and large cinnabar lacquer Jiajing mark and period ‘shou and dragon’ box, which sold for €252,000 against an estimate of €120,000-180,000 and a rare Qianlong seal mark and period turquoise ground yangcai imitation cloisonné dish, which realised €414,800 (Estimate €150,000-200,000).
Tour of the Guimet Museum
On the 8th of June, I gave some important clients a tour of the Chinese ceramic galleries of the Guimet Museum. I have written a more detailed article on this, which is featured in the Articles section of the Latest News section of the website.
It was really great being back in the museum after a three year break due to the pandemic and I very much enjoyed seeing some of the Kangxi period early enamels again as well as the incredibly rare Yuan dynasty blue ground ‘dragon’ meiping and the splendid Qianlong mark and period millefleurs famille rose baluster vase.
Christie’s Paris Givenchy Sale Viewing
On my way to the Pagoda on my last day in Paris I stopped in at Christie’s to view the sale of Hubert de Givenchy Collectionneur. The whole building had been given over to the sale and each room was set out to recreate the rooms from his property in Paris and his country house, the Manoir du Jonchet in the Loire Valley. The downstairs salesroom was beautifully converted into a miniature version of his country house garden (see lower centre photograph below).
There was not many Chinese pieces in the sale, but one highlight included a pair of rare and large Wanli mark and period blue and white gu-shaped vases. Each one was painted with a central basket of flowers and garden rocks and scrolling foliage. They sold for €176,400 against an estimate of €40,000-60,000. Another was a set of twenty four 19th century Chinese School tea cultivation gouache works on paper. It is rare to see such a large set and in such condition and they sold well over their €40,000-60,000 estimate at €90,720. One other interesting lot was the gilt-bronze mounted Yuan/Ming dynasty Longquan celadon guan jar and cover. It had originally belonged to Sotirio Bulgari in Rome and was unusual to see such elaborate mounts on a piece of Longquan celadon. it sold just over its upper estimate at €52,920 (Estimate €30,000-50,000).
Bonhams and Cornette de Saint Cyr Paris Viewing of the Robert & Jean-Pierre Rousset sale
Bonhams recently announced the acquisition of the Paris auction house Cornette de Saint Cyr, which was founded in 1973. I was fortunate to see some of the highlights of the October auction of Robert and Jean-Pierre Rousset which was on view in their impressive rooms. Some of these (illustrated below) include an important and very rare Northern Qi dynasty stone head of a bodhisattva (Estimate €200,000-300,000), a large and rare Jin dynasty figure of a bodhisattva (Estimate €1-1.5m) and an impressive and beautifully cast Western Zhou dynasty bronze ritual vessel, fang hu (Estimate – €120,000-180,000).
The acquisition of this Paris auction room by Bonhams is the fourth this year, which has included Bruun Rasmussen in Copenhagen, Bukowskis in Stockholm and Skinner in Boston. It is clear that Bonhams are on an aggressive drive to consolidate their position in the middle market across Europe and in the USA.
Visit to the Butler Collection
On the 16th of June, I took the New Vision group to the Butler Collection in Dorset. Katherine Butler was a wonderful hostess and gave a really interesting tour of the collection. We looked at pieces in chronological order starting with late Ming examples from the Jiajing and Wanli periods and ended with pieces from the early Kangxi period. We were also able to handle an number of examples, which was a real treat and really helped to bring the collection to life.
Asian Art in London’s Summer Event: Late June.
Asian Art in London is this year celebrating its 25th anniversary and as part of this, a number of the members held exhibitions in the central London area. Included in this was Priestley & Ferraro’s exhibition entitled The Crown Prince in Meditation, which featured the Northern Qi dynasty marble stele. The show also included other Northern Qi, Tang and Song dynasty sculpture, ceramics and jade.
Marchant held an exhibition of the contemporary Japanese master of celadon – Kawase Shinobu, which included 52 pieces of beautifully potted celadon wares inspired by organic forms and Longquan celadon.
