by Sarah Laursen, Curator of Asian Art, Middlebury College Museum of Art
I first encountered “Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World” two years ago while visiting the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. Curated by tattoo artist Takahiro Kitamura (AKA Ryūdaibori, formerly Horitaka) and designed by photographer/filmmaker Kip Fulbeck, the exhibition consisted of more than 100 stunning photographs of Japanese-style tattoos, ranging from single sleeves to full bodysuits. I knew immediately that I wanted the exhibition to travel to the Middlebury College Museum of Art in Middlebury, Vermont.
In this exhibition I saw an opportunity to reach out to a diverse cross-section of tattooed Vermonters, including some who may never have visited our museum before. According to The Harris Poll, almost one in three adults in the United States has one or more tattoos, and I suspected that the number might even be higher in Vermont. Even those without tattoos, like myself, might be curious or find inspiration in the gorgeous flowers, fish, deities, and warriors who adorn the subjects of Fulbeck’s photographs. However, in a state with such a small population, I knew it would be difficult to get the word out—I needed a special event to capture the public’s attention.
My brother-in-law, Christopher Holt, and his San Francisco-based tattooer NaKona MacDonald bravely volunteered to do a live tattooing demonstration. Although traditional Japanese tattoo, or irezumi, is performed manually by impressing needles attached to a tool into the skin, this demonstration would employ the tattoo machine, which was invented in 1891 by tattoo artist Samuel O’Reilly.
The only potential obstacle was Vermont’s strict regulatory laws. In order to receive a temporary license—in fact, the first temporary license ever issued by the state—I had to convert the café in the Mahaney Center for the Arts (where the museum is housed) into an actual tattoo shop. This endeavor entailed the participation of more than forty people, including the state inspector who walked me through the process, a local masseuse who lent a massage table, the facilities crew who removed the café’s cappuccino machine, the college lawyers who gave the go-ahead, and the student health center staff who contributed hospital-grade disinfectant and needle disposal. I myself had to draft consent forms and make several trips to the store for gauze, razors, gloves, and other provisions.
On July 9th, with licenses issued, NaKona began sketching out the next phase of Chris’ dragon back piece. That week, a Burlington-based newspaper called Seven Days had listed the event as its top pick for that weekend in Vermont, and more than 300 visitors attended the demonstration and exhibition. (On an average summer Saturday, that number is usually closer to forty.) Museum-goers of all ages—from children perched on parents’ shoulders to octogenarians from the nearby retirement center—flocked to the exhibition and to the café-turned-tattoo-shop, where they peppered NaKona with questions and offered encouragement to Chris.
Perhaps the most remarkable outcome of the demonstration and exhibition was the visible transformation of visitors, from curious and apprehensive to comfortable and inquisitive. Tattooing is still considered taboo in Japan, and that stigma does exist to a lesser degree in the United States. However, exhibitions like “Perseverance” challenge those negative views and open the door to endless new forms of artistic expression.
Watch a brief video of the tattooing demonstration below:
As an internationally acclaimed interior designer, Ronald Bricke is sought worldwide for his innovative approaches to both traditional and contemporary design. His scores of projects include the Elsie DeWolfe townhouse in Manhattan (featured in House & Garden, July 1999), the Frank Lloyd Wright house in New Canaan, the Mauksberry Club in London, various homes in the Hamptons and across the United States and residential apartments in Paris, Japan, and New York. One of the rare inductees as an Honorary Member of the American Society of Interior Designers, Mr. Bricke has served on the Board of Directors of the Isabel O’Neil Foundation for the Painted Finish and as a member of the Board of Governors of his alma mater, Parsons School of Design.
Forged fine silver organism by Junko Mori and two crystal “silver mist” ceramics by Kondo Takahiro rest upon an ivory and marquetry inlaid table (approximately 1790) and are accompanied by a Valdavian sculpture (1580 BC) and a Farnes Harakles sculpture (1st-2nd century AD). A “Celestial Realm” photograph by Wang Wusheng hangs in the background.
We asked him: What do you collect and how do you combine Asian works of art into your interiors?
"The exquisite nature of simplicity is the inherent characteristic that prevails upon my collection. With this aesthetic in mind, I have made the discovery that differing cultures and artwork combine seamlessly. Our global connections are invaluable in finding these uniting features."
"My collections incorporate contemporary Asian works of art with Roman, Greek and Valdavian sculptures. I also rely heavily on other collectors (for example, Adrian Sassoon, Joan Mirviss and Erik Thomsen) for their inspirations, perceptions and vast knowledge."
