Friday, 30 October 2015

Join Us at Our Next Exhibition and Get a 20% Discount on Selected Items!

Date: 7th November 2015
Time: 4pm - 7pm
Address: Unit B-3-02 (3rd Floor),
             Neo Damansara,
             PJU 8/1, Damansara Perdana
             Petaling Jaya

Please go to   to view the map to our gallery. Please feel free to bring along your items for a FREE evaluation.

Hope to see you soon!

May Naik

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Inside Sotheby’s $500 Million Bet on Restoring Image of Ex-Chairman

When A. Alfred Taubman, the chairman of Sotheby’s, was convicted of leading a price-fixing scheme with Christie’s and sent to prison in 2002, the scandal rocked the elite auction world and reverberated throughout Manhattan. He left under a cloud.

What a difference a few years (and $500 million worth of connoisseur art) make. Now, Sotheby’s is celebrating Mr. Taubman — who died in April at 91 — pulling out all the stops to promote the sale, beginning on Nov. 4, of his extensive art collection, from old masters like Raphael to 20th-century masterworks by Modigliani, Matisse, Picasso, Schiele and de Kooning.

Sotheby’s plan to augment its own fortunes depends, in part, on whether it can resurrect a positive image of Taubman that today’s public may not recall: that of a legacy collector, an esteemed patron, and, as the catalog calls him, “an American gentleman.”

“This is a historic sale,” said Simon Shaw, Sotheby’s co-head of Impressionist and modern art worldwide. “There has never been a collection of this significance.”
Sotheby’s marketing efforts include a custom-printed banner around its Upper East Side headquarters featuring images of artworks in the collection as part of the presale exhibition, which opens on Saturday.

It has redesigned the 10th-floor exhibition space to evoke Mr. Taubman’s Bauhaus aesthetic. The glossy 400-page catalog, with essays by the cosmetics tycoon Leonard A. Lauder and the retail executive Leslie Wexner, and a biographical online video featuring Henry A. Kissinger, are reminders of how much is riding on the auction.

Not only did Sotheby’s fight hard to win the sale away from its archrival Christie’s (finally succeeding after several months’ effort in September) but it fully guaranteed the sale for $500 million to the Taubman family. Sotheby’s declined to say whether it has been able to share some of that financial commitment with third-party guarantors.

Sotheby’s hopes the sale, which includes more than 500 pieces spread across four dedicated auctions, ranks among the biggest, like Christie’s $477 million Yves St. Laurent sale in 2009, particularly since it has been losing ground to Christie’s in postwar and contemporary art. Moreover, the sale represents the first real test for Sotheby’s president and chief executive, Tad Smith, who took over in March (promising shareholders that he would make judicious use of guarantees to sellers).

The stakes are also high for the Taubman family, which not only wants to make as much as possible (proceeds will go toward estate taxes and a private foundation), but to affirm its patriarch’s legacy as a respected collector.

“If I could dream of anything out of the auction, it is that one day they’ll talk about Taubman as a provenance — the way we talk about Thannhauser or Havemeyer or Gould,” said Mr. Taubman’s son William, 56, in a recent interview at the auction house. “That would be a great tribute to my father.”
Some collectors and dealers say the collection has been overhyped, that Mr. Taubman often bought pieces at the low estimate that would not otherwise have sold — partly as a favor to Sotheby’s specialists who asked for his help.

But Mr. Smith said Sotheby’s did not overpay, nor is it excessively exposed in having guaranteed the sale. “Would I have preferred a lesser guarantee at the same profit level? Sure,” he said. “Am I comfortable that what we did was a good decision for the shareholder? Yes. Am I confident that we’ll make a profit? No. I can’t forecast the art market.”

And others say Mr. Taubman chose well over his more than 60 years of amassing pieces by artists ranging from Dalí to Degas.

“The quality of the collection is outstanding,” said James Corcoran, the longtime Los Angeles dealer who sold several pieces to Mr. Taubman. “It’s going to make the mark for this year — to decide how strong the art market is.”