Vetting Masterpiece Fair: 27 June
It was great to be back at the Masterpiece fair again in London and to be vetting some of the Chinese exhibits. One of the more unusual items was a pair of 18th century mirrors surmounted with views of Canton and Shanghai that was on the stand of Ronald Phillips. He was also exhibiting a stunning Chinese Chippendale gilt wood mirror which was adorned with Chinese cloisonné birds.
Although the amount of Chinese items has declined at Masterpiece in recent years, there is still some interest exhibits at a number of the furniture and ceramics dealers. One interesting contemporary display at Adrian Sassoon was Bouke de Vries’s sculpture of a triple gourd glass vase, filled with broken sherds of 18th century Chinese porcelain.
Alastair Gibson Auction: 6th July
Alastair Gibson held his second auction of Fine Asian Art on the 6th of July, which was held in Bermondsey in South London. Some notable sales included lot 50, a rare underglaze blue, copper-red and celadon Kangxi period brushpot. Painted in the round with retreats in a mountainous river landscape, it sold for £38,000 hammer against a £15,000-20,000 estimate. Another notable sale was lot 1, the group of twenty-two Shang dynasty inscribed Chinese ‘oracle’ bones. Both this and lot 50 had belonged to Lt Col George Douglas Gray, OBE, MD RAMC (1872-1946). He had practiced as the medical officer to His Majesty’s Legation in Peking from 1902. They sold for £21,000 hammer (Estimate £4,000-6,000).
I had consigned a group of fifty lots of Chinese export porcelain at the end of the auction (172-222) from the Mujintang Collection from Taiwan. Highlights included a Kangxi period famille verte Dutch market ‘Holland’ barbers bowl, which sold for £3,700 hammer (Estimate £1,500-2,000). A rare Yongzheng period dish was the verte Imari ‘South Sea Bubble’ plate, circa 1725. Commemorating the world’s first financial crash is painted with a Commedia dell’Arte figure standing on a chequerboard-pattern floor. It sold for £1,800 hammer (Estimate £300-500). The sale also featured a number of Qianlong period en grisaille wares, the most expensive of which was lot 174, the Crucifixion plate. This sold for £1,500 against an estimate of £400-600.
This group represented part one of the collection and totalled £38,950 against a low estimate of £16,450, with all 50 lots selling. The second part will be offered in the next sale later this year on 17 November.
Visit to Seoul, South Korea: 18-23 August.
In mid August, I visited Seoul for the first time. I was invited by JP Gallery to bring some Song dynasty pieces to show to clients for potential sale and to undertake some valuations for his clients. I really enjoyed the warm and welcoming atmosphere and the enthusiasm with which the pieces were received.
Whilst there, I also visited the National Museum of Korea and enjoyed seeing some early pottery including a fine and rare example of a Tang dynasty sancai horse. This was unusual in that it included blue glaze to its mane, neck and hind quarters. The museum also exhibited a number of Longquan pieces that were part of the Sinan wreck which was discovered off the coast of Korea in 1975. It consisted of 20,000 pieces which were bound for Hakata in Japan in 1323. Another highlight of the museum was some of its Ming and Qing blue and white wares, most notably the early Ming, Yongle period blue and white ‘peach and lotus’ ewer.
One of the most memorable highlights of the Museum was the immersive digital gallery which creates animated surround screen experience from historical Korean paintings. 16 projectors in the ceiling and high quality sound are used to create this highly immersive experience. I have recorded some of these films and they can be seen on my Instagram account.
On my last day, I visited the Samsung Museum of Art, Leeum, which is run by the Samsung Foundation of Culture. The museum consists of two parts, that is of traditional Korean art and contemporary art. The traditional galleries consisted of ceramics and works of art, which were exhibited in state of the art cabinets. A highlight of the the blue and white 18th century Josseon pieces was the large ‘dragon’ jar. Its wide rounded body was delicately painted with a lively five-claw dragon amongst clouds.
Displayed outside the museum, was two monumental works by the contemporary artist Anish Kapoor entitled Exhibition View, which were installed in 2012. They were quite captivating, reflecting the partly cloudy blue sky.