Snuff Bottles and Moon Jars! Five Must-See Asia Week New York Exhibits

Writer Nancy Lazarus heads to the Far East without leaving Manhattan as she takes in the sixth annual Asia Week and offers up five highlights.

Kaneko Toru Blue Rust #1 2009
Kaneko Toru’s Blue Rust #1 (2009) is on view during Asia Week at Lesley Kehoe Galleries.

Spring marks the arrival of Asia Week New York. The nine-day event (March 14-22), a marathon of 47 gallery shows and 19 auction sales, along with museum exhibitions and special events, offers the opportunity to admire a wealth of ancient and modern treasures. We’ve picked five exhibits where the themes, settings, timeless works, contemporary pieces, or unique techniques reward close looking. They’re listed by location, starting in midtown.

Lesley Kehoe Galleries (Melbourne, Australia-based gallery specializing in Japanese art; has Asia Week gallery space in Fuller Building at 41 East 57th Street, 5th floor)
The Transcendent Spirit, a special Asia Week exhibit, highlights works of seven Japanese artists. Owner Lesley Kehoe believes “there’s not another culture with the patience and self-discipline to master these complex techniques.” Mitsuo Shoji creates paintings, calligraphy, and objects. He’s inspired by Buddhist chanting and fascinated with fire, using traditional Japanese foils to fire canvases. Kaneko Toru and Kidera Yuko specialize in metalworks. Yoku hammers flat metal sheets to create spirited female forms of dance and song. Toru uses copper oxide and enameled metals to craft colorful tin-plated decorative vessels with exotic textures.

Ralph M. Chait Galleries (specializes in Chinese art; 730 Fifth Avenue at 57th Street, Crown Building, 12th floor)
For Asia Week, the oldest U.S. firm dealing in Chinese art is focusing on porcelain, silver sculpture, root carvings, and a collection of 20 snuff bottles dating from the 18th-20th centuries. Though miniature in size, the bottles were quite eye-catching, especially given the variety of animal and botanical motifs, shapes, and design types. Some were inlaid, while others were carved, painted, or embellished. Among the gemstones were lapis, jasper, jade, rhodonite, and moss agate. A stopper in a matching or contrasting color sat atop each bottle.

Asia Week Joan Mirviss Gallery Yamada Hikaru Moveable Smoke Screen 1981Joan B. Mirviss Ltd. (specializes in Japanese art; at 39 East 78th Street, 4th floor)
Japan in Black & White: Ink and Clay is the gallery’s Asia Week theme. As Mirviss noted, that means traditional Japanese painting, modern clay, and early modern ceramics. Artist Yagi Kazuo created pieces with “painting on clay where the form and decoration are unified”. He used patterned graphics and etched surfaces, often leaving visible brushstrokes. Yamada Hikaru used smoke-infused glazing to craft a moveable rectangular smoke screen. The Brancusi-inspired work of black and gold glazed stoneware and metal has rows of small hemispheres.

Asia Week Nancy Wiener Gallery Large Ceremonial Necklace circa 19th CenturyKang Collection (specializes in Korean art; at 9 East 82nd Street, 4th floor)
“Ik-Joong Kang: Bamboo/Wood” is a solo exhibition of the renowned multimedia artist (no relation to gallery president, Keum Ja Kang). Ik-Joong Kang is known for using three-inch wooden pieces covered in plastic. His four-panel series, Bamboo, depicts the seasons. Bamboo, a favored Korean material, represents resilience and strength. The artist’s biggest passion now is hand-blown designs. Moon jars are his favorite item, as featured in the painting Moon Jar with Covered Dots and the series of 471 custom-sized miniature painted moon jars. For Kang, the moon is “the place where people store their dreams.”

Nancy Wiener Gallery (specializes in art of India, Himalayas, Southeast Asia; at 2109 Broadway at 73rd Street, Ansonia Building, Suite 1018)
Paths to the Divine is this year’s Asia Week collection, featuring Indian miniature paintings, stone and bronze sculpture, and jewelry. Large Ceremonial Necklace, circa 19th century (pictured), is from south India. The 88-inch piece is meant to adorn a large sculpture. Made of silver with ruby cabuchons, it contains many design elements related to Hindu prayer. Majahara Entertained by a Buffalo Tournament, circa 18th century, is also of Indian origin. The painting depicts a scene of pageantry, with colorful participants and whimsical animals, framed by throngs of spectators.

These paintings, smoke screens, vessels, snuff bottles, and moon jars represent a select portion of the art and activities offered. Check out the full program here.

Writer Nancy Lazarus is a frequent contributor to UnBeige.