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Around the galleries – ambitions are high at Asian Art in London

24 October 2023

From the November 2023 issue of Apollo. Preview and subscribe here.

‘Asian Art in London [AAL] has such breadth – everything from ancient artefacts to traditional crafts to cutting-edge contemporary art,’ says Henry Howard-Sneyd, the fair’s chairman and director. ‘It seeks to represent the entirety of Asia – which, in effect, is half of the world’s population.’ No small ambitions, then, for the 26th edition of the annual programme of exhibitions and events, which this autumn returns to venues around the city. The first leg of the two-part event focuses on Indian and Islamic art (19–28 October); the second on the art of East Asia (26 October–4 November).

AAL has become a fixed point in the calendar for an international coterie of curators and collectors in the field, Howard-Sneyd says, with museum officials from Malaysia, the United States, Singapore and more flying to the city to buy work (he bemoans the comparatively empty purses of UK institutions). He is keen, however, to emphasise that London is one of the best cities in the world year-round for lovers of Asian art – that while AAL is a period of peak activity, the city’s galleries and auction houses are always here. He adds: ‘It’s also what London has to offer in terms of packers, shippers, restorers, insurance companies, legal expertise. London’s USP is the fact that it has everything.’

To reflect the fact that a growing number of galleries are offering more recent work from the region, a new prize will be awarded this year: the Modern & Contemporary Asian Art Award. For Howard-Sneyd, though, the highlight of AAL is something far more venerable: a haikatsugi stoneware tea bowl from the Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279) that is paired with a mother-of-pearl inlaid lacquer stand from the Yuan period (1279–1368) – they are featured in ‘Chinese Ceramics, Lacquer and Gold from the 12th to the 14th century’ at Eskenazi in Mayfair. Howard-Sneyd rhapsodises about the tea bowl’s hare’s-fur glaze; though technically it has been misfired, to him this adds to its beauty. ‘I think of it like a late Turner – it’s so mysterious, smoky and misty. You can look at a glaze like this forever.’

At the auction houses, sales to coincide with AAL include the collection of Edith and Stuart Cary Welch, which features many Indian, Chinese and Japanese paintings and objects, to be sold at Sotheby’s; its Important Chinese Art sale features cloisonné enamels and Song ceramics from the collection of Dr Kenneth Lawley – a collection split between Sotheby’s and Lyon & Turnbull, who will be holding viewings in London for an online sale. At Bonhams, a stand-out lot from its Asian Art sale is a table screen from mid-Qing Dynasty China. The screen, related to a group from the Qing court held by the Palace Museum in Beijing, is adorned with an elephant and tribute-bearers fashioned from inlaid mother-of-pearl, shells and hardstones.

Asian Art in London runs until 4 November at venues around London.

Untitled (c. 1940), Ad Reinhardt. Courtesy David Zwirner; © Anna Reinhardt / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 2023

Gallery highlights

Ad Reinhardt
1 November–16 December
David Zwirner, New York

Ad Reinhardt first picked up a brush around 1936. Only a few short years later, the American artist – who would later become best-known for his ‘ultimate’ black paintings – began to create geometric compositions entirely untethered from representation. Working in collaboration with the Ad Reinhardt Foundation, David Zwirner is presenting these radically reductive 1940s works.

Seeing Is Believing: Lee Miller and Friends
11 November–22 December
Gagosian, New York

Riding a wave of interest in Lee Miller – including a new biopic, Lee, starring Kate Winslet, and a book of her correspondence – comes this show at Gagosian’s Madison Avenue location. It focuses on the photographer’s marriage to the painter and collector Roland Penrose and her friendships with the artists including Picasso, Max Ernst and Man Ray, whose works appear here alongside her own photographs.

Guillermo Kuitca: Pintura Sin Muros
9 November–13 January 2024
Hauser & Wirth, New York

The painter Guillermo Kuitca has long been fascinated by maps and architectural plans – but, in a career spanning five decades, has never extended his geographical interest into landscapes, choosing instead to focus on interior spaces. Now, new works by the Argentinian artist feature mountains and oceans obscured by the ghostly outlines of his familiar blueprints.

Francesca DiMattio: Wedgwood
17 November–23 December
Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London

On her Instagram account, the American artist Francesca DiMattio recently wrote of ceramic art: ‘It is both historically revered, utilitarian and schlock found at yard sales. Nothing speaks to that duality more than Wedgwood.’ This show of new work sees her remixing motifs from 18th-century porcelain with the forms of ancient Greek vessels and everyday items (sneakers, handbags) within a maximalist installation.

Amstelodamum (1690), Pieter van den Berge after Johannes Kip. Inter-Antiquariaat Mefferdt & De Jonge

Fairs in focus

PAN Amsterdam
19–26 November
Various venues, Amsterdam

Back for its 36th edition, the leading art, antiques and design fair in the Netherlands is in ebullient form. Of its 120 exhibitors, 20 are newcomers, who will join PAN’s more established dealers and galleries in the RAI Amsterdam exhibition centre. Though the majority are homegrown talents, the newcomers include a sprinkling from further afield – among them Nicholas Grindley from London, Galerie Lowet de Wotrenge from Antwerp and Finch & Co from London and Brussels. Its exhibitors bring art and objects spanning 5,000 years of history to the fair, vetted by 80 independent experts for quality, authenticity and condition. The spectrum of prices is generously wide, from €500 to €500,000. Highlights include Amstelodamum (1690), an etching with engraving made by Pieter van den Berge after a work by Johannes Kip, offered by Inter-Antiquariaat Mefferdt & De Jonge. This scene of the city’s IJ bay features fishermen in humble rowing boats alongside imposing warships with flags flying. Above, the title-bearing ribbon is accompanied by an allegory of Amsterdam’s trading prowess.

From the November 2023 issue of Apollo. Preview and subscribe here.