Galleries - November 2014

With over 60 commercial galleries participating, not to mention all the major London auction houses and with some 15or more major public museums and galleries around the country putting on important exhibitions, talks and related events, Asian Art in London (to 8 November) has, over the 17 years since its foundation, become an extraordinarily inclusive event, quite unlike any other of its kind I can think of. While it is underpinned by the antiquities market (see for example the wonderful Indian bejewelled Royal Cap c.1900, covered in rubies and emeralds (illustrated on page 13) – most of the world’s major dealers in the field are here (not showing in a tent it should be added, but taking space with other dealers or hiring) – the dynamic rise and rise of the contemporary visual arts across the continent is also increasingly evident also, with a good 10% of the dealers’ shows featuring 20th C. and contemporary art or ceramics. Aktis, for example, has a fascinating look at the work of two Chinese artists active in Paris in the immediate post-war period, Zao Wou-Ki and Chuh Teh-Chun. Drury) he was to win a huge following in the West as well, including the admiration of Picasso and royal collectors. Deservedly so too – this is a really worthwhile revival, focusing on his rather less- familiar etchings, of a highly original figure. Finally to something altogether contemporary at Albemarle, which is showing two up and coming young South Korean artists, Lee Jaehyo and Mari Kim. They themselves couldn’t be more different either: Lee Jaehyo’s extraordinary objects, somewhere between sculpture and furniture, sometimes decorated with the most intricate abstract patterning made from highly burnished stainless steel bolts set in burnt wood, at others simply exploiting the strange surfaces of the exotic woods he is using. This makes for a striking contrast with Mari Kim’s strange and often disturbing robot or cartoon-like doll-faced women – the natural and the mechanical. These are all just tasters for what is a quite remarkable event – and even if you didn’t think Asian art, ancient or modern, was your ‘thing’, it is impossible to believe that there won’t be something among all these terrific shows, that will just change your mind . . . NU Known, along with Wu Ghuanzhong, as the “Three Musketeers” of Chinese modern art, they adapted Chinese calligraphic painting techniques to their understandings of Klee, Matisse, Picasso and Nicholas de Stael among others, to considerable critical and artistic admiration at the time. Both continued to live and work until the last year or so in Paris, both dying in their 90s, so this show will serve as an important memorial to two very considerable figures whose work had, almost inevitably, become somewhat neglected in recent years. There is, meanwhile, another, not entirely dissimilar, path being followed in the work of the largely overlooked (in the West that is) Pakistani 20th C. artist Abdur Rahman Chugtai, which is the feature show at Grosvenor during the course of the event. Regarded in both Pakistan and the West as their leading modernist artist from the 1930s up until his death in 1975, his is an intriguing and unlikely story in which, heavily influenced by the ideas of Abindrinath Tagore in modernising the Mughal and Rajput styles to counter Western ‘colonialist’ ideas, he arrived at an unlikely sounding but in fact lyrically beautiful art, that fused these older traditions with influences coming from Art Nouveau. Although he didn’t travel after his youth (he studied etching in England with Paul NOVEMBER 2014 GALLERIES 15 EAST MEETS WEST Lee Jaehyo sculpture, stainless steel bolts nails & wood, at Albemarle Gallery Zao Wou Ki ‘Untitled’ 1981, at Atkis Gallery