Asian Art in London 2019 galleries are showing a variety of Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Southeast Asian and Himalayan works of art alongside the London Chinese and Japanese sales by international auction houses
Asian Art in London (AAL) is now in its 22nd edition and the event runs from 31 October to 9 November in locations across London. This year 33 dealers and galleries from the UK and overseas are showcasing a range of works of art from South, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, China, Japan, Korea, the Himalayas and the Islamic world, dating from antiquity to the contemporary, along with sales and previews of Asian art at local and international auction houses. Alongside the selling exhibitions, visitors can attend a variety of museum exhibitions, lectures, gallery talks that coincide with Asian Art in London. Below is just a selection of shows organised by the galleries for the event. Full information can be found in the dedicated guidebook produced by Asian Art in London.
Late night openings start with Kensington Church Street on 2 November, St. James’s on 3 November, and Mayfair on 4 November. Not all galleries participate in these late openings, so refer to the AAL website listings for individual gallery’s details, or check directly with the galleries. The AAL directory, includes maps and an events calendar and can be found in members’ galleries, or can be downloaded from their website.
Alongside the gallery shows, there are several museum exhibitions and events that coincide with Asian Art in London week.
In London: The British Library: A major new exhibition, Buddhism, opens on 25 October and runs until 23 February 2020. The British Museum: Sir Stamford Raffles, Collecting in Southeast Asia 1811-1824, runs to 12 Jan, 2020; Inspired by the East: How the Islamic World Influenced Western Art, until 26 January; and Nara: Sacred Images from Early Japan, runs until 24 November. Daiwa Foundation: The Post-Anthropocene by Inose Naoya, until 1 November. Korean Cultural Centre: Negotiating Borders, an art exhibition based on the DMZ, until 23 November. Tate London: Nam June Paik, a retrospective of the modern Korean artist runs until 9 February, 2020.
Elsewhere in the UK: Ashmolean Museum (Oxford): A Nice Cup of Tea?; From Istanbul to Oxford explores how coffee came to London using Ottoman objects. Museum of East Asian Art (Bath): East Asian Life and China on a Plate. Oriental Museum (Durham) Interface Arts presents ‘East Meets West’. Pitt Rivers Museum (Oxford): Multaka: Connecting Threads. The Whitworth (University of Manchester): Beyond Faith: Muslim Women Artists Today; Li Yuan-chia Unique Photographs; and Four Corners of One Cloth: Textiles from the Islamic World.
The annual cocktail party is on Tuesday, 5 November at Bonham’s 101 New Bond Street. Tickets (numbers are limited) must be pre-booked through the Eventbrite function on asianartinlondon.com
LATE NIGHT OPENING
Saturday 2 November, 5-9 pm
Gregg Baker Asian Art, Marchant, Jorge Welsh Works of Art
Check with individual galleries for late opening times
Gregg Baker is showing Post-War Abstract Paintings and Ceramics of Japan bring together the work produced by the revolutionary ceramic art group Sodeisha. Also on show are pieces by two masters of abstract painting, Key Sato (1906-1978) and Kokuta Suda (1906-1990), whose paintings often included sand, pebbles and gesso, giving their work a ceramic-like texture.
At Marchant’s, the exhibition this year is Qing Porcelain from Three Private Collections, comprising pieces from the late 1800s until the present. Each collector is quite different, but all have had the same passion for collection, providing interesting provenances for the works.
The works come from collections created by three men: Tang Shaoyi, the first Prime Minister of the Republic of China in 1912; the Frenchman Henry Mazot, who arrived in Peking in the early 1920 and worked for the Bank of Indochina; and Jeffrey Stamen who is an avid collector of Chinese porcelain with a special interest in the Kangxi period.
Celebrating their 20th annual exhibition, Jorge Welsh Works of Art brings together three exceptional works of art in Treasures of Chinese Export Art, including a pair of Yongzheng famille-rose vases; one of the largest collections of 18th-century Chinese snuff boxes on record; and an enigmatic and rare enamel-on-copper staff. The show explores some of the most unusual and high-quality, custom, orders produced by Chinese artists for the West, illustrating how these precious objects were as highly valued then as they are today.
