Kaikodo Journal XI Spring 1999
In the Company of Spirits
Corresponding to the exhibition held between March 16 and April 17, 1999. 41 Chinese and Japanese paintings; 33 Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese objects (74 color plates). Preface by Howard Rogers. 319 pages.
Includes the essays:
“In Search of Enlightenment”
“The Emperor’s Erotica” (Ching Yuan Chai so-shih II)
“The Life, Art, and Travels of Xugu (1823-1896)”
“After the Age of Auction: Chinese Painting in New York”
The essays in this volume are arranged in an order determined not by importance or even intrinsic interest but, to the contrary, on the simplistic basis of the relative chronological order of the topic. The first essay was occasioned by inclusion in this journal of a Yuan dynasty stone image of Sakyamuni (no. 69), the unusual iconography of which encouraged a more general treatment. The next essay, the second in a series we trust will prove as long-running as it is popular, presents James Cahill’s most recent discoveries in the area of urban studio painting, an aspect of later Chinese painting that is certain to become a standard feature of painting histories yet to come but one which was hardly noticed and never defined until it attracted the attention of Professor Cahill’s analytic and ever-inquiring mind. Entitled “The Emperor’s Erotica,” the essay explores the function and meaning of erotic albums in the upper reaches of Chinese and Manchu society and to define the important role in the creation of these works of art played by professional artists from the southern cities active in the capital.
This volume includes an important painting (no. 30) by the monk-painter Xugu, whose history since its creation in the 17th century can be followed continuously to the present day via the colophons on the painting. Dr. Anita Chung, at the time of the publication of this issue a professor at the University of Edinburgh and curator of Chinese art at the National Museums of Scotland and subsequently curator at the Cleveland Museum of Art, and a specialist on Xugu, provided an especially illuminating essay on this fascinating artist. In the final essay, Arnold Chang, who worked at Sotheby’s from 1979 until 1992, reflects on the years during which he was instrumental in creating both a greatly expanded international market for Chinese paintings as well as a specialty department at the auction house to serve the needs of this new clientele, this essay inspired by the diminishing activity in New York auctions in the area of Chinese painting. Lark Mason, at the time of publication head of Chinese Furniture at Sotheby’s is a true pioneer in his field being one of very few Westerners who have studied their subject in China as well as the West and whose judgments are respected world-wide. The zitan painting table being offered here as catalogue number 74 was sufficiently unusual to warrant special treatment, and Lark very agreed to write on the subject and did so with such facility and length that his comments almost constitute another essay.