top of page
  • Writer's pictureAnthony Wu

Masterpieces from the Asia Society Collection in New York City

October is almost over! It's been a busy month of traveling, especially after I survived a recent eight day visit to Vancouver - the majority of the time was spent on client meetings, but I did manage to go on a couple of relaxing hikes and eat plenty of fresh sushi.

Museum-wise, I caught the last day of 'Traces of Words: Art and Calligraphy from Asia' at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. I also saw a fantastic exhibition at the Poly Culture Art Center titled 'Exquisite Chinese Jades Throughout the Ages'. These were some of the highest quality Chinese jade carvings I have ever seen in Canada and many of them would have had ties to the Imperial court. Remarkably, the approximately 60 pieces were all available for private sale!

One of my favourite items from this show was this Large Imperial Greyish White Jade 'Dragon' Brushwasher from the Kangxi Period (1662-1722). It depicts fierce large dragons circling a heavenly sky. Even the wood stand is impressive with its depictions of scrolling clouds over ocean waves. The red sticker denotes that this items is sold.

My travels will continue with an forthcoming trip to Asian Art in London from November 2 to November 8. Even though I visit London once a year to see family, I rarely go during the Asian Art events due to scheduling conflicts (I think my last time was 2010). It will be a great opportunity to visit the London auction previews at Bonhams, Christie's and Sotheby's, and to see the new exhibition openings at the various Chinese and Japanese art dealers. I'll be sure to post some photos either in a future blog or on my Instagram @anthonywuart.

For this blog, I wanted to quickly bring to your attention an incredible exhibition I saw at Asia Society New York back in September called 'Masterpieces from the Asia Society Museum Collection'. I put together a quick Instagram post with a couple of highlights last month, but there were just too many favourite pieces to showcase. The exhibition closes on December 31 so if you are in the New York area, it's definitely worth a two hour visit.

Briefly, these pieces are all from Asia Society's permanent collection, but they are not always on display. Most of them were meticulously acquired by John D Rockefeller 3rd (1906-1978) and his wife Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller (1909-1992) during the 1960s and 70s under the guidance of Sherman E. Lee (1918-2008). He was the legendary Asian Art historian and curator for the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Anyways, here are some more of the highlight pieces I chose the exhibition. (I actually took photos of every single item... because that's what I do...)

A Blue, White and Copper Red Stem Cup, Ming Dynasty, China, Mid to Late 15th Century

This piece was extremely difficult to fire in the kiln because of the multiple layers of colours and glaze. It would have required multiple firings, yet the colours came out near perfect! It depicts strange mythical creatures soaring over ocean waves. The creatures are all well-painted, and the clarity of the copper red is remarkable.

A Group of Bronze Ritual Vessels

From left to right:

A Wine Vessel, Zun, Shang Dynasty, China, 13th - 11th Century BC

A Food Vessel, Gui, Eastern Zhou Period, China, 6th Century BC

A Wine Vessel, You, Western Zhou Period, China, 11th Century BC

Each of these large vessel showcase the impressive design and casting of ancient Chinese bronzes. They are extremely imposing with fantastic details of taotie monster masks throughout the body. The near perfect condition and rich patina is incredible.

Here's a closer image of the Wine Vessel, You. The rarity is in the large size and 'completeness'. The handle and the cover are both present, and you can see that the handle is attached to the body with beast-form joints. Each side also features three stunning taotie monster masks - on the cover, neck and body. The sharp flanges protruding from the sides almost act like dangerous horns protecting this magnificent vessel.

Nonomura Ninsei (Active 1646-1677)

Painted Tea Leaf Jar, Edo Period, Japan, 1670's

Simple in form, this large jar was made by one of the most important Japanese ceramists of the 17th Century. It has a very modern look to it with the flat colours and design, and would have been commissioned by an important noble. The base has an impressed seal mark of the artist, but since this was in a museum, I wasn't able to turn the jar over to examine it!

A Bronze Figure of Shiva Nataraja, Chola Dynasty, India (Tamil Nadu Region), 12th Century

This is one of the best examples of Shiva as the 'Lord of the Dance' that I have seen. It's large size is quite striking in addition to its perfect grace and balance. The nature of this dance is to symbolize Shiva as the creator, protector and destroyer of the universe in one endless cycle. There is so much energy involved that Shiva's hair is flying all over the place! (Note: You can see some of the exhibition's Khmer sandstone sculptures in the background. These were from Cambodia circa the 11th to 13th Century).

A Gilt Bronze Figure of Avalokiteshvara, Three Malwa Kingdoms Period, Nepal, 16th/17th Century

This is one of the most ridiculously good-looking Buddhist sculptures I have ever seen...

Here, the Buddhist bodhisattva of compassion has take on the manifestation of Amoghapasha Lokeshvara (the lord with the indestructible noose). The noose (seen in the middle right hand) when worn by a subject is forced to tell the truth as a way to achieve enlightenment. The grace and level of detail in the casting is quite magnificent. I even like how the florals and lotus on the base have an European Baroque quality to them.

A Gilt Bronze Repoussé Panel of a Four-Armed Dhumavati Shri Devi, Tibet, Early 15th Century

Shri Devi is one of the fiercest class of female Buddhist protectors. She is shown seated on a donkey while holding two large swords with her upper arms and a skull cup in her lower right hand. Around her neck is a necklace comprised of severed human heads. The craftsmanship of this sculpture is simply magnificent, and it originates from the famous Densatil Temple in Central Tibet. She was featured in Asia Society's 2014 epochal exhibition 'Golden Visions of Densatil: A Tibetan Buddhist Monastery'.

That's it for now and hope you enjoyed some of the images and descriptions. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me an email. The next few months will be quite busy with traveling, projects and Orientations articles, but I'll try to keep my Instagram and blogs going.

bottom of page