Fine Art Asia 2011
Smiles were all around at the Fine Art Asia Fair 2011 on its last day: instead of the usual scurry to pack up and to leave, the exhibitors seemed happy to stay until closing as collectors, dealers and curious people were still streaming in at 5pm. Is this event, organised by antique Chinese furniture dealer Andy Hei, the Maastricht of Asia?
Welcoming and sophisticated, the fair continues to go from strength to strength, growing 40 per cent over last year, and probably 70 per cent in quality. Local dealers such as Martin Fung (showing Chinese lacquer ware, scholars' objects, and bamboo and wood carvings) and Ho Ho Gallery (with ancient Chinese works of art), along with a few Japanese galleries specialising in Chinese art and antiques, were placed alongside European and other nations' dealers, who brought European furniture, Impressionist paintings and other fine works of art.
The overall emphasis is on the highest-quality fine arts from around the world from top dealers, including first-timers Robert Bowman Gallery from Britain which was showing two Rodins and a Degas bronze ballerina along with large 18th- and 19th-century classical-style marble pieces. London's Gladwell & Company was displaying several Monets, a Renoir, a Picasso and a few Impressionists. Galerie Christian Deydier from Paris exhibited museum-quality, inscribed, ancient Chinese bronzes.
One surprise was the amount of English silver on offer. One of the larger galleries, Koopman Rare Art, had a sparkling display of many styles and sizes of fine silver. Director Lewis Smith said: 'The reaction to us was not as we expected at all,' then smilingly added, 'it was much better. We thought it would take a couple of years for the Chinese to understand silver as a collectible, but sales have been very good.'
In another direction, Stephen McGuinness of Plum Blossoms Gallery exhibited a fine collection of ancient Chinese and Tibetan textiles, and ritual and religious artefacts instead of his usual contemporary art. His main competitor in the Tibetan arena was Rossi and Rossi from Britain, which also displayed mandalas, antiques and a 15th-century eleven-headed Avalokitesvara.
Sundaram Tagore of New York, Beverly Hills and Hong Kong showed an eclectic mix of modern and contemporary art from several countries. 'I have participated in this fair every year since its inception and think it is the most important and beautifully presented fair in Asia,' he said.
Exhibiting Chinese ceramics and snuff bottles, Maggie Kleiner of Robert Kleiner from London was equally positive: 'Wonderful fair, beautifully organised, very good business,' she said. 'We sold our 15th-century soapstone Buddha on the first night, and we could have sold it three times over.'