Asia Week New York is an otherworldly journey into the past. It’s also a reminder of what can happen when artists take elements of design that are both ancient and modern and merge them. I’m thinking of the beautiful ceramic work I saw at the Joan B Mirviss Ltd. where the shapes of the vessels on view felt primitive and modern in equal measure.
This week an unprecedented 47 dealers are presenting museum-quality exhibitions through March 22.This is the sixth year of an event that is a collaboration of top-tier Asian art specialists, major auction houses, and world-renowned museums and Asian cultural institutions in the metropolitan New York area. Asian art collectors from around the world attend, as well as important gallery owners who come from afar to show during this most special week.
Most of the action takes place on the Upper East Side, and I must confess to have had my eyes opened. I’ve probably walked by the Kapoor Galleries at Madison Ave. at 78th street, hundreds of times. Never paying attention as I race about getting to business appointments. This time visiting the space, viewing the work, and meeting the Kapoor family there, I felt, (seriously!) a sense of enlightenment. In many senses of the word: Both from viewing the display of extraordinary Indian miniature paintings, and what I learned from a brief, but fascinating conversation with the patriarch of the family, from Ramesh Kapoor, one of the foremost authorities on the subject.
Here are a few favorites, and galleries I strongly urge you not to miss.
1. Gagosian ( 980 Madison Avenue @77th st. 212 744 2313) see the exhibition curated by Gisèle Croës -Matter and Memory -a spectacular collection of ancient Chinese art works. I got to meet this special woman as she was finishing the lighting on the exhibition. Every detail matters to her. She came here from Brussels where her eponymous gallery, set in a 19th century townhouse, is world renown for selling one of a kind antiquities. The gallery has been in business for more than 30 years. Croës eye is as astute as she is articulate. When asked how she finds such rare pieces; her response: “Oh, that takes love.” It shows.
Another piece on view is a large bronze horse from the Eastern Han period. I’m told that very few bronze horses of such a scale and quality are on display these days in museums or private collections. Also of note are the archaic bronzes. The vessels played an essential role in ceremonies connecting the living and the dead and were a symbol of dynastic power. The exhibition also includes some fine examples of earthenware sculpture dating from the Han and the Tang dynasties.
2. Kapoor Galleries Inc. (1015 Madison ave. @78th street 212-794-2300). Ramesh and Urmil Kapoor founded this jewel of a gallery in 1975, where they have been specializing in museum quality works of art from India, Nepal & Tibet. For Asia Week the gallery is showing a group of Indian miniature paintings, from various schools of work. Many date back to the 17th century. The pigments were then stone ground, and the paintings have retained their vivid palette: brilliant hues of ochre, yellow, brown, and green.
Also on display is a rare bronze sculpture that Mr. Kapoor told me had most likely originally been commissioned as a death memorial, this one probably belonged to a very influential figure. This extremely fine piece is seated in a meditative posture on a double-lotus base featuring two birds.
3. Joan B. Mirviss Ltd. 39 East 78th street, 4th floor. The exhibition is entitled Japan in Black and white: Ink and Clay. Most of the work is ceramics that have been made by contemporary artists of the 20th century. Kuriki Tatsusuke’s Female-inspired standing white vessel with black diamond design could have been created yesterday, yet it dates from the early 1950s. Yet, hanging nearby is the oldest work in the gallery: A ink on paper scroll, dating from 1750. The two art works have a subtle connection, but one must look with care.