It’s big, it’s heavy, and it’s beautiful. Dora Ching, the Associate Director of the Tang Center for Asian Art at Princeton University, has created a book that will surely become the volume to have if you are interested in Buddhist art from China or the history of photography. This book presents the art found in the Dunhuang (Mogai) Caves (now often called the Thousand Buddha Grottoes) of western China, which boast more than 500 cave temples, every one of them decorated with sculpture, various images of the Buddha, a great number of murals and smaller-scale paintings, and some with caches of invaluable illustrated manuscripts.
Contemporary books about jade tend to be museum or collector’s catalogs. Seeking to establish their credibility, and assuming little knowledge on the part of the reader, they typically begin with timelines, material analysis, and the establishment of provenance using comparisons to photographs in other compilations, especially from primary excavations. As a result, they often have all the charm of dental work. Angus Forsyth, among the greatest and most ambitious collectors of Chinese jade, has taken a different tack.
They gaze at you, the fashionably-attired youths of Esfahan, from a distance of 300 years. Swaying like cypress trees, their tresses floating in the air like clouds, their faces surrounded by peach fuzz, they smile like the Gioconda and with more mystery. Who are these young men and what do they say to the viewers? After the lucidity of the great 16th-century Persian and Mughal painters like Behzad and Sultan Mohammad, who painted kingly battles and hunts, the 17th century brings us the works of Reza Abbasi and Mohammad Qasem, and their ambivalent but sexually-charged portraits of young men and occasionally young women.
The repercussions of Western imperialism have impacted modern society in countless ways. From politics to language to art, is it clear that people are still grappling with how to address the conflicts stemming from increased globalization and colonialism (primarily that of Europeans and Americans) from the 16th century onwards.
One would hardly know there had been a pandemic in 2020 if one went by auction results in the contemporary art market. According to the 2020 Global Contemporary Art Market report, the top 10 artists by turnover sold 1530 pieces for a total of almost a half-billion US$. While down a bit from 2019, the price index has hardly budged over the last five year; the 2020 result is all the more remarkable given that international auction houses had to postpone or cancel most of their plans for spring auctions.
In children’s literature and in young adult fiction, food is often used to bridge cultures—“dumplings are the great social equaliser” says the protagonist in the YA novel The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling as an example. And while food might be one of the easier entries into a culture, there are other ways too. Art, for example, which Singapore’s National Gallery does with success in its “Awesome Art” series.
Can corporate history be art? This question can only be asked if one is not familiar with the fascinating long-term project by the Chinese artist Xiaowen Zhu. Anyone who has experienced Oriental Silk will answer this question with a clear “yes.”