As Asia Week gets under way in New York City, much attention is devoted to the encyclopedic round of Asian art auctions at Christie's, Sotheby's and Doyle and the two knockout Asian art fairs -- the New York Arts of Pacific Asia Show (Mar. 22-25) and the International Asian Art Fair (Mar. 23-28).
Needless to say, New York City's Asian art galleries take pains to mount special exhibitions in conjunction with all this activity. Below, a look at several top shows.
China Jade at Throckmorton Fine Art
How narrow is the line between collector and dealer? The closeness of the two disciplines is beautifully demonstrated by Spencer Throckmorton of Manhattan. His gallery at 153 East 61st Street, which specializes in photography and Latin American and pre-Columbian art, for Asia Week is presenting "Enduring Art of Jade Age China."
Some 20 years ago Throckmorton came across a piece of elegantly
carved nephrite -- the preferred type of jade -- dating to the Late Spring and Autumn Period of the so-called "Sichuan School" (8th to 5th century BC).
The minute figure, measuring scarcely 11 centimeters (4 inches) high, represents a semi-human immortal with wings. Tiger paws serve as his feet and hands. His nostrils and eyes are wide and flaring, and his beard is huge, features characteristic of that time and place.
Discolored by its long burial, the jade is not the usual yellow-green of nephrite, but nevertheless it is the showpiece of the collection, with a value assignment of $100,000.
This key creature, along with some 70 other jade objects from the
Throckmorton Collection, are on display at his 61st Street showroom, Mar. 2-Apr. 12, 2001.
Jade was known as "the jewel of heaven." It was used extensively
in religious and sacred ceremonies, and was thought to represent
physical and spiritual permanence. However, jade presents a
dating problem for the collector, who must be sure an object
comes from a burial site consistent with its assigned age and
that no alterations have been made to the object. An expert can
tell what shaped the handsome intricate carvings: modern tools
or the drills, files and prodigious sweat of the ancient
Japanese screens at Scholten Japanese Art
"The Delicate Divide," a spring exhibition of Japanese screens, celebrates the one-year anniversary of Scholten Japanese Art Gallery's presence in New York. The exhibition is on view Mar. 21-Apr. 21 at the gallery's beautiful townhouse at 63 East 66th Street in Manhattan.
The Japanese believe in the concept of "less is more," and their
home furnishings are sparse. The folding screen is defined as an
"enclosure" or "protection against the wind (bu)." But the screen
also creates private spaces in multifamily dwellings. Its surfaces are ideal for reflecting the owner's taste and style. Artists early on took to the screen with gold leaf and paper, creating great outdoor scenes, mythological and historical events, and representations of the four seasons.
Scholten's installation features screens from the two most important Japanese historical schools: the 18th century Rimpa School and the early 17th-century Hasagawa School. The six-panel screens are amply dimensioned, measuring approximately 5½ feet high
and 11 feet long.
Music and ritual at J.J. Lally
"Ancient China: Music and Ritual" is the title of another Asia Week gallery show, this one presented by J.J. Lally on East 57 Street. Using the slogan, "Every musical note originates in the human heart," the gallery features nine archaic bronze bells and a gong, dating from as early as the 12th century B.C. to the 2nd century B.C.
Skillfully decorated, the bells were struck by a special hammer. They were often played with their mouths facing upwards. It is possible to reproduce their sound, but we do not have the musical scores that were used. The green patina on many of the bells is very attractive.
In addition to the bells, Lally is showing a selection of ceramic
"sleeve dancers," so called because the dancers used the sleeves
of their kimonos to interpret their performances. Also on display
are large wine and food vessels. The exhibition runs Mar. 20-Apr. 8.
FRED STERN writes on Asian art for Artnet Magazine.