Three individual catalogues accompany the show: ‘The Vases of the Hundred Treasures’, ‘Pocket Treasures: Snuff Boxes from Past Times’ and ‘Timeless Treasures: the Runic Calendar Staff’.
LATE NIGHT OPENING
Sunday 3 November
Raquelle Azran Vietnamese Art, Joost van den Bergh, Cohen & Cohen, Daniel Crouch Rare Books, Rob Dean Art, Malcolm Fairley, Peter Finer, Grosvenor Gallery, Hanga Ten, Littleton & Hennessy, Martindale Chinese Art, Susan Ollemans, Simon Pilling, Priestley & Ferraro, Simon Ray, Jacqueline Simcox, Runjeet Singh, Davinder Toor, Grace Tsumugi Fine Art, and Jonathan Tucker & Antonia Tozer Asian Art
Raquelle Azran is showing a selection of works from Vietnamese artists living and working in Hanoi. This year’s theme is Eastern Embraces, Western Whispers. The group show illustrates the Western influences on Vietnamese art, beginning with the founding in 1925, in Hanoi, of the Fine Arts Academy of French Indochina (L’ecole des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine) by Victor Tardieu and Joseph Inguimberty, colleagues and contemporaries of Matisse.
Joost van den Bergh specialises in Indian art and this year’s exhibition is entitled Perfect Presence, Tantra, Jain & Hindu Ritual Art from India – a celebration of the intricate and intoxicating visual art derived from Tantric thought and practice. Tantra, a term known in the West for its associations with sex, magic, and esoteric mysticism has had an impact on religions and philosophies including Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Jainism, Vajrayana, Bonpo, Ayurveda and Shamanism. Alongside related ideas of mantra (knowledge through sound) and yantra (the means to leading a Tantric existence), the philosophy of Tantra claims that reality (prakriti) is pure consciousness, pure being, pure bliss – a reality that is, however, veiled by illusion (maya). Through purification, elevation and reaffirmation of identity, Tantra aims to help us return to this unadulterated state of being. The gallery is also presenting a number of 20th-century and contemporary works from artists who were/are influenced by tantra, including Sayed Haider Raza, Acharya Vyakul, Kalu Ram and Profulla Mohanti. Contemporary works included are by Nicola Durvasula, Shezad Dawood, Alexander Gorlizki and Fergus Feehily – all of whom have a deep interest in the subject. A catalogue accompanies the exhibition.
The Elephant in the Room is the title for this year’s show by Chinese export specialists, Cohen and Cohen, the elephants in question are a pair of 18th-century Chinese export candlesticks, modelled as caparisoned elephants, decorated in famille-rose enamels. Another highlight is a pair of famille-rose vases with unusual knops moulded as large lotus blooms, from the Qianlong period, on later European gilt wood stands. A catalogue accompanies the exhibition.
Rob Dean and the Grosvenor Gallery have teamed together to present Views of India. The exhibition presents India through the eyes of both Indian and foreign artists and takes visitors on a journey through India from the 17th to 21st century. The exhibition includes historical scenes of the opulent palaces and sumptuous lifestyles and religious activities of the famed Maharajahs of India as depicted by artists working in the court ateliers and also explores views of India as seen through the eyes of British and European artists who went to India in the 18th and 19th centuries. The gem-like pigments of the classical Indian paintings with their unconventional approaches to perspective and landscape painting can be compared to the later academic style of oil painting that became favoured in India as European tastes began to pervade Indian courts.
Malcolm Fairley’s exhibition consists of recent acquisitions, including metalwork, lacquer, cloisonné enamel, Satsuma earthenware and a collection of contemporary pieces by Tomizo Saratani. Another Japanese specialist, Grace Tsumugi Fine Art, has recently refurbished their St James’s gallery and this year for Asian Art in London is featuring a selection of works of art, mainly from the Meiji and Taisho periods, including lacquer, metalwork, sagemono, Satsuma and paintings. Highlights include a pair of screens with 12-months designs and hanging scroll paintings by Watanabe Seitei (1851-1918). The Nihonga painter, Seiti (also known as Shotei), was an unusual artist for the time, blending Western and Japanese techniques in his paintings. He was one of the first Japanese artists to visit Europe, where he attended the 1878 International Exhibition in Paris. He also visited the US in the same year.
