Lectures will be held at the Society of Antiquaries of London, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BE at 6.00 p.m., or with welcome drinks in advance, at 5.45 p.m. for 6.15 p.m., unless otherwise noted*.
Tuesday 8th October
The annual Sir Michael Butler Memorial lecture sponsored by Katharine and Charles Butler
5:45 pm for 6:15 pm with welcome drinks sponsored by Woolley & Wallis
Dr. Stacey Pierson, Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor), History of Art and Archaeology Department, SOAS
Fragments of China: Destruction, Location and the Collecting of Chinese Architectural Remains in 19th– century Britain
The collecting of Chinese art and objects in Britain developed significantly in the second half of the 19th century. This development was associated with greater access to collectible material and to China itself, primarily as a result of military activity. Events, such as the sacking of the Summer Palace in 1860, provided physical access to China and its things and led to new areas of collecting and approaches to collecting. It also led to new ways of thinking about both China and collected objects. Of particular interest is the collecting of architectural remains from China which became at once souvenirs, trophies and ‘art’. They were connected physically and intellectually to a nation, specific buildings and specific events. The kind of architectural fragments that were removed and collected included tiles, bricks, roof ornaments and fragments of statuary that decorated buildings. As such, these Chinese ‘objects’ were more familiar to the British collector than items more typically identified as art, such as porcelain or cloisonné vases, pictures, lacquerware or jades. This familiarity is the result of a long history of collecting architectural remains in Britain which became almost a craze during the 18th century and the pursuit of ‘the Grand Tour’. What is different about the collecting of Chinese architectural fragments is that it was associated with immediate events, rather than the temporal distance that was associated with European fragments. Unlike Chinese ones, European fragments were ‘ruins’, the perceived result of crumbling that comes with age and is linked to the ancient past. There is therefore a romance associated with such collecting, but the psychology of collecting Chinese fragments was very different as it was associated with contemporary violence. In this talk, the many aspects of collecting architectural remains from China in 19th-century Britain will be explored with a view to illuminating collecting practices associated with specific types of material but also the relationship between collecting and destruction that characterized a material relationship with China after 1860.
Dr Stacey Pierson was Curator of the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art at SOAS (PDF) from 1997-2007. This museum housed the world-renowned David collection of Chinese ceramics, which is now on display in the British Museum. As Curator of the PDF, and subsequently as a member of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at SOAS, she has concentrated her research and teaching on aspects of Chinese ceramics in both the domestic and global spheres and on the history of collecting. She has published widely in these subject areas and her recent books include:
- Collectors, Collections and Museums: the Field of Chinese Ceramics in Britain: 1560-1960, Peter Lang, 2007.
- Chinese Ceramics: a Design History,V&A Publications, 2009.
- From Object to Concept: Global Consumption and the Transformation of Ming Porcelain, HKU Press, 2013
- Private Collecting, Exhibitions and the Shaping of Art History in London: the Burlington Fine Arts Club, Routledge, 2017.
Dates for Asian Art in London 2019 are 31st October to 9th November.
Monday 4th November
*The Bonhams/OCS Asia Week lecture at Bonhams*
101 New Bond Street, London W1S 1SR
Drinks: 5:30 pm for 6:00 p.m. lecture. No booking required.
Dr. Johannes Wieninger from the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna
Collecting Ming Ware: Ming Porcelain in Austrian Collections
This lecture will deal with the history of collecting Ming porcelain during the Habsburg era, from the 16th to the early 19th century. Inventory books from Ambras Castle near Innsbruck (Tyrol), end of 16th century, provide us with detailed information on the presence of contemporary Chinese porcelain and the way it was used. Some of these porcelains found their way to the imperial palaces in Vienna and later on into public museums. In the case of early porcelain cabinets of the late 17th century, some blue-and-white porcelain pieces from the end of the Ming period were reused. The large “Orientalisch-keramische Ausstellung“ (Oriental ceramic exhibition) with more than 2000 exhibits, organized by the Oriental Museum in 1884, showed the rich heritage of Asian ceramics in Austrian aristocratic collections.
Johannes Wieninger studied European art history at the University of Vienna (PhD 1980). He joined the MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna in 1982 and was curator for Asian art from 1986 until 2019. The focus of his work (exhibitions and university lectures) is on intercultural relations between Asia and Europe. Major exhibitions were Japonisme in Vienna (1990 Vienna, 1994/95 Tokyo) and Global:lab – Asia and Europe 1500-1700 (2009 Vienna).
Tuesday 12th November
5:45 for 6:15 pm with welcome drinks sponsored by Sotheby’s
The OCS Asia Week lecture sponsored by Sotheby’s
Dr. Anna Wu
Chinese Wallpaper Global Histories and Material Culture
Dr. Anna Wu was awarded her PhD in 2019 by the Royal College of Art in London as part of the V&A/RCA History of Design Programme, for which she was supported by an AHRC doctoral award. Her research interests include Chinese export art and the global influence of Chinese design, particularly the influence of Chinese export wallpaper. Prior to embarking on her PhD, Dr. Wu worked as Assistant Curator for the Chinese collections at the Victoria and Albert museum where she curated displays for the Ceramics Galleries and the China gallery as well as temporary displays, including Ai Weiwei: Dropping the Urn and The Silent Traveller: Chiang Yee in Britain, 1933-1955 in 2012. Anna holds degrees from the University of Cambridge (M.Phil. Chinese studies) and the University of St Andrews (MA Joint Hons. English Literature and Philosophy). She is currently pursuing her research interests in America where she is now based with her young family.
