Daisy Yiyou Wang: “Mammon and the Muse: International Art Dealers and Charles Lang Freer…”

Daisy Yiyou Wang: “Mammon and the Muse: International Art Dealers and Charles Lang Freer…”


– [Voiceover] First of
all, I want to thank Inge and her three colleagues for
hosting such a wonderful event. It is such a pleasure to be here, with such a esteemed group
of colleagues and friends, old and new. First of all, I also want
to thank my colleagues Keith Wilson, David Houge and Beth Dooley for their guidance and
support to my research. Last, but not least, I want to thank Dr. Warren Cohen, and Dr. Thomas Lawton, the former director of
the Freer Gallery of Art, whose work has been an inspiration for me. Today my presentation is
entitled Mammon and the Muse, International Art Dealers
and Charles Lang Freer’s Chinese Collection from 1915 to 1919. Charles Lang Freer, Detroit industrialist, collector and founder of
the Freer Gallery of Art, played a critical role in
the history of collecting Chinese art in the United States. Freer was born in
Kingston, New York in 1854. Despite his humble
beginning, Freer rose quickly to the senior management
in the railroad car manufacturing business in Detroit. At the turn of the century, he’d retired from active business and devoted
himself to art collecting. Freer came to visibility soon as a leading American collector and
advocate of Asian art. When Freer died in
1919, he left the nation an enduring legacy. The future Freer Gallery of Art, the first fine arts museum
devoted to Asian art in the west. And an eclectic body of
American and Asian works of art. One great strength of the
collection Freer bequeathed to the gallery is Chinese art. In his last five years,
that is from 1915 to ’19, his Chinese collection grew remarkably, both in volume and quality. Working closely with a
select group of dealers, collectors and scholars,
Freer significantly shifted his collecting focuses and methods. Today I ask you to consider with me the complex factors that contributed to the changing field of
Chinese art collecting in the context of art
history, economic history, and international relations. Freer also left a uniquely
rich and deep collection of art vouchers,
inventories, correspondence and photographs, which in great detail, document his art collecting activities. Currently housed in the Freer
and Sackler Gallery archives, this records ideal materials
for quantitative analysis of the Chinese art market conditions. The period between 1915
and