Still in Japan, but moving to the present day, Hanga Ten is presenting The Four Seasons: Perspectives from Contemporary Japanese Printmakers. This show views the seasons through the eyes of a group of contemporary Japanese master printmakers with varying printmaking techniques. From the traditional woodcuts of Kuzuyuki Ohtsu to the refined mezzotints of Katsunori Hamanishi, and to the colourful silkscreens on gold leaf of Kazutoshi Sugiura to the mixed media on Nepalese paper of Daniel Kelly, a spectacularly beautiful range of Japan’s seasons is presented. Many of the works are rare prints, such as Ohtsu’s Autumn in Nara. Other artists on show are Ryohei Tanaka, Hiroto Norikane, Toko Shinoda, Sarah Brayer, and Nana Shiomi. In the same gallery, Japanese art is also being presented by Simon Pilling, East Asian Art & Interiors. This year marks the beginning of a new Imperial era – Reiwa – the fifth since the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate. In each era the arts have played a key role in reflecting the challenges of the time. This exhibition examines this through the works selected for exhibition. At the beginning of the Meiji period the arts were seen as a field in which Japan excelled, and were used to promote Japan’s values in the contemporary International World Trade Fairs. By the Taisho era Japan’s economy was strong, and the arts engaged in an international exchange of ideas. In the Showa period Japan embarked on a new route that was to prove disastrous. Following the Pacific War, Japan’s economic recovery thrived from the 1960s, peaking at the end of the Showa era, but then stalled and sought consolidation through the Heisei era. Throughout, the arts have provided continuity, incorporating symbolism that reaches back far into Japan’s historic past, but constantly striving to capture the contemporary zeitgeist. At the beginning of this new era how will today’s young artists take the story forward?
Littleton & Hennessy are presenting a range of Chinese works of art, a highlight of the show is miniature Beijing enamel hu vase, Qianlong mark and period. This delicately painted vase measures only 5.7cm. The vase was made in the imperial workshops in Beijing and is decorated with lingzhi and bats, symbolising longevity and happiness in falangcai, or foreign enamels. This year, Martindale Chinese Art has organised an exhibition of Chinese jade entitled Creatures and Beasts that features a collection of animals carved from nephrite jade dating from the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1912). And for 2019, Priestley & Ferraro are showing Chinese and Korean Ceramics and Works of Art comprising a range of early Chinese ceramics from the Tang to Song dynasties, as well as Goryeo celadons, bronzes, textiles, and paintings, with some works in iron, lacquer, and bamboo.
Simon Ray, as usual, holds an Indian & Islamic Works of Art exhibition and among the objects on offer are a Southern-Indian white sapphire and ruby necklace dating to the 19th century, an Iznik tile depicting saz leaves and rosettes, circa 1550, and a Mughal-period, carved, red sandstone screen with floral sprays, parrot and peacocks dating to the 17th century. A highlight is a Mughal jade horse head, gem-set, hilt from the 17th century, the small number of daggers produced with animal hilts were reserved for the use of princes, while the number of such daggers increased during the 17th and 18th centuries, they continued to function as indicators of the highest rank and position at court. A catalogue accompanies the exhibition. A highlight of Runjeet Singh’s show, a specialist in arms and armour from the East, is an Indian 18th-century hunting shield from Mewar. Jonathan Tucker and Antonia Tozer are presenting an important group of sculptures Gandhara, India, Southeast Asia and China in stone, bronze, stucco, wood and jade. Among this year’s highlights are an important collection of Khmer and other Southeast Asian sculptures from the estate of a British collector, a rare Pra Kon Chai bronze figure, purchased from Spink and Son in 1989 and two fine Indian sculptures including a Shiva lingham. Two exceptional grey schist Gandhara Bodhisattvas also make their appearance this year. Also on offer is a small collection of Chinese jades, acquired by an English collector in Hong Kong in 1954.
