Since its 2009 inception, New York's Asia Week has flourished. A convergence of museums, dealers, collectors, gallerists, and art enthusiasts, the event features endless opportunities to view, bid, and buy. Now a mere week away from its seventh opening, this celebration of Asian art has become a highlight of the city's flurried March art calendar, joining the ranks of tenured shows such as The Armory Show, Pulse, Scope, and The Art Show.
With 42 galleries and 21 museums participating, this year's extensive lineup of events isn't for the faint of heart or the unprepared of schedule. So what if you don't have the full nine days to spend making the rounds? You find an inveterate attendee to let you in on exactly which highlights not to miss. Fortunately, Phyllis Kao, Asian Art specialist at Manhattan-based auction house Auctionata, has done just that. Here are the top five people, places, and things she's looking forward to this year.
1) SNAG THIS SEAT
The Rubin Museum's 'Collecting with a Purpose' talk explores the psychology of art acquisition, pairing longtime Asian art collector Daniel Vasella with Brown University Psychiatry and Human Behavior Professor Benjamin Greenberg. The two will discuss from both clinical and practical perspectives the motivations behind art collection. Kao cites this event as one she's particularly looking forward to for its fresh conceptualization of a much-mused topic. Bonus: Ticketed admission includes a gallery tour as well.
2) DO YOUR RESEARCH
"One of my favorite galleries is Kaikodo, for their wonderful selection, warm people and conversation, and, of course, their amazing research and academic journal," recommends Kao. During Asia Week, the gallery will feature a specially curated exhibition, 'Elegant Solutions: Chinese & Japanese Works of Art & Paintings.' Special hours and locations for the full run can be found under Kaikodo's Asia Week listing.
3) REDEFINE 'RETROSPECTIVE'
Though not technically part of Asia Week, the New York Historical Society's 'Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion' exhibit complements the week's themes, providing poignant background information into the cultural experience in this country. "It's heartbreaking and fascinating," says Kao. "As the first generation born [in the United States] in my family, it hits close to home for me. They collected and borrowed some great artifacts and documents for the exhibition."
4) ROCK OUT
Recently appointed Travel + Leisure's 'Destination of the Year,' Myanmar is currently inspiring global interest. This year's Asia Society exhibit, 'Buddhist Art of Myanmar,' explores this tiny nation of past tumult, focusing on its religious art traditions. The first of its kind in the West, the extended run spans now through May. In search of souvenirs while you're there? Kao suggests the Society shop's 'Scholars' Rocks' event, where signed books and objects are available for purchase. (Of course, her own upcoming auction will feature an excellent scholar's rock example for those interested!)
5) THINK COLLECTIVELY
For collectors - or those just beginning to acquire pieces - the Metropolitan Museum of Art will feature two exhibits that feature items that are readily accessible on the contemporary market: Lacquer work and textiles. Tapestry and embroidery are showcased in 'Painting with Threads' and intricate lacquer is celebrated in the 'Sumptuous' exhibit. "These are two art forms that are highly accessible among today's collectors," says Kao, referencing a Kesi silk panel to be auctioned in one of her own sales. "Celebrating traditional art forms is what makes Asia Week such an incredible, fascinating event for all of those within the art community."