Oct 11, 2012

Chinese Contemporary Art Market Slips

According to an Oct. 9, 2012 Art Radar Asia article, "Ashen Faces, groans as Chinese art bombs -- Sotheby's Autumn 2012 Contemporary Asian Art auction," contemporary Chinese art sales have seriously slumped while the market remains strong for premodern Chinese arts. The article also  references several recent article elsewhere about the frauds rampant at Chinese art auctions in Mainland China and the increasing number of fakes of contemporary Chinese arts.

See the following articles on related topics:
Forbes article from 8/13/2012, "China's $13 Billion Art Fraud."
The Art Newspaper article from 7/18/2012, "Chinese art funds on risky road to maturity."

Jul 28, 2012

Alledged Undervaluing of Contemporary Chinese Art Imported to China

On July 16, 2012, the NY Times reported that a German art handler and a Chinese associate were detained on charges that they undervalued imported art to avoid customs duties. The article states that "[t]he detentions have put a spotlight on the mercurial Chinese legal system and raised questions among collectors and industry executives about the potential pitfalls of China’s fast-growing art and antiques market, which last year surpassed the United States to become the world’s largest, according to the European Fine Art Foundation. The crackdown, industry professionals have warned, could dissuade Chinese collectors from bringing home art purchased abroad." The article then adds that "legal experts said that art handling firms simply work with the values provided by their clients, but that Chinese law is murky on whether individuals employed by shipping companies can be held liable for undervaluing a work...in China imported art is often levied with duties that can reach 35 percent of an object’s value. Many industry veterans complain of a customs process that is notoriously onerous....and "[a] number of art professionals, speaking on the condition of anonymity out of fear of drawing unwanted attention from the authorities, have suggested that the government may simply be trying to remove the competition as it prepares to enter the lucrative art-handling business. Read the full article HERE.

Jul 22, 2012

Sotheby's Sues Chinese Bidder for $3.5 million Nonpayment

On July 17, 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported Sotheby's has had to resort to attempting to publicly shame a mainland Chinese buyer who failed to pay for 20 lots he bought at their April 2012 Hong Kong sale of Chinese paintings. Here's hoping they are successful.

Jul 16, 2012


Provenance (the history of past ownership) has great importance when assessing value of ancient Chinese arts. That is because dealers and auction house are increasingly unwilling to accept objects for sale and museums are not accepting them as gifts if acquisition history cannot be documented prior to 1970 (the year a United Nations convention on looted antiquities took effect). On July 12, 2012, the New York Times published a story on this situation: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/arts/design/antiquity-market-grapples-with-stricter-guidelines-for-gifts.html?pagewanted=3&_r=1

Jun 15, 2012

Problematic Chinese Buyers

The problem with Chinese buyers failing to pay up after winning bids at high profile auctions is accurately described in Bloomberg's article from several months ago. Yet, based on reports I have received regarding sales in Hong Kong this April, the issue has not been resolved, despite auction houses institution of new strategies (including receipt of deposits).

May 12, 2012

Public Lecture in Kyoto May 28

--Celebrating Design and Craftsmanship: Early Acquisitions of Japanese Art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art-- Lecture will be from 6:30-8:30 in Room 213 of the Fusokan on the Doshisha University Campus Sponsored by the Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies.

ABSTRACT: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is recognized for its superb holdings of Chinese art. Yet in its formative period, 1930-35, the museum also began amassing an extraordinary collection of Japanese art under the oversight of Harvard University Art Museum curator and lecturer Langdon Warner (1881-1955), one of the earliest specialists on Asian art in the USA,who also led excavations in China and Central Asia, and advised the Cleveland and Philadelphia Art Museums on acquisitions during the course of his long career. For the Nelson, Warner bought large and diverse groups of textiles, arms and armor, ukiyoe prints and paintings, lacquer, ceramics, and Buddhist art that represented his personal feelings for Japan's defining spiritual, aesthetic, and cultural characteristics, and above all highlighted the Japanese as among the world's greatest designers and craftsmen. When the Japanese collection came under the jurisdiction of Chinese art historian Laurence Sickman in 1935, much of this collection fell into obscurity because of his emphasis on Chinese art. After Sickman became Director in 1953 he began a renewed effort to collect Japanese art, but then emphasized the acquisitions of masterpieces by famous artists and other arts such as porcelains, large-scale folding screens, early Buddhist sculptures, and lacquers, that could be described as refined products of Japanese elite culture, all reflective of the aesthetic taste of post-war Japanese art enthusiasts. Recently, as art museums re-evaluate their collections, they are becoming interested once again in the types of formerly ignored objects that Warner collected, recognizing that the aesthetic achievements of diverse cultures may encompass art forms that fall outside the parameters of artworks deemed "masterpieces" or "fine arts" by Western criteria. Scrutinizing the early Japanese collection at the Nelson with these issues in mind illuminates more than changing attitudes towards appreciation of Japanese art. It raises questions about the presentation,collection, and interpretation of world art in art museums today.

Apr 25, 2012

Chinese Art Stolen from Cambridge Museum

BBC Radio reported that a group of 18 Chinese artifacts, mainly jades, were stolen from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge on April 13, 2012. Professor and popular art crime author Noah Charney wrote a blog post about this. Not too surprising a development given the booming Chinese art market.

Apr 19, 2012

May 5 Presentation in Washington, DC

I will be a speaker on May 5 at 2 PM, the Freer Gallery (Smithsonian Institution) in a program entitled -- CONVERSATION: VISUAL CULTURE AND SOCIAL UPHEAVAL: IMAGING CHANGE IN LATE EDO PERIOD JAPAN. 
The program is held in conjunction with two special exhibitions at the Sackler Museum, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in Japanese painting and prints.  

Mar 24, 2012

Asia Society Forum on Collecting Ancient Art in the 21st Century

I recently attended a 2-hour forum at the Asia Society in NY in which a panel of experts including museum directors and curators, art dealers, academic specialists, collectors, and a former officer with the Department of Homeland Security discussed issues relating to the collecting and displaying of ancient Asian art. I found the discussions incredibly informative and have already found a summary of it and a video of the entire program posted to a website.

Mar 23, 2012


For readers of my blog interested in learning more about Korean art, I urge you to join the KOREAN ART SOCIETY, based in New York City.

Mar 6, 2012

S. J. Rozan Mystery Novel features intrigue about fictional Contemporary Chinese painter

As a fan of mystery novels in general and S. J. Rozan's Chinese-American detective Lydia Chin and her partner Bill Smith  in particular, I was delighted to read her newest novel, GHOST HERO, whose storyline featured mystery and intrigue surrounding a fictional contemporary Chinese painter. It is set in NY City, just before the start of "Asian Art Week," an annual event each March, which I generally attend. I thoroughly enjoyed it! On S.J. Rozan's website, I was pleased to see a page with links to numerous resources for the study and appreciation of Chinese art in general that she describes as the GHOST HERO COMPANION GUIDE.

Jan 17, 2012

Wall Street Journal Article on Chinese Art Market

The booming Chinese art market continues to make the news. See the recent Wall Street Journal article (Friday January 13, 2012), "Art's New Pecking Order."