Inspired by the success of last year's Asian Art week in London, dozens of specialist dealers are collaborating with London's three major auction houses (Sotheby's, Christie's and Phillips) and several museums to once again celebrate the city's ample offerings for the Asian art collector and enthusiast.
Running officially Nov. 9-20, with many exhibitions extending well into the New Year, this year's Asian Art week will truly provide something for everyone. Collections on view range from the ancient to the modern, from the strictly Asian to a celebration of Western works showing Eastern influence. The event also boasts some serious social and academic offerings, including a gala dinner at the British Museum and symposia being held by the educational branches of both Sotheby's and Christie's.
The Victoria and Albert Museum is mounting a special exhibition of Chinese ceramics of the Yuan and Early Ming dynasties (to Nov. 28) as well as two more contemporary exhibitions that could hardly be more different -- one addressing the enduring influence of Mao Zedong on Chinese culture and the other looking at Mao as filtered through the international fashion world.
The British Museum is staging the exhibition "Gilded Dragons: Buried Treasures from China's Golden Ages" (to Feb. 20, 2000) along with special selections in the museum's Islamic, Japanese and Oriental Bridge galleries. All of these exhibitions will be held alongside the museum's stunning permanent collections of Asian art.
On a slightly smaller scale, the Institute of Contemporary Art will be showing a selection of 50 pieces of fine Ming furniture, most of it never before viewed in Europe, from the collection of renowned connoisseur Dr. S.Y. Yip in conjunction with London dealer Grace Wu Bruce (Nov. 18-26). Sir John Soane's Museum will be showing a selection of rare Chinese tiles. Finally, for those wanting a day out of town, Oxford University's Ashmolean Museum will have an exhibition of Tibetan Buddhist art through the end of the year.
As far as auctions go, both Christie's and Sotheby's are holding sales of various Chinese and Japanese works on Nov. 16 and 17. On Nov. 18, Sotheby's auctions a fabulous collection of netsuke. Phillips holds its auctions of Chinese and Japanese works on Nov. 19. All three houses will be showing previews on the days preceding the auctions.
Perhaps the greatest opportunities for the amateur enthusiast and seasoned collector alike are to be found via the 47 private dealers and specialists participating in the event. London is blessed with an abundance of Asian collectibles, ranging from the fantastic collection of Chinese snuff bottles at Robert Hall to the Chinese scholars' carpets at the Textile Gallery (in a special arrangement, on exhibition at Colnaghi Nov 12-19).
Asian Art in London is also true to its name in offering works from Southeast Asia, India and the Himalayas, as well as some Islamic and Byzantine works which expand the usual understanding of "Asian." Among these, John Eskenazi, Ltd. is showing various items from South-East Asia and India, including a particularly noteworthy Jain frieze. Rossi and Rossi is presenting Himalayan works, while John Siudmak Asian Art has a fine example of the often-unexplored meeting of Greek and Indian styles following the Hellenic occupation of much of the Indian subcontinent.
More contemporary tastes are catered to by Katie Jones Oriental Art's exhibition "Simplicity and Elegance: Japanese Forms in the 20th Century," while the current popularity of feng shui is addressed by Linda Wrigglesworth Ltd., who has "Feng shui in Textiles Part II." Finally, "Vision of the East" at Partridge Fine Arts features both Asian works made for the European market and European works either incorporating imported Asian elements or displaying significant Asian influence.
If all of this sounds a bit daunting, don't worry. The dealers have wisely come together to hold three geographically organized late-night openings. On Sunday, Nov. 14, those in the St. James area are holding evening openings, while Nov. 15 and 16 see, respectively, the Mayfair and Kensington/Westbourne Grove dealers staying open late.
A detailed list of participants and locations, as well as a complete schedule of events can be obtained by visiting the Asian Art in London website at www.asianartinlondon.com. Watch Artnet.com Magazine for coming features on selected dealers and exhibitions.