Uncovering a region's treasures
This issue featured one of the many articles written in the 1970s by Tuyet Nguyet, publisher and editor of the magazine. The cover article discussed the life and work of Carlos Villaluz Francisco, whose mural paintings presented in the Manila City Hall on a grand scale made an immediate impact on Mrs Nguyet. The artist died on March 31, 1969, at the age of 57. He succeeded in recording both the past and the everyday life of his homeland.
The cover article was on bamboo brushpots. At that time bamboo brushpots were an undervalued and not well appreciated art form. This article was ground-breaking in its discussion of the potential value of beginning a collection. At the time not many pieces were being auctioned, and a good piece could be bought for a few thousand Hong Kong dollars. Today these items are considered individual works of art and are highly prized, with the best pieces being auctioned for millions of dollars.
The article about The Chester Beatty Collection of Chinese carved rhinoceros horn cups in this issue was insightful in predicting the importance of these pieces. Prices of rhinoceros horn carvings have risen unbelievably since the early 1980s when they fetched less than $50,000. At the Sotheby's Hong Kong Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art auction held last month, a 14.5cm, 17th century carved rhinoceros horn figure of Wenshu (Manjushri) fetched $6.84 million. This was considered an extraordinary result and more examples are expected to be sold at auctions.
'Gold Jewellery in the Nias Culture' was the topic of this cover story. At the time of publication not much was known about this ancient gold jewellery from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. As a result of the article, the jewellery was better understood and recognised. Dealers told Arts of Asia that thanks to the story, international collectors had become fascinated by the subject.
Painted Tibetan furniture was the cover story. A relatively new subject at the time, the article provided information on the full range of Tibetan furniture that had only begun to emerge on the market in larger quantities in the early 1990s. The impact of the article created great interest in Tibetan furniture collecting, and the issue was a must-have for any collector in this field. The magazine was so popular it sold out after one year and requests for copies are still received.
The Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery are two Asian art museums within the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, so called because of the donations by Charles Lang Freer and Arthur M. Sackler of their Asian art collections. This issue commemorated the centenary of Mr Freer's donations and featured articles by the museum's curators reflecting on the lives of both benefactors and the significance of their gifts. The Smithsonian ordered 2,500 copies for its own distribution and records.
In 2003, The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, began a dramatic transformation with more than 250,000 square feet of new and renovated gallery space and the reinstallation and reinterpretation of its entire collection. PEM's curators and Arts of Asia worked together to introduce the museum's most recent achievements to global readers. PEM was the first museum in America to collect Asian art. The museum ordered 1,500 copies for its own use.
Note - back issues of the magazine can be ordered online (www.artsofasianet.com) or in person from the office. Arts of Asia also provides a photocopy service for articles in out-of-print issues.