Among the highlights are two Rothkos (each estimated at $20 million to $30 million), a de Kooning ($25 million to $35 million) and four Picassos (one of which is estimated at $25 million to $35 million).

“There’s a very good Toulouse-Lautrec,” said Lucy Mitchell-Innes, a dealer who once worked under Mr. Taubman at Sotheby’s, adding that Mr. Taubman collected work that “wasn’t necessarily the prettiest or the easiest.”

She also called out the Modigliani, “Paulette Jourdain” — which Mr. Shaw described as “everything one wants from one of these late pictures” — which is expected to bring more than $25 million. (Christie’s is also selling a Modigliani this fall, estimated at $100 million.)

“There are plenty of pictures he fought for,” said Christopher Apostle, Sotheby’s director of old master paintings, citing as an example Jacopo Ligozzi’s “Abduction of the Sabine Women” (now estimated at $600,000 to $800,000), which Mr. Taubman bought in 1990 for $396,000 (above the high estimate).

Most of these pieces have not been seen for years, having been in Mr. Taubman’s residences (in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.; Palm Beach, Fla.; Southampton, N.Y.; and New York City).
During his 22 years as Sotheby’s principal owner, Mr. Taubman, a shopping mall magnate, transformed the auction business from one directed at dealers and gallerists to one that directly targeted collectors. “More than any other single figure, he created today’s auction market,” Mr. Shaw said.

For the full story, please go to:

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Confucianism and Chinese Culture

What is Confucianism? It can be defined, like in a dictionary, as a philosophical system encompassing ideology, culture and academia, brought together by Kong Zi ‘Master Kong’, better known as Confucius, then followed and developed by successive generations of his disciples over the past 2,500 years. Confucianism centres on Confucius’s philosophies, but what is the core value of his philosophies? A book called Lv Shì Chūn Qīu, literally ‘Lv’s Annals’, written at the end of the Pre-Qin and Warring States period, abstracted the philosophies of each of the then leading thinkers into one word or one concept. Lv summed up the philosophies of Confucius as “Kong Zi guì rén”, guì meaning ‘to value most or attach the greatest importance to’, and rén ‘humanity and benevolence’. That is to say, rén was the core of Confucius’s philosophies, which was followed by his disciples for several generations before Meng Zi ‘Master Meng’ or Mencius came on stage. Mencius also valued rén, but added a second word yì ‘righteousness’ to rén. Later, rén and yì developed into the four virtues of rén, yì, li, and zhì, with li referring to ‘rites and etiquette’ and zhì ‘knowledge and wisdom’, which became the most fundamental core values of Confucianism.

The three concepts rújiā, rúxué and rújiào have frequently appeared in modern times. The word rú originally refers to a teacher of arts. As Confucius was known to be the teacher and founder of the first private school in China, this word later was used to refer exclusively to Confucius and his school. The word jiā, which means ‘household, family’, is also used to refer to a school of thought, because teachers and students have been perceived to be in the same relationship as parents and children. So rú jiā became the name of the Confucian school or Confucianism. The word xué means ‘learning; scholarship’, so rúxué highlights the academic system of the Confucian school. The word jiào means ‘teaching; didactic’. When it was used to refer to religious teaching or doctrine, it developed the sense ‘religion’, but rújiào has never been a religious concept in Chinese history as jiào here refers to a didactic function or system. Rújiào, Dàojiào ‘Daoism’, Fójiào ‘Buddhism’ all have the word jiào because they all have didactic functions and exist for educational purposes. So in ancient China the saying, sān jiào hé yī ‘three didactic systems into one’ did not mean ‘a combination of three religions’ (Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism). Although the saying may have referred to their belief systems, it was in the main about their didactic functions.