Her research focuses on Chinese wallpaper of the type developed for western export markets from the late seventeenth century onwards. Despite the relatively small numbers in which they were exported, Chinese wallpapers exerted a significant influence on Western decorative traditions. Chinese wallpapers found popularity in Europe and North America throughout the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries and there continues to be a growing global market for both antique and reproduction Chinese wallpapers throughout the world today, including in China itself.
The V&A museum holds an internationally significant collection of wallpapers and it was during the course of her work at the museum as Assistant Curator for the Chinese collections that she first became interested in Chinese export wallpapers. She was intrigued by the longevity of their unique aesthetic appeal and their fascinating hybrid qualities. Made by Chinese craftsmen, ostensibly for European markets, they reflect multiple cultural traditions and influences and provide unique insight into the mechanisms of global cultural exchange from the early modern period to the present day.
In her lecture Dr. Wu will share some of her doctoral research, which examines the social and cultural history of Chinese wallpapers in a global context. Using case studies spanning the eighteenth to twenty-first century, she will present a comparative investigation of their function and uses in Great Britain, North America and China.
Tuesday 10th December
5:45 for 6:15 pm with welcome drinks sponsored by Woolley & Wallis
Dr. Laurie Margot Ross
Visualizing the Silk Road: Integrating Commerce and Aesthetics in Colonial Java
Chinese traders were among the earliest foreigners to visit Java—an important island of Silk Road in present-day Indonesia. As far back as the Song Dynasty, Chinese traders brought in silk, pottery, and coins, returning home with spices and exotics. Indians and Arabs followed, with strong footing in the textile trade, and Europeans competing for dominance of the region. Each culture left its mark. Britain’s tenure in Java under Lieutenant-General Thomas Stamford Raffles, though brief (1811-1816), launched Euro-American interest in ethnographic collecting for subsequent generations.
Dutch control of Java lasted nearly 300 years, reaping considerably more of Java’s riches than its aromatics. Like their Chinese, Indian, and Arab predecessors, many displaced Dutch settlers married local women and raised families there. No wonder ‘syncretism’ and ‘Java’ are synonymous to anthropologists. How, then, to define the visual culture of the region? Art historians often privilege Indian aesthetics, pointing to the massive Hindu and Buddhist shrines erected in central Java—Loro Jonggrang and Borobudur, respectively. Less often considered are that the ceramics and silk from China, or miniature Qurans and talismans from the Hadhramaut—discovered on shipwrecks and excavated burial sites— contained magic properties that were implicit in their size. This paper examines how Javanese artists intuited, adapted, and transformed such disparate motifs as mandalas, serpents, Hindu kings, Sufi prophets, and those seeking to control them, into a distinctively glocal aesthetic.
Dr. Laurie Margot Ross is the Director of the research and curatorial firm, Glocal Matters in New York, which assists museums and other institutions in the development, documentation, and curation of their trans-regional art and visual culture collections. She earned her PhD in South and Southeast Asian Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Ross has lectured extensively throughout the United States, the Netherlands, Germany, and Indonesia. Among her recent projects was to curate an exhibition of the mask collection of Benedict Anderson (Imagined Communities) which he bequeathed to the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University (New York).
Dr. Ross is the author of The Encoded Cirebon Mask: Materiality, Flow, and Meaning along Java’s Islamic Northwest Coast (Brill, 2016), which was funded by the Social Science Research Council and KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (Leiden). From epigraphic evidence, Indonesian, Dutch, and American archives, and oral interviews, she demonstrates how masks and their use evolved over the centuries in Indonesia: from a popular entertainment, to a dance form incorporating Hindu and Buddhist concepts of devotion and detachment, to what it is today–an elegant translation of mystical Islam.
Tuesday 14th January, 2020
5:45 for 6:15 pm with welcome drinks sponsored by Woolley & Wallis
Sarah Piram, Iran Heritage Foundation Curator at the V & A Museum, London
Building a Museum for Iran: Cultural reform and modernisation at the time of Reza Shah
Major cultural transformations occurred in Iran during the reign of Reza Shah Pahlavi (r. 1925-1941). In 1928, the Iranian government appointed the French architect André Godard as the Director of the Iranian Archaeological Services (edāre-ye atiqāt-e kol). Godard became a lead figure in the study and valorisation of Iranian heritage in the 20th century. He designed and directed the National Museum in Tehran which inaugurated in 1937. The modernisation of Iran under Reza Shah is reflected in this Museum, through the building itself and the collections.
Sarah Piram is the Iran Heritage Foundation Curator at the V&A. She previously worked at the Louvre Museum and is completing her PhD about the history of Iranian collections and heritage at Paris Nanterre University.