Galleries bid to break the mould

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 June, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 June, 2004, 12:00am

The art collecting world's big guns will be prowling around the galleries of London on Thursday for the opening of the city's first Sculpture Week - part of the preview for the city's annual arts bonanza, Art Fortnight London.

Nine galleries will show- case works from Europe, China, India and Southeast Asia, ranging from ancient pieces to modern art.

Co-ordinating the marketing effort - including inserting glossy brochures into Christie's, Sotheby's and Bonhams' auction house catalogues - is Stuart Lochhead of Daniel Katz gallery, which specialises in eighth- to 10th-century European sculpture. He says the nine galleries approached leading dealers in the Mayfair area to provide a cross-section of more than 1,000 sculptures, priced from GBP500 (HK$7,140) to more than GBP500,000.

Asian sculptures, especially religious pieces, are well represented and are expected to attract the attention of overseas collectors, particularly given the unprecedented interest American, European and Chinese buyers have had in Asian artwork this year.

Rossi & Rossi, a specialist in Himalayan Art and early Chinese textiles, will show a seventh-century inscribed bronze Kashmir Buddha that has helped shift the chronology of the classical Kashmiri Buddha image to about a century earlier than previously thought.

'There's been a steady increase in the interest for three-dimensional Asian art, particularly with clients from the rest of Europe,' says Fabio Rossi, the gallery's co-director. 'I'd like to see the same in the UK. There's an increased interest in Asian culture, in general, due to more special exhibitions and events - such as the new Asian Art in London event. London is definitely the centre for Asian art dealing in Europe, with Paris coming second.'

Jules Speelman of A&J Speelman, a gallery devoted to a wide spectrum of Asian art, was also keen to participate. 'The lure is to introduce Chinese sculpture to a wider audience and to showcase examples of the best Buddhist sculpture to collectors. We've noticed that the old-style collector who concentrates on one area is increasingly rare. The modern trend in collecting seems to be for more diverse, and more interesting, collections showing cross-cultural influences.'

London Sculpture Week organisers hope to attract a wider attendance than just experts. 'The serious collectors of sculpture in all fields are the main target,' says Speelman. 'But all are free and open to the public. And with the press coverage and advertising that's been generated, we certainly hope to inspire the public to participate.'

Speelman says his gallery has been building up a group of Chinese Buddhist wood sculptures, and has now reached a point where it can show a stylistic progression from 10th to 15th centuries.

'The works convey the meditative power of these iconic images,' he says. 'The works to be on display are rare because they've been carefully chosen over the years to display the best quality and beauty in this field.'

Indian and Southeast Asian art gallery John Eskenazi will show Gandharan antiquities from the first to third centuries. Gandhara geographically covered much of contemporary Afghanistan and northwest Pakistan, and its sculpture reveals a rich fusion of sources, including ancient Greece and Rome.

The response from both participants and sponsors has been so positive that 2005 is already within the organisers' sights. 'We're considering extending it to a selection of other dealers for next year,' says Lochhead.

John Eskenazi, the driving force behind Sculpture Week, writes in the programme: 'For a long time, I have felt that sculpture is an under-represented art form ... The inspiration for this event lies in the profound beauty and spirit of the sculptural form which embodies a more intimate way of perceiving the essence of nature and, ultimately, the world.'

London Sculpture Week, Jun 10-18. Inquiries: [44] 020 7493 0688 or go to www.londonsculpture