In our definitions we have highlighted Confucius, his establishment of the Confucian school and his philosophies at the core of Confucianism, but we have not touched on the relationship between Confucius and the Chinese civilization. In fact, Confucius’s philosophies are rooted in the Chinese civilization of the Archaic Period. The canon of Confucian texts started not from Confucius’s teachings but the Six Classics which predate Confucius and have always been regarded as the core of Confucianism. Confucianism, therefore, can trace its origins back to the cultures of the Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties (or even earlier) spanning some 1,500 years.

The Six Classics, namely Shi Jing ‘Book of Poetry’, Shang Shu ‘Book of Documents’, Yi Jing ‘Book of Changes’, Li Jing ‘Book of Rites’, Chunqiu Jing ‘Spring and Autumn Annals’ and Yue Jing ‘Book of Music’, were written well before Confucius was born. He collected and edited the Six Classics and in doing so, became well-informed about the political ideology, ethical values, aesthetic standards, etc. of the early periods of the Chinese civilization. Preservation, transcendence and innovation are all embodied in his work – not just reiterating certain traditions but also adding the new concept of rén to the tradition of li and yuè. From the very beginning down to the Han Dynasty, the interpretation and preservation of the Six Classics was solely the work of Confucius and the Confucian school. Without the culture of li and yuè in Archaic China, Confucius’s philosophies would have been without foundation. Equally, without Confucius and the Confucian school, the wisdoms recorded in the texts of the Archaic Period would not have survived through the generations and a part of Chinese history would certainly have been lost to history. That was a great feat by Confucius and his followers, who had early on taken it upon themselves to preserve China’s cultural tradition. The Chinese civilization is the most continuous in the world and this continuity is the result of the Confucian school’s conscious mission to protect Chinese culture.
Without Confucius and the Confucian school, the wisdoms recorded in the texts of the Archaic Period would not have survived through the generations and a part of Chinese history would certainly have been lost to history.

Even before the Pre-Qin period the Six Classics had already established themselves as the classics of Chinese culture, but this status was achieved spontaneously, with no conscious effort from the state or individuals to protect them. Only the Confucian school, under a natural sense of obligation, continued their teaching and learning. It wasn’t until the Han Dynasty that this natural sense of obligation was picked up by the state. Emperor Wu of Han was a patron of the study of the Five Classics (the Book of Music had been lost following Qin Shihuang’s burning of books and buryin alive of scholars) and appointed scholars studying them, which proved to be an important initiative. Then onwards until the Tang Dynasty, Jīng Xué ‘Classical Studies’ became a major systematic discipline in China with the Five Classics at the core of the system.
During that time there was a change in the inner system of Confucianism – a new set of classical texts became prominent. The Four Books, namely Lun Yu ‘The Analects’, Da Xue ‘The Great Learning’, Zhong Yong ‘The Doctrine of the Mean’ and Meng Zi ‘Mencius’, became more popular than the Five Classics. To quote Zhu Xi, a great master in the study of rites and rituals, “the Five Classics are more like wholegrain with their husks still on, while the Four Books are more like a cooked meal, ready to eat.”

On the basis of what has been described, we can come to a conclusion that Confucianism represents mainstream Chinese culture and was in a dominant position for a long time. Confucianism, or rather Confucian culture, represented by the Five Classics and the Four Books (especially the latter) has established the core values of Chinese culture and extended a deep influence over the Chinese civilization. It played a significant role in preserving and developing tradition and culture in Chinese history. In China, religions such as Buddhism and Taoism have also made similar contributions, but not on the same scale as Confucianism. Confucianism has played a vital role in shaping the ideology of the Chinese nation and its culture, and Confucius has largely become a spiritual leader of the Chinese civilization.

Published in Confucius Institute Magazine Number 35. Volume VI. November 2014.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Chinese Antiques: The Collecting Craze

Chinese antiques are experiencing a collector’s fever. Many antique collecting associations have emerged and there are countless antique expositions.  Ten millions of chinese regard collecting as investment, recreation, and the fashion.

