This may be hard to believe, but not all the best art is in Maastricht this week. The world’s finest Asian art is dazzling Manhattan until 21 March. Should proof be needed of Asia Week New York’s importance, the experienced dealer Gisèle Croës has upped sticks from her native Brussels, forsaken TEFAF for a second year and installed a wonderful show at Gagosian’s Madison Avenue galleries.
Asia Week New York, now in its fifth year, substantially outstrips its predecessors. Some 22 museums and cultural institutions are taking part – among them the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is celebrating the centenary of its Asian Art department. Five auction houses will bring the hammer down at 25 sales, including a seven-part Christie’s sale of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth’s renowned collection. There are symposiums, lectures and tours, and at the core of the festivities, 42 top-tier international dealers have mounted their own exceptional shows.
Almost all the events can be enjoyed for free, so this is a great opportunity to explore a wide range of art, to see it up close and benefit from a wealth of specialist knowledge. And the well-designed website is something many other art fairs could take as their template.
On a marathon day-long walk I visited 27 of the dealers’ shows. I had originally intended to select the 10 best, but it quickly became clear that this was a futile project: with very few exceptions, every show is worth a thorough visit. Those selected here, spanning China, Korea, Japan and the Indian subcontinent, should whet your appetite to see more.
Let’s start with Gisèle Croës. ‘I suppose you know I specialise in Chinese art’, she says modestly as introduction. ‘My main field is early bronzes. But what you see here is an overview of Chinese art which starts in 3,000 BC.’ And off she goes, chatting away about a 9th-century BC miniature incense burner, and an 11th-century BC wine vase, while standing glowing in front of a 2nd-century AD monumental bronze horse. ‘For me, Asia Week New York is the most important. Everyone comes. It’s an international gathering around the best of Asian art.’
At Kang Collection, New York dealer Keum Ja Kang – who had one of the most exciting displays last year – is showing what she calls ‘Happy Modern’ modern and contemporary Korean paintings’. Sun K. Kwak has created picture-sculptures of brightly coloured sticky tape; Ik-Joong Kang, who lives in New York and is best known for his vast installation at the Korean Pavilion at Shanghai’s Expo 2010, presents unexpectedly ethereal and calm moon pictures.
Joan B. Mirviss, another New Yorker, has been dealing in Japanese ceramics since 1984. This year she has used her unerring eye to gather a group of bulbous Tsubo jars – which she suggests evoke the heart – to tell the story of Japan’s unbroken ceramics tradition from the 3rd century BC to the present. The sensual avant-garde and contemporary pots include Kamoda Shoji’s finely-striped, shimmering blue and white vessel from 1978 and Ogata Kamio’s 2014 pleated and marbleised vessel – a Fortuni creation in clay. In addition, don’t miss the ceramic boxes at Dai Ichi Arts Ltd.
Other local New York local dealers with exceptional shows include Carol Conover at her Kaikodo gallery, Nicholas Grindley, Michael Hughes, Nayef Homsi, Carlton Rochell and Erik Thomsen. Thomsen’s little-known 20th-century Taisho period screens are a revelation.
This year, perhaps spurred on by the exceptional Indian auction sales and the Met’s upcoming show of Deccan art (20 April–26 July), there are more specialist Indian art dealers and their shows are especially fine. Where to start? From London, Francesca Galloway, Prahlad Bubbar and Oliver Forge & Brendan Lynch Ltd bring exquisite miniature paintings, many of which are on the market for the first time. Prahlad Bubbar is showing at 1016 Madison Avenue, where Christophe Hioco has brought his stunning Indian sculptures from Paris, Carlo Cristi his newly acquired bronzes from Daverio in Italy, and the local Walter Arader his broad take on Himalayan art.
Finally, this trio of beautifully exhibited, top Indian shows is not to be missed: Dalton-Somaré from Milan has sculptures and bronzes sourced by the remarkable Vigorelli family; Dr Robert R. Bigler says he took 16 years to gather his pre Yongle-period 13th- and 14th-century bronzes from Switzerland; and New Yorker Nancy Wiener, daughter of doyenne Doris Wiener, has once again gathered pieces of astonishing quality. She frankly admits she’d like to live with some forever. A good recommendation.
Asia Week New York runs until 21 March. Visit their website for the full programme of exhibitions and events.