LATE NIGHT OPENING
Monday 4 November
Berwald Oriental Art, Eskenazi Ltd, Ben Janssens Oriental Art, Kai Gallery, Sydney L Moss
John Berwald is showcasing recent acquisitions, with a special focus on Chinese ceramics, sculpture, and works of art from the Han to the Qing. Eskenazi Ltd are having their first exhibition dedicated to objects from the scholar’s studio, Room for Study: Fifty Scholar’s Objects. Presenting a selection of intimate objects from rocks, paintings and furniture to bronzes, brushes and brushpots, the exhibition celebrates the culture of the Chinese scholar, who occupied a unique position under imperial rule. The objects considered necessary to the scholar’s studio served either by being vehicles for contemplation or practical utensils, in many cases fulfilling both purposes. The studio would include at the very least furniture for the practice of painting and calligraphy, together with necessary accoutrements such as brushes, brush rests, brushpots, scroll weights, washers and inkstones. This equipment was made in a large variety of materials including porcelain, bronze, bamboo and stone, with forms ranging from the humble and simple to the precious and ornate. For the purpose of pure contemplation, nature was brought into the studio in the shape of rocks and roots. A highlight of the exhibition is a 17th-century huanghuali rectangular table made in the late Ming dynasty.
This year, Ben Janssens Oriental Art the theme of the show is Mythical Animals. The exhibition ranges in date from the Warring States period, 5th century BC to the 19th century, and encompasses a variety of materials as diverse as pottery, stone, bronze, porcelain, lacquer, jade, soapstone, glass, amber and enamel. Among the pieces on offer is a fine pottery bowl and cover with animals, dating to the Han dynasty, 5th or 6th century. Unusually, the flat top is impressed with a hawk-like bird with outstretched wings and large claws, sitting with its head tucked into his body. Also on show is a jade rhyton with makara base, dating from the 17th or 18th century, and a brilliant white porcelain bowl that dates to the 18th century, having a frieze of archaistic pattern to the sides, and featuring stylised dragons. A catalogue accompanies the exhibition.
Calligraphy of the Obaku school is the theme of Sydney L Moss’s exhibition this year. In the 17th century, a sudden intersection of two Buddhist sects produced a unique phenomenon: the Obaku School. The collision of Chinese Linji (Japanese: Rinzai) monks with their theoretical counterpart in Japan bred a hybrid Zen sect, now referred to as Obaku. Calligraphy was considered to express the inner nature of the writer, and was a most intimate, personal art and Buddhist exercise. It is the fluency of Ming calligraphy fused with liberal boldness that give Obaku works their unique force and repute. A highlight of the exhibition is a pair of byobu (screens) by the monk Ingen Ryuki (1592-1673). Mounted in a rare screen format, it is important to indulge in each panel individually to appreciate the complexities of every calligraphic twist and turn, particularly noting Ingen’s distinctive curl of the final stroke of a character to bring it back to the centre. Another highlight is a hanging scroll by Sokuhi Nyoitsu. (1616-1671), of crabs among reeds.
OTHER AREAS AND BY APPOINTMENT
John Eskenazi (by appointment only), Kamal Bakhshi Modern Asian Art, Bloomsbury Gallery, Jonathan Cooper, and Singapore Art Garret Gallery
John Eskenazi is once again by appointment during Asian Art in London. On show is an array of sculptures from Gandhara, India and Southeast Asia. A highlight is an extraordinary head from the Mathura region, dating from the 3rd/4th century, illustrating the revival in traditional forms that followed the fall of the Kushan Empire, which gained momentum in the ensuing Gupta period. The remarkable expressiveness of this head combines the regal power and caring nature of the god Vishnu. Other highlights include a Gandhara stucco Buddha head that retains its original painted surface. An early terracotta image of Ganesha from Gandhara exudes the energy of this beloved god while an elegant standing Buddha, in grey schist, expresses the classical serenity most often associated with that region’s sculpture.