“In 1985, there was a man named Wang Maoqiang in Beijing, who, with his flat cart, walked the streets from one neighborhood to another at the edge of the capital buying up old furniture and ancient porcelain. The villagers were happy to sell them because these old pieces, useless to them, were not as desirable to them as new ones. “At that time, a porcelain antique of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) might cost as little as 100 yuan. Treasures were available from the street vendors,” Wang said. Few expected that chinese antiques would be as valuable as they are today; so, few engaged in antique collecting.
Two decades later, a man named Ma Weidu rose to prominence in China because of his expertise in antique collecting. Many avidly watched the TV for his anecdotes on antiques. His and other programs on chinese antiques were constantly ahead in the ratings testifying to the increasing popularity of antique collecting. Statistics show that China has tens of millions of collectors. Many antique collecting associations have emerged and there are countless antique expositions. People are also collecting a wider range of items. An increasing number of people regard collecting as investment, recreation, and the fashion.

Collecting Now Accessible to the Average Person

One of the top ten flea markets, Panjiayuan has an area of 50,000 square meters. Four sections of the market, which house hundreds of stalls, are filled with art work, attracting crowds of people every day. According to an administrator, the market receives 60,000 to 70,000 people every day during holidays. “ There is only one reason for the popularity of this market: everyone expects to cash in on others’ ‘junk’,” said Bai Ming, a famous porcelain collector in Beijing. Bai has been fascinated by chinaware collecting for 20 years. He owned a private museum of chinaware. By the phrase “cash in on others’ junk”, he meant picking up a good bargain that has been overlooked by others at the antique market.
Among other popular antique markets are: Liulichang Market in Beijing, Foreign Articles Market in TianjinChenghuangmiao Market in Shanghai, etc. They are most appealing to the ordinary folks. As Collector points out, “The collector composition is like a pyramid: the average enthusiasts at the base make up the largest number.” They collect more for fun or commemoration than for revaluation or study. Many are simply killing time. The collections vary widely, including almost everything one could wish for. In the past, it seemed that only the paintings and calligraphy of famous artists or ancient copies of classics were worthy of collecting. But now, ordinary articles like buttons, key rings, perfume bottles and cards, much different from chinaware and jade articles, also appear unusually precious once gathered and classified by discerning collectors.
There are more and more young faces among collectors. Antique dealing is no longer exclusive to old people. Many somewhat famous collectors are in their twenties or thirties.
Collecting is no longer a mysterious or privileged trade or a elitist recreation reserved for officials and literati. Instead, it has broken the confines of the aristocratic courtyards and become a popular “game” of the ordinary folk.

Chinese Antiques’ Global Appeal

Maryjewski and his wife, a couple from Poland, are intrigued by ancient Chinese furniture. In 2002 they settled in Beijing. On display in their home are over a thousand pieces of art works: a pair of tall red wooden doors, carpets, embroidered silk, water-color and oil paintings, chinaware, and stone carvings. To collect them, they have been to Turfan, Urumqi, Xi’an, Guilin, etc. “I’ve never seen such exquisite statues in Europe. These Chinese art works were so amazing that I bought them at first sight.”
Unlike Maryjewski who is crazy about collecting, many foreigners only occasionally pick up a few antiques out of curiosity about Chinese culture. According to Wang Limei, the manager of Panjiayuan market, many foreign visitors think it a must to spend half a day shopping in Panjiayuan which receives as many as 6,000 foreign visitors on a single day. “These Chinese Antiques’ Global Appeal antiques satisfy their curiosity about traditional Chinese culture (and enable them to own a representative piece).”
What appeals to foreign visitors is not only the marvelous exterior and meticulous craftsmanship, but the Chinese story behind each piece. The five-millennium-old Chinese civilization has a splendid historical legacy. Those foreigners who adore Chinese culture seek to unravel the ancient mystery and trace the origin of the culture by collecting chinese antiques.
This coming October, the 2009 Global Forum on Art Work Collecting will be held in Beijing. Inaugurated in the United Kingdom, the Forum has been held five times in London. Beijing will host the first one outside Europe because collecting is so popular in China. Collecting nudges us into the embrace of tradition, enriching our mind and endearing China to the World.