See more photos of Ronald Bricke's work below:
In the background, placed upon the window ledge is a tall fluted vessel (stoneware – sand glaze) with pinched waist and incised surface patterning by Sakiyama Takayuki (b. 1958). A Japanese bronze bird, a black lacquer scroll box and a forged fine silver organism by Junko Mori have been placed upon the coffee tables.
Two pieces of stoneware with colored clay inlays by Kishi Eiko (Japanese, b. 1948) reside behind a white ceramic Japanese bowl in the shape of a flower by Ito Hidehito (b. 1971). A porcelain with blue underglaze and a four-legged rectangular vessel with green glass cover and “silver mist” both by Kondo Takahiro (b. 1958) are placed in front of a brass urn by Gustave Serrurier-Bovy. All items are placed upon a cipollino marble, custom “outrigger” table.
Frank Lloyd Wright House: A six panel Japanese screen of “Matsushima” (Pine Island) with finishing nets beneath Mount Fuji by the Kano School, circa 1800 provides the backdrop for a Frank Lloyd Wright dining room and is complemented with a Dale Chihuly sculpture in the foreground.
Photo of the Japanese garden at the Huntington Library, 2008, via Wikimedia Commons (Flickr user: sebi ryffel)
We asked Kaikodo LLC director Carol Conover: What are some of your favorite, under-the-radar Asian art collections across the United States? Here are her recommendations.
If you are traveling around the U.S. this summer and looking for Asian art, I recommend the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts. The Chinese ceramics collection is excellent, and was acquired early on through generous local collectors. The collection also includes a very rare pair of wood Standing Bodhisattvas dating to the Song dynasty.
The Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill, North Carolina has a very good permanent collection of Indian and Southeast Asian sculpture.
Many people have seen all the publications that have come out of the Harn Museum of Art in Gainesville, Florida, but should also know the Harn has a stand-alone wing dedicated to Asian art. The changing exhibitions are ambitious.
Also in Florida is the Norton Museum of Art, in West Palm Beach. The Norton is also an old collection, and has some very rare examples of Chinese archaic bronzes, as well as a gallery dedicated to Chinese paintings.
Out west is the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon in Eugene. When the museum opened in 1933, the founder Gertrude Bass Warner dedicated the largest gallery to the splendors of the Qing Court, where the museum has great strength, including not one, but two Imperial thrones.
For those wanting to be outdoors rather than inside museums, I recommend a visit to the Huntington Library in Pasadena, California, to see one of the oldest Japanese gardens in the United States, as well as the more recent Chinese Garden, which is among the largest outside of China.
Items that incorporate ivory and other materials from living creatures that are designated as ‘Endangered’ are restricted for sale in the US and for sale abroad by a variety of local, national, and international regulations and treaties. This article is a summary of some of these regulations and is intended not as a guide for any person seeking advice about a particular object, but rather to provide basic information about the subject to assist in the process of having a better understanding of what to do. For a detailed response to this issue, we suggest reading the informational link on the FWS.gov site and in particular, the question and answer format.
On July 6, the USFWS instituted a near-total ban on the sale of ivory in the US. Certain exceptions are allowed for the sale of ESA (Endangered Species Act) designated Antiques. For an object to meet the Antique Exemption, allowing for sale in the US into interstate commerce, it must:
- be 100 years old or older
- composed in whole or part of an ESA-listed species
- it has not been repaired or modified with any such species after December 27, 1973
- it is or was imported through an endangered species “antique port”
There are 13 Antique Ports of Entry in the US that were established in 1982.
Under Director’s Order No. 210, as a matter of enforcement discretion, items imported prior to September 22, 1982, and items created in the United States and never imported must comply with the first three requirements but not the Antique Port of Entry requirement.
GUIDANCE ON PROOF
How to prove the above? USFWS offers the following guidance:
"We want to clarify that forensic testing is not necessarily required. Provenance and age may be determined through a detailed history of the item, including but not limited to, family photos, ethnographic fieldwork, art history publications, or other information that authenticates the article and assigns the work to a known period of time or, where possible, to a known artist or craftsman. A qualified appraisal or another method, including using information in catalogs, price lists, and other similar materials that document the age by establishing the origin of the item, can also be used.”
Additionally, the USFWS in Director’s Order 210, Appendix 1 offers the following specific qualifications as to what constitutes a “Qualified Appraisal”
- A description of the article that is detailed enough for a person who is not generally familiar with the type of article to determine that the appraisal is about the article in question.
- The name and address of the qualified appraiser, or if the appraiser is a partner, an employee, or an independent contractor engaged by a person other than the person claiming the exception, the name and address of the partnership or the person who employs or engages the appraiser.
- The qualifications of the appraiser who signs the appraisal, including the background, experience, education, and any membership in professional appraiser associations.
