Until the end of October, numerous events celebrate the biggest festival of Asian art in the UK. Centred on the three-week Asian Art in London programme of auctions, gallery exhibitions and museum shows, the focus is on Contemporary and traditional art from China, Japan, India, Cambodia, Vietnam and Korea.
I can’t think of a better opportunity to acquaint yourself with the marvels of this rich Far Eastern heritage, a significant proportion of it pre-dating even the Roman period.
We celebrate these historic traditions in our monthly auctions of Oriental and Islamic works of art, whose catalogues present a microcosm of the art and craftsmanship of the many cultures who come under this banner.
Often, we think of ancient cultures in places such as Egypt, but China was just as developed at the time. Think about the Han (Warring States, c.475-221BC) or Tang dynasties (618-907) with their extraordinary creations in pottery and bronze, a surprising number of which survive today in fine condition.
India and its rich tradition are also part of this mix. I was reminded of this when admiring one of the highlights of our October 17 sale: a fine, possibly 12th century north Indian carved yellow stone torso of a female deity, whose torso is well decorated with beads and jewellery.
Equally impressive was a marvellous piece of Hu porcelain in our timed online auction that ended on October 2: a blue, white and underglaze red porcelain twin-handle vase, decorated with a dragon and the flaming pearl of wisdom. It was a reminder that many of these ancient treasures can be had for reasonable sums. The estimate in this case was just £500-700.
For me, what brings these pieces alive is not just the highly accomplished work that went into creating them, but the thought of the people behind them. Where and how did they live? How did they acquire their skills? What were they like as people? Did they have families and what were the things they dreamed of and worried about? Think of these questions next time your eyes settle on a striking piece of ancient art.