Gold in Chaos Vs Antiques in Affluence

The first collecting craze in China occurred 1,600 years ago. The next four happened in the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127), in the closing years of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), during the thriving reigns of emperors Kangxi and Qianlong (1662-1796), and at the turn from the Qing dynasty to the Republic (around 1911). In the course of time, collecting matured. “The continuation of the traditional Chinese civilization and art relies much on collecting,” said Ma Weidu. Alongside the vicissitudes of collections, the history of collecting is evident in the enduring law: Gold is all the more valuable in chaos; whereas chinese antiques are valuable in times of affluence.
It is in prosperous periods that the craze for collecting emerges. In the wake of the May 4th Movement (in 1919), the antique market hit a new low which lasted nearly a century. Since reform and opening in the late 1980’s, China’s economy has developed rapidly and living standards have risen dramatically. It is universally acknowledged that the collecting market in a country won’t develop until the per-capita GDP reaches 1,000 to 2,000 USD. China is at this stage, providing the economic base for the collecting craze.
In the course of time, collecting matured. “The continuation of the traditional Chinese civilization and art relies much on collecting,” said Ma Weidu. Alongside the vicissitudes of collections, the history of collecting is evident in the enduring law: Gold is all the more valuable in chaos; whereas chinese antiques are valuable in times of affluence.
With the advent of the new era, the charm of ancient Chinese culture manifests itself again. People in China and abroad are repositioning the splendor of Chinese culture. “Antiques provide a frame of reference for human civilization. The awareness of antiques and the emphasis laid on culture are symbolic of the development of a nation.” It is the fabulous cultural heritage of China that provides collectors with plentiful artistic nutrition and appeals to the esthetic spirit.
Chinese antiques like sandlewood chairs, celadon jars, traditional paintings, and bronze quadripods are carriers of Gold in Chaos Vs Antiques in Affluence culture and history that span thousands of years. “The joy of collecting differs from the transient pleasure money brings. To explore the cultural background of each antique is to attend a feast of history spanning the millennia”, said Mr. Li, a 68-year-old jade enthusiast who has a collection of more than one hundred jade pieces. “There is a story behind each one. None of them were discovered and acquired with ease. I feel a strong sense of achievement once they are in my hands.” Collecting requires a lot of learning. A collector has to be well-versed in both art and general knowledge. The collector should be neither happy nor sad with a high or low price. In the eyes of a real collector, the artistic value of an antique is prized above its economic value. The real collector values the joy and experience of collecting.
Collecting reveals history and refreshes our memory of the remote past. It is a respect for culture and acknowledgement of tradition. The current collecting craze in China not only redefines the treasures of Chinese culture to us Chinese but also demonstrates, through the ancient articles, the extensiveness and profundity of Chinese culture.
“With shades of blue outlined on the pale base, the peonies on the jar remind me of your cosmetics, simple but elegant.” Gentle and melancholy, the lyrics to the Blueand- White Porcelain, a song of Jay Chou, is a perfect combination of the cultural elements of Chinese tradition with popular music. As the song indicates, the blue-and-white porcelain “exudes beauty of itself” and assumes primitive elegance in the absence of any face powder whatsoever. This also faithfully describes the intention of real collectors, who, hidden amid the popular clamor for antique collecting and displaying the archaic articles, explore the secret of remote humanity and bask in a grace and tranquility not found in reality.

Published in Confucius Institute Magazine Number 4. Volume IV. September 2009.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Thoughts of the Day #4

1.  Shi Hu was notorious for his tyranny. Did his cruelty extend to his  own son?

2.  It is said Shi Hu's son died in the most gruesome death. How did he die?

Friday, 2 October 2015