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GLOBAL SPICE TRADE AND THE ARTS

June 8, 2015 Comments off
TREASURE SHIPS: ART IN THE AGE OF SPICES
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
June 13th to August 30th
Exhibition includes some 300 rarely seen works of ceramics, decorative arts, furniture, metalware, screens, paintings, prints and textiles. 
ship
If I had known as a young person  what I know now about exotic spices I would have become a spice trader!
The  height of the spice age, circa 1500 – 1800 was a time of intense competitive  international trade. Think of Portuguese carracks traveling three years from Lisboa to the Indian Ocean and Japan (the famous three-masted “Black Ships”),  later the Dutch or “redheads” trading at Nagasaki under the auspices of the VOC (Dutch East India Company),  and all the merchants who came along, settled and resettled all over Asia, together with Franciscan  and Augustine monks and most of all the Jesuits. In addition to cloves, nutmeg and pepper,  a wealth of products, styles, art forms, fabrics and ceramics  traveled from Europe to Asia and back again, often in a modified form.  When the Portuguese and Catholicism were banned from Japan, the Dutch “who brought their trade but left their gods at home”  replaced the Portuguese at the artificial Island of Deshima in Nagasaki  and it just happened at the time of the collapse of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) in China    which opened an opportunity for the Dutch to look for a replacement of the declining Chinese ceramic production and they turned to Arita potters in Japan.
I excerpted freely from an article that just appeared in the June 2015 Orientations Magazine (orientations.com)  issue  TREASURE SHIPS: ART IN THE AGE OF SPICES, by Russell Kelty.It talks about an exhibition on view at the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) from June 13th to August 30th. Russell Kelty is the Assistant Curator  of Asian Art  Gallery-  am unable to find a link to the article itself but to a symposium about the exhibit. http://spiceislandsblog.com/2015/05/25/treasure-ships-art-in-the-age-of-spices-sympsium/
The exhibition catalogue is written by James Bennett and Russell Kelty. I have contacted AGSA to find out when they will sell the catalogue.
Spice trade and the trade in fabrics – I just looked over an old exhibition catalogue SILK ROAD  CHINA SHIPS, An Exhibition of East West Trade,  at the ROM/Royal Ontario Museum  1983 catalogue by Vollmer, Keall and Nagay-Berthrong, and on page 119 is a photo of a Japanese silk kimono, with red mordant painted resist-dye pattern of Indian chintz copied by an Indian painter for a Dutch gentleman, perhaps commissioned by a merchant on a ship on the Island of Deshima.  The style of the garment is Japanese and the pattern and colors totally Indian dating from the early 1700s.
On a recent trip to Washington,D.C. I started talking about the century old global trade in spices and fabrics and a friend wanted a recommendation of  books about the old spice trade. Here are my recommendations.

The Taste of Conquest: The Rise and Fall of Three Great Cities of Spice, by Michael Krondi

Spice:  The History of Temptation,  by Jack Turner

Cumin, Camels, and Caravans: A Spice Odyssey, by Gary Paul Nabhan

The Scents of Eden: A History of the Spice Trade, by Charles Corn

The Spice Route: A History, by John Keay (have not read this one)

Out of the East, by Paul Freedman

Spice Islands: The History, Romance and Adventure of the Spice Trade Who changed the Course of History, by Giles Milton

Cheers,
Elisabeth
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Two important exhibits at the Denver Art Museum

November 12, 2011 2 comments
1. XU BEIHONG:PIONEER OF MODERN PAINTING
 
On view through January 29, 2012
 
1895 to 1953
 
Xu Beihong (1895-1953) is primarily known for his black ink  brush  paintings of horses and birds. But he created equally important oil paintings, drawings, pastels and calligraphy. Among other places he studied at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, adapting a Western art technique  – and upon his return to China became a well known art educator at Chinese universities.
 
 
This exhibit came about with cooperation of the Xu Beihong Memorial Museum and many paintings are shown outside China for the first time. 
The exhibit includes several oil portraits – and we can be assured that there are no works by his students –  as happened with a portrait sold for some $ 11.4 millions at a Chinese auction last year. The painting was actually painted by several students as a class exercise at Beijing’s Academy of Fine Arts in 1983. 
 
