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Scenes from the Tale of Ise, 17th century, at Erik Thomsen Asian Art at JADA 2012: An Exhibition by the Japanese Art Dealers Association
Scenes from the Tale of Ise, 17th century, at Erik Thomsen Asian Art at "JADA 2012: An Exhibition by the Japanese Art Dealers Association"

ASIA WEEK VS. ASIA WEEK

Mar. 14, 2012

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What could possibly be controversial about “Asia Week,” the series of exhibitions, symposia and auctions that draws thousands of Asian-art lovers to New York every year? Apparently the name “Asia Week” itself.

We were alerted to the issue after an eagle-eyed publicist read the recent Artnet Magazine Asia Week preview by Brook S. Mason and pointed out that she was technically referring to events that are part of “Asia Week New York,” Mar. 16-24, 2012, a newish invite-only consortium of 33 dealers, five auction houses and 17 cultural institutions. Problem is, when Asia Week New York formed in 2010 and created the website asiaweekny.com, it took as its own an umbrella moniker that had been in existence since Sotheby’s coined it in 1992.

“The group that organized this has just taken over something that occurred sort of naturally, that’s been around for 20 years,” said dealer Sebastian Izzard, who like most other members of the nonprofit Japanese Art Dealers Association (JADA) declined the invitation to sign onto Asia Week New York.

Partly, Izzard was turned off by the $5,000 fee. Plus, he specializes in classical Japanese Art and thinks the new organization “is being overwhelmed by Chinese and contemporary art.” Indeed, part of the biggest changes to Asia Week New York this year is a three-gallery expansion into contemporary Japanese art and a first-time inclusion of classical Chinese painting.

But now opt-outs like Izzard could lose visitors who mistake Asia Week New York’s official-looking agenda for the long roster of events that the term once encompassed, including JADA’s annual exhibition of pre-19th century art and antiques at the Ukrainian Institute and shows at the nearly 20 galleries not listed on asiaweekny.com.

To confuse matters more, another calendar over at asianart.com -- also headed “Asia Week New York 2012” -- lists many events omitted by asiaweekny.com.

But not everyone’s taking sides. Japanese dealer Erik Thomsen said he paid about the same amount to take part in both the JADA show and Asia Week New York. “I think it would be in everybody’s interest for all qualified dealers to participate [in Asia Week New York],” he said. “I think it’s just a matter of time before all will join.”

And organizers of Asia Week New York don’t see the harm to nonparticipants. “I don’t think any of the literature you’ll find about Asia Week New York is saying that it’s trying to be all-embracing,” said Henry Howard-Sneyd, chairman of the organization and vice chairman of Sotheby’s Asian art department. “It never sets out to say that it has every single person or entity or Chinese restaurant.”

Wherever you get your information, the Asia Week extravaganza of events starts just about now. Among the highlights:

* “The Dragon and the Chrysanthemum: Collecting Chinese and Japanese Art in America from the 18th to the 21st Century,” Mar. 16, 2012, at the Frick Collection.

* JADA 2012: An Exhibition by the Japanese Art Dealers Association, Mar. 17-18, 2012, at the Ukrainian Institute of America.

* “Asia Week at the Morgan,” Mar. 13-Mar. 27, 2012, at the Morgan Library and Museum.

* Arts of Pacific Asia Show, Mar. 21-25, 2012, at the Market Suites at 7W New York.

* Gala benefit and dinner for the Asia Society at the Plaza Hotel, Mar. 19, 2012.

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