By LAUREN XANDRA, NOV. 2017
This November, Asian Art in London celebrated its 20th anniversary, showcasing London as a centre of expertise for the finest Asian art, from ancient to contemporary.
Highlights included the re-opening of the Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery of China and South Asia at the British Museum, by Her Majesty The Queen, a gallery she first unveiled in 1992. A keen rider and horse lover herself, she was seen marvelling at horse statues from the Tang Dynasty, and was equally enthralled exploring Sir Joseph Hotung’s extensive jades collection on loan to the museum. The gallery now features new displays telling the stories of China and South Asian countries from 5000 BC to the present day, lending heightened visibility to Asian art within the British Museum, the UK’s number one visitor attraction.
Historical Chinese objects have long held a prominent position in the UK’s top artistic institutions, but Asian Art in London provides savvy collectors with the unique opportunity to build their own comparably significant archives. Over fifty dealers opened their doors, with specialisms across Chinese art, Islamic and Middle Eastern art, Indian art, Southeast Asian art, Himalayan and Central Asian art, Japanese art, Korean art, Vietnamese art, export art and contemporary art. Talks were held on an array of topics -- from Craig Clunas’s lecture on ‘Sigmund Freud & His Chinese Things’ to Jeffrey Stamen’s fascinating Sotheby’s lecture, ‘A New Look at Kangxi Era Porcelain’ -- renewing antiques and curios with contemporary relevance and anchoring modern works in art history and symbology.
Gallery highlights include an exhibition at Mayfair gallery Eskenazi featuring the private collection of US film and television agent, Norman Kurland, which debuted at Eskenazi in Mayfair this month. The collection featured thirty-eight art objects dating from China’s Six Dynasties period (220-581 AD), that were acquired primarily through the well-known gallerist. The collection includes rare examples of Buddhist sculpture from imperial cave temples such as Yungang and Gongxian; unglazed burial figures from the Han Dynasty, China’s second empire, and earthenware figures from the Northern Wei Dynasty, an enriched period for fusion art prompted by the cultural diversity and exchange of ideas taking place along the Silk Road. Museum worthy ancient artworks additionally featured at Duton’s, the first Chinese auction house in the UK. Duton’s revealed collections ranging from painted potteries from the Neolithic period and the Northern Qi Dynasty to Tang Dynasty horses, as well as bright imperial porcelain and cloisonee arts of Ming and Qing Dynasties.
The events took place amidst a ripe moment in the global art world for the Chinese art and antique market. The Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Reports indicates that in the past year, auction sales in China account for 34% of the world total by value, exceeding the US, which recorded 32%, and Britain, which has 18%. Despite global auction sales of Chinese art and antiques slipping 5% in 2016, totalling $6.7 billion, the top end of the market with lots above $1.5 million reaching a 29% market share in 2016 -- more than double the total two years ago (Antiques Trade Gazette). Record prices at auction lead most art professionals to strongly believe that the Chinese market is here to stay and overall very lucrative.
Eastern works of enduring beauty and relevancy are now more and more central to the fabric of London’s art industry, providing advantageous access to European collectors in an otherwise competitive international landscape. WM