 
Xu Beihong
 


 
2. THREADS OF HEAVEN:SILKEN LEGACY OF CHINA’S LAST DYNASTY
 
Currently on view
 
Drawn from its own collection of Chinese textiles and costumes, approximately one hundred  robes, rank badges (denoting the bearer’s civil or military rank)  and accessories dating from he end of the Qing dynasty are on view, some for the first time. While several museums have outstanding Chinese textile collections,  this is an opportunity to see and study these later pieces that we most frequently encounter in  the market. 
 
 

RE-OPENING OF THE FORMERLY KNOWN AS ISLAMIC GALLERIES

November 5, 2011 Leave a comment

GALLERIES FOR THE ART OF THE ARAB LANDS, TURKEY, IRAN, CENTRAL ASIA AND LATER SOUTH ASIA at the METROPOLITAN MUSEUM


RE-OPENING OF THE FORMERLY KNOWN AS ISLAMIC GALLERIES
 
I have written about this before but this is such a major undertaking by the museum and especially by Navina Haidar, Curator of Islamic Art at the museum, with many far reaching considerations to be taken into account – it was not just an overhaul of the museum’s permanent “Islamic” collection.  According to an article in Sunday’s NYT Magazine, controversies popped up during the eight years of planning.  The museum was accused of caving in to Muslim extremists by refusing to display any images of the Prophet – but there is an image of Muhammad riding his winged steed, Buraq, on a page from an illustrated 16th century manuscript. And we should remember that it was during the reign of Akbar the Great, during the late 16th century that  Hindu-themed paintings were commissioned by this Muslim ruler. There was tolerance then. 
 I have only seen photos and a lay-out of the  different galleries and cannot wait to see them in person. In the meantime, we can dream about them – with names like The Damascus Room, Nishapur and the Sabz-Pushan site,  Moroccan Court,  and Carpets and Textiles of the Greater Ottoman  World.
 
 

THE FORTRESS/CITADEL OVERLOOKING HERAT

October 26, 2011 Leave a comment

THE FORTRESS/CITADEL OVERLOOKING HERAT (IN WESTERN AFGHANISTAN) rebuilt with help from the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and German and American governments, was officially handed over to the Afghan government in October 2011. With the oldest buildings going back to perhaps Alexander the Great and 330 B.C., part of the battlements and towers still standing date back to the 14th and 15th century after having been rebuilt following the Mongol invasion and destruction. Herat was on the Silk Road and remained a center for politics and culture. In the museum also built with German and American support, books, pottery, paintings and manuscripts can be seen. But everybody worries about the Taliban attacks and disturbances in and around Herat.

I remember when I first went to Afghanistan many decades ago, I could not have done without the books and articles by Nancy Hatch Dupree who has lived (and who still divides her time between Kabul and Peshawar working and writing I recently read) , studied, written, preserved and watched over Kabul, Afghanistan and its heritage, culture and its treasures for over forty years. She was at hand at the opening of the citadel and the museum. See you in Afghanistan!

LUMINOUS: THE ART OF ASIA AT THE SEATTLE ART MUSEUM

October 19, 2011 Leave a comment
 
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Fresh from a celebrated tour throughout Japan, Luminous: The Art of Asia will showcase the jewels of Seattle Art Museum’s (SAM) Asian collections, featuring 160 of the museum’s masterpieces including paintings, screens, sculpture, ceramics, stone, wood, lacquer and metal ware. All objects come from the Seattle Art Museum, home to one of the finest collections of Asian art in North America. The exhibition opens on October 13, 2011, marking the first time these objects have been assembled in a major exhibition at SAM Downtown. 
Curated by Japanese art historian Catherine Roche, the objects in Luminous range from 1,500 year-old Buddhist fragments, dazzling golden screens and bold ink paintings to rich Tibetan mandalas, sumptuous Japanese kimonos and gossamer Korean bojagi. A small selection of the museum’s newest acquisitions in contemporary Asian painting, ceramics and photography will also be on view. In addition, the show will open an animated dialogue about art and Asia, beauty and vitality through excerpts of conversations with Do Ho Suh. “What I’m interested in is the common thread that links me to, say, a three-thousand-year-old object. It was beautiful then and it is beautiful now. Can beauty be absolutely free from time, space, and context?” said Do Ho Suh in a conversation with Roche about the exhibition. 
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Sotheby’s Sale of the Mei Yun Tang Collection of Paintings by Chang Dai-Chien Totals $87.3 Million

