Indian Company School paintings at Walter Arader

Indian Company School paintings at Walter Arader. (Photo: Clanci Jo Conover)

Asia Week New York launches its 11th edition today with a roster of expert dealers and institutional affiliates convening to celebrate the field and history of Asian art. The event exists to bring various Asian art galleries together along with museums and auction houses to create a schedule full of events and exhibitions for collectors, scholars, connoisseurs, and casual viewers alike.

WHAT: Asia Week New York
WHERE: Various Locations in New York City
WHEN: March 12–20, 2020

This year was initially set to carry on as usual until last month when all of the major auction houses announced that they would be postponing their leading Asian art sales until June amid dramatic reports of the COVID-19 virus spreading. On Monday, a countrywide quarantine went into effect in Italy, several New York colleges moved to a distance-learning model, and St. Patrick’s Day parades have been canceled.

Man in overcoat holds umbrella against the snowfall as he walks toward a temple with a two-tiered roof in Kawase Husai's Snow at Zojo Temple in an image from the Egenolf Gallery, courtesy of AWNY

Kawase Hasui, Snow at Zojo Temple (Yuki no Zojoji), 1922. (Photo: Egenolf Gallery, courtesy of AWNY)

Despite these ominous tidings, Asia Week presses forward into what is sure to be a stunningly informative week of shows and events. Starting today, most participating galleries will officially open their exhibitions to the public. While each dealer works under the umbrella of Asian art, the artwork to be shown is widely diverse and hails from many different countries. From Indian miniature paintings to Japanese armor and Chinese textiles, fine works are to be presented across Manhattan.

Krishna and his friends playing hide-and-seek by night, folio from a Bhagavata Purana

Krishna and his friends playing hide-and-seek by night, folio from a Bhagavata Purana, Guler, c. 1765. Opaque pigments and gold on paper. (Photo: Francesca Galloway, courtesy of AWNY)

A unique opportunity to engage with rarely-seen art

Many international dealers showcase their unique wares only during Asia Week, flying in to temporarily take over existing gallery spaces in the Upper East Side. This is a great opportunity to take advantage of for both New Yorkers and travelers, as it may prove difficult to see these visiting galleries in their permanent locations, many of whom have unique expertise.

London’s Francesca Galloway, for instance, has decades specializing in Indian miniatures and textiles, and can be found exhibiting at Stellan Holm Gallery on Madison Avenue.

Carlo Cristi, whose knowledge lies in Himalayan art, the Japanese print dealer Egenolf Gallery, and others from out of town will also have a presence in New York.

As is customary, a variety of Asian art dealers permanently based in New York will participate in the week’s affairs, including the iconic J.J. Lally & Co.

Large Bronze Goose-Form Incense Burner, Early Ming Dynasty

A Large Bronze Goose-Form Incense Burner, Early Ming Dynasty, late 14th – 15th century. (Photo: J. J. Lally & Co., courtesy of AWNY)

Compared to last year’s lineup of dealers, there are nearly 20 galleries who did not return for the present edition. When asked, one international dealer declined to comment on why they chose to sit this year out. Asia Week could be a lucrative opportunity for dealers—if successful, they could make enough sales to cover the costs of a gallery for a year. When those efforts fall flat, however, financial prudence of involvement can become an issue, especially for those without a full-time gallery space in the city.

At the same time, there are several newcomers to this year’s Asia Week, such as the high-end Ippodo Gallery that recently opened a new space on the Upper East Side, India’s Akar Prakar Gallery, and the multi-location Boccara Art, among others. California-based Thomas Murray, also a first-time participant, is exhibiting work from his recent book,  ‘Rarities – The Himalayas to Hawaii.’  According to him, part of the appeal of joining Asia Week is the opportunity to educate and share his passion for tribal artwork with a broader audience.

Tribal and Himalayan Art from Rarities - The Himalyas to Hawaii

Tribal Art at Thomas Murray. (Photo: Clanci Jo Conover)

A significant obstacle for dealers this week will be the absence of a meaningful auction calendar to draw in individual collectors or institutions. Many people visit New York for Asia Week because it is a one-stop-shop for Asian art—between the auctions and the galleries, one is sure to find something. Without the auctions, there is less incentive for people to travel in hopes of acquiring work. Additionally, the level of [subdued] panic surrounding the coronavirus will almost certainly have an impact on attendance.

Christie’s and Sotheby’s, however, are showing highlights this week from their June sales that will perhaps entice potential buyers, while Bonhams, Doyle, and Heritage have postponed everything entirely. iGavel will host a preview for their online sales at their East Harlem location as planned. The dominating two houses will continue with their modern and contemporary auctions next week, along with online sales.

Still, we will have to wait until June for a proper lineup of Asian art auctions and previews in New York.

A. Ramachandran, Visions of Ramdev - Ahalya in Red

A. Ramachandran, Visions of Ramdev – Ahalya in Red, 2001. Oil on canvas. Christie’s, 18 March 2020, lot 438.

No major auctions, but 16 educational gallery talks throughout the week

When asked what she was looking forward to in the event, AWNYA’s Chairman Katherine Martin said, “This year, Asia Week attendees will be able to focus their attention on the exhibitions at our local institutions and the 32 galleries offering an array of Asian Art. In addition, we assembled an educational initiative for 2020 with 16 gallery talks on the schedule which can be found on our website.  We really want to share our passion and knowledge with a wider public about this wonderful field of art.”

Kingdom of Derge, 18th Century.

Manjushri with scenes from the life of Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyeltsen, Kingdom of Derge, 18th Century at Navin Kumar. (Photo: Courtesy of AWNY)

It will be interesting to see how Asia Week 2020 will play out. According to the Asia Week Association, sales totaled over $150,000,000 last March, a formidable number to face going into the event without having auction sales to lean on. Some years have been stronger than others, but Asia Week participants are resilient and are looking forward to what the week will hold. With this more intimate version of the event, visitors can focus their attention on the galleries and programs offered for a specialized experience. 

Altogether, the week exists to celebrate Asian art and create a space where those interested can commune, sharing ideas, passions, and speculations about the field and beyond. Most galleries will be holding opening receptions on March 12 & 13—free and accessible to the general public. The full calendar of events can be found following this link; the list of exhibitors is here

 *Please note that official printed Asia Week material may be out of date due to recent changes, so be sure to check the Asia Week website for schedules and updates.