- The date on which the article was appraised. o The scientific method in detail used to determine the age or species. o Descriptive information on the article, including but not limited to: the size of the article, the medium, the artist or culture, approximate date the article was created, and a professional quality image of the article.
- A detailed history of the article, including proof of authenticity.
- The facts on which the appraisal was based including analyses of similar works by the artist on or around the creation dates.
State and Local Prohibitions
In addition to Federal regulations, many states have regulations that restrict the sale of ‘Endangered’ and ‘Non-endangered’ species. These states include New York, New Jersey, and California. Residents of states should check with their local and state government to learn about prohibitions, if any, governing the sale of plant and animal species that are incorporated into objects. Here is the link to state departments governing natural resources.
Objects that contain a small amount of African (not Asian) Elephant ivory, even if under 100 years of age, may qualify for sale in the US under The African Elephant 4 (d) rule. To meet this exception, the object must:
(i) If the item is located within the United States, the ivory was imported into the United States prior to January 18, 1990, or was imported into the United States under a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) pre-Convention certificate with no limitation on its commercial use; (ii) If the item is located outside the United States, the ivory was removed from the wild prior to February 26, 1976; (iii) The ivory is a fixed or integral component or components of a larger manufactured or handcrafted item and is not in its current form the primary source of the value of the item, that is, the ivory does not account for more than 50 % of the value of the item; (iv) The ivory is not raw; (v) The manufactured or handcrafted item is not made wholly or primarily of ivory, that is, the ivory component or components do not account for more than 50 % of the item by volume; (vi) The total weight of the ivory component or components is less than 200 grams; and (vii) The item was manufactured or handcrafted before July 6, 2016.
Some items that are over 100 years of age can be sold into interstate commerce, depending upon documentation or if they meet a deminimis exception. Most items under 100 years of age are not acceptable for sale, unless that object meets the deminimis exception. There are glaring problems with the regulations, namely:
- the cost to comply with the above is not practical for owners of small objects of minimal value
- objects without documentation showing proof of entry into the US prior to 1982 are unsalable, regardless of age
- owners of objects containing ivory should document the history of ownership and create a file/ folder that will accompany the object
Owners and sellers of items that contain endangered species materials, especially ivory must be aware of the regulations concerning commercial activity and are strongly advised to hold onto documents that prove the objects to have been in the US in accordance with US law.
Mirror valve: game of chess (c. 1300), Paris, in the Louvre's collection. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Asia Week New York media partner Apollo Magazine recently ran an opinion piece by Martin Levy, entitled "Antique ivory poses no threat to elephant conservation: in fact, it needs protection itself."
"There have been persistent attempts, in recent years, to link the universally applauded efforts to enforce elephant conservation, with calls to ban the movement of historic works of art made of or containing, ivory. These debates are frequently fractious, and often ill informed – and have elicited different responses in different countries." Read the entire piece here to learn more about the debate.
"Pursuing the Sublime" features five contemporary photographers in conversation with five nineteenth and early twentieth century Japanese printmakers. At Laurence Miller Gallery through June 25.
"Ikeda Iwao: The Life of Bamboo | The Spirit of Urushi" is on view at Erik Thomsen Gallery until June 29.
Contemporary artist Hui Chi Lee has a solo show at Fitzgerald Fine Arts, with a new body of hand-drawn graphite pen and colored pencil works on paper. Through June 30.
Kapoor Galleries and The Indo-American Arts Council present “Erasing Borders,” a richly provocative exhibition by artists of the Indian diaspora who confront issues of sexuality, terror, disease, the environment, racial and sectarian politics in painting, prints, installations, video, and sculpture. Opening reception on July 14, 6-8pm.
"Draw the Line" features the work of Yu-ichi Inoue, NAOYA, and Shun Sudo, three renowned Japanese artists who each push the boundaries of genre, style, and tradition. At Onishi Gallery through August 5.
To combat the heat, Scholten Japanese Art's summer exhibition brings together "a cooling compilation of watery subjects found in paintings and woodblock prints." Through August 31.
For its exhibition “Summer Rotation: Clay Sculpture,” Joan B Mirviss Ltd has carefully selected a striking group of sculptural works by both established and emerging artists, who have created works that supersede utility for the sake of form. On view July 13–August 31.
"Kingdom of Exile," a Rabin Mondal retrospective, remains on view at DAG Modern through September 3.
Born in New Zealand, established in New York, and a natural globetrotter at heart, Sandra Nunnerley’s inimitable style is often described as “art de vivre” bringing together the past and the present, to create “classic interiors with a twist," reflecting the designer’s own love of travel, art, and exploration. Nunnerley’s work is grounded in a sophisticated understanding of architecture and periods, and special attention to the role of art. She studied architecture at the University of Sydney, art history in Paris, and worked for the Marlborough gallery in New York. Each year she makes a point of going somewhere new and has hiked Machu Pichu in Peru and floated down the Sepik River in New Guinea. “These are voyages of discovery and although you never know what exactly you’re going to take home—a piece of art or an appreciation of a new place—they’re crucial experiences to have for inspiration,“ Nunnerley explains.
Sandra’s Study, photographed by Emily Andrews. Art: Tai Xiangzhou, ‘Beautiful Sharpe Peaks’; 89”L x 16”H
We asked her: What do you collect as an interior designer, and how do you combine Asian works of art into your interiors?
“I love to introduce my clients to collecting, starting them on their own journey of exploration, whether it’s painting, photography or sculpture," says Nunnerley. “My latest passion is collecting Chinese contemporary ink paintings. This began when Pierre Durand and the late Khalil Rizk, world-renowned owners of Chinese Porcelain, first introduced me to the work of Beijing-born Liu Dan. At the time Liu Dan was living and working in New York City, creating works of art in brush, ink, and watercolor. Immediately I fell in love with his spiritual landscapes of nature, pushing the boundaries of classic Chinese tradition with western art. As a collector of contemporary and primitive art, I knew that Liu Dan’s Cloud Root III belonged in my own home, alongside the other treasures I have collected, including an early 20th century carved wooden Senufo bird from the Ivory Coast, and a pair of Maori clubs, known as a mere, a one-handed weapon from New Zealand."
Sandra’s Living Room, photographed by Emily Andrews. Art: Liu Dan, ‘Cloud Root III’ (2004); 109”L x 52.5”H
"Through the years, I have continued to stay in touch with Liu Dan and to collect his Chinese contemporary ink paintings. He is considered to be one of the most gifted and sophisticated Chinese artists today. His unique ability to blend Western drawing with Chinese brushstroke techniques is captivating. Trained in Chinese classical style and having studied the Confucian classics, poetry and calligraphy, Liu Dan creates these contemporary Chinese monochromatic ink paintings, which so effortlessly bring together the East and the West, classic with modern."
"Tai Xiangzhou studied under the master ink painter Liu Dan himself. Xiangzhou’s vibrant and expressive style also approaches landscape painting with a fresh eye, creating a purely modern style of art that is also being widely collected today by both private collectors and museums. I purchased Beautiful Sharp Peaks in 2001 from The Chinese Porcelain Company. It sits above my sofa today, reminding me of the artist's long romance with classical Chinese landscapes and his poetic vision of mountains, lakes, and rivers. Last year I added to my collection a Tai Xiangzhou ink painting from the 2015 “Celestial Tales” exhibit at Paul Kasmin Gallery."
Tai Xiangzhou, Untitled, 2014. Signed: 2014 Xiangzhou; seal: Xiangzhou. Ink on silk. 86 3/4 x 50 1/4 inches (mounted size).
Not all of Nunnerley’s clients come to her with an art collection in place, but she enjoys sharing her passion for collecting and encourages her clients around the globe—from Hong Kong to London to Paris—to display their art throughout the home. “There’s nothing better than starting a client on a lifetime of collecting, “ she explains. Nunnerley has a fairly freestyle approach to displaying art collections. She is happy to place art in the kitchen or bathroom (‘It doesn’t all have to go in the living room’) and to juxtapose different styles and periods, like the Georges Jacob Louis XVI chair and works by contemporary sculptor Joel Shapiro in a Park Avenue apartment, or a 19th-century Bugatti chair with a mid-century Murano lamp, art by Kim MacConnel and a Maori canoe in her own home.
For BIAPAL's fifth video of Asia Week New York highlights, Nicholas Grindley presents "An Incident on a Hunt," a screen painting by Chen Xiang 陳翔 (1628-1698 or later). Watch below.
“An Incident on a Hunt”
Ink on silk, mounted on two panels in the Japanese manner, but originally mounted either on a single fixed-frame screen or as a hanging scroll. Inscription by the artist: Wuyin xiaochun xie, Siming huanshou Chen Xiang, suinian guxi you yi 戊寅小春寫，四明宦叟陳翔，歲年古希有一 read as “Painted in the tenth lunar month of the wuyin year (1698) by the elderly official of Siming (Ningbo), Chen Xiang, at the age of 71 sui.” Followed by two seals of the artist.
Height 220.7 cm / 88 1/4 in
Width 160 cm / 63 in
Provenance: Ian and Susan Wilson collection, San Francisco, C199.