 I am showing this article verbatim as it appeared in the artdaily.com newspaper —- because it illustrates the Chinese art market scene- Chinese paintings/Chinese collectors,  and shows how important provenance always is.
 
Sotheby’s Sale of the Mei Yun Tang Collection of Paintings by Chang Dai-Chien Totals $87.3 Million
 

Sotheby’s Hong Kong achieves HK$4.28 billion/US$549 million in the first half of 2011. More than doubling the sale total of the first half of 2010. Photo: Sotheby’s
 

HONG KONG.- Sotheby’s Hong Kong concluded the sale of The Mei Yun Tang Collection of Paintings by Chang Dai-chien today with a triumphant total of HK$680 million / US$87.3 million, against a pre-sale estimate of HK$130 million / US$16.7 million. All the 25 masterpieces on offer were sold in just over an hour, and the top lot of the sale, Lotus and Mandarin Ducks sold for HK$191 million / US$24.5 million, setting the auction record for the artist. 

In a saleroom filled to capacity, bidders in the room and on the telephone competed fiercely for the works offered. Bidding for Lotus and Mandarin Ducks, the top lot of the sale, started at HK$10 million and concluded after approximately 30 bids when a telephone bidder defeated a rival in the room with an offering of HK$191 million / US$24.5 million (Est. HK$20 million / US$2.56 million), setting an auction record for the artist. 

Bidding for Ancient Temple Amidst Clouds also opened at HK$10 million, followed within seconds by an offering on the phone of HK$60 million that took the whole room by surprise. The bidder on the phone successfully acquired the work for HK$67.86 million / US$8.7 million (Est. HK$20 million / US$2.56 million). 

Speaking of the sale, C.K. Cheung, Head of Sotheby’s Fine Chinese Paintings department, said: “With intense bidding wars and stunning prices achieved for numerous works in just over an hour, I believe today’s highly anticipated sale of The Mei Yun Tang Collection of Paintings by Chang Dai-chien has left a lasting impression on those present in the room. This is an extraordinary triumph in terms not only of its commercial success, but also in its demonstration of the artistic merits of The Mei Yun Tang Collection as well as the unwavering four-decade friendship between the artist and the collector. Sotheby’s has been extremely honoured to be entrusted with a sale of such importance and I am deeply grateful to the consignors for the support and trust they have shown to the Fine Chinese Paintings Department.” 

Kevin Ching, Chief Executive Officer, Sotheby’s Asia, comments on the sale, “Today’s sale of The Mei Yun Tang Collection of Paintings by Chang Dai-chien is Sotheby’s Asia’s first-ever standalone art sale in nearly 40 years and, therefore, an important milestone in the history of Sotheby’s Asia that reinforces our leadership in the Asian art market. The stunning result achieved today proves that impeccable provenance is key to strong participation and bidding interest regardless of the date of sale. Sotheby’s will continue to source the finest artworks from around the world, and we look forward to offering to collections more collections of such quality and importance on top of our regular spring and autumn auction series.”

NO ASSOCIATION WITH ASIAN ART BUT for an Austrian this art news is good news!

(No return of Nazi- looted Klimt paintings) 
 
 
 
An Austrian man digging in his backyard, found  a buried treasure — hundreds of pieces of centuries-old jewelry and other precious objects. Estimated to be about 650 years old, the treasure consists of 200 rings, brooches, belt buckles, gold-plated silver plates, with many pieces encrusted with pearls and fossilized coral.  650 years old would date the pieces  to the Middle Ages or early Renaissance. 
 
(My Viennese backyard is about 50 km north of the treasure backyard! )