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ARTnews celebrates Asia Week New York's anniversary

ARTnews celebrates Asia Week New York's anniversary

Asia Week New York Celebrates 15 Years
March 14, 2024 

A lot has changed in the 15 years since Asia Week New York began.

The annual event showcasing Asian art at galleries, museums, cultural institutions, and auction sales announced dealer Brendan Lynch as its new chairman this past September. The event has also grown to include auctions featuring works from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Tibet, and Nepal.

Lynch told ARTnews that even with the growing number of art fairs in cities such as Singapore, Taipei, and Tokyo, Asia Week New York is still an important moment in “an increasingly busy calendar” for curators and collectors from major American museums and institutions around the world to acquire new works.

“People can actually meet and look at things rather than [gaze] into a screen which is what we all spend our time doing in a quotidian way,” the art dealer, consultant, and former Sotheby’s director said. Lynch noted several market conditions, including the difficulty of selling Chinese art due to the implementation of a 25 percent import tax during the Trump administration in 2018.

While that has fallen to 7.5 percent, Lynch said it’s still a major deterrent for the commercial art world due to the requirement to pay it upfront. The tariff has also somewhat unexpectedly prompted growth among galleries in New York focused on Japanese art, especially ceramics and contemporary works, even with the country’s depressed economy.

Manjari Sihare-Sutin, Sotheby’s head of modern and contemporary South Asian art, has noticed the growing popularity of Indian art at her auction among collectors based in India and abroad within recent years.

“There is a big and very, very strong diasporic community, who all buy because they want a slice of their heritage,” she told ARTnews. “But it’s not just the Indians, but it’s also people who are now interacting with India on business.”

A high point for Lynch was the multiday auction at Christie’s of the collection of New York dealer Robert Hatfield Ellsworth during Asia Week New York 2015. Sales totaled $132 million, surpassing presale estimates of $32 million.

In the years since, Lynch has seen collectors grow discerning about the goods available, such as the correct price to pay for a “really exceptional” artwork. Collectors are also focusing more on contemporary works, emerging artists, and modern masters. This shift in acquisitions was accelerated by the impact of the internet, as well as a younger generation of collectors with a “particularly dramatic” and “seismic change” in taste, Lynch said.

Sihare-Sutin has observed a shift in interest from around 30 established Indian and South Asian artists, including Francis Newton Souza and S.H. Raza to a younger generation of artists like Rana Begum, Lubna Chowdhary, Salman Toor, Shahzia Sikander, and Imran Qureshi.

The establishment of many new museums, especially by private collectors in China, India, and the Middle East has also had a huge impact on the soaring value and demand for acquisitions of Asian art. Lynch noted the initial skepticism toward collector Kiran Nadar’s announcement of a private museum in New Delhi in 2010. “It’s now one of the leading museums, state or private, in India to champion contemporary and modern art,” he said.

On March 18, Sotheby’s will hold a single-owner sale featuring 25 works of South Asian art from the collection of Virginia and Ravi Akhoury. The couple started collecting works from early sales to help their kids understand India. The Akhourys started lending works to museums more than two decades ago, served as board members at the Rubin Museum, and recently gave several works to the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a stipulation that some of them be on view on a permanent basis.

“They are part of this first generation of South Asian collectors who actively engaged with museums to propagate Indian art and South Asian art,” Sihare Sutin told ARTnews. “There are many such collectors who have sort of paved the way and I see now the younger generation emulating them.”

Lynch said museums are beginning to explore new definitions of “Asian art” and embrace areas such as photography, or the long history of painting in India. “It filters down into the commercial art world, and people started exhibiting them and giving them [shows],” he said. “And the whole thing, you know, starts to take on a life of its own, really.”

Among the 28 galleries participating in this year’s Asia Week New York, Lynch highlighted the “Korean Artists in Paris” exhibition at HK Art & Antiques featuring the work of Chung Sanghwa, Shin Sung Hy, Nam Kwan, and King Sang-Lan; Joan B Mirviss’s presentation of contemporary Japanese ceramics by Kondō Takahiro; as well as the offerings of Asian textile specialist Thomas Murray, who recently sold a 19th- to early 20th-century Balinese Mask with an Idealized Likeness to the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris.

The 2024 edition of Asia Week New York runs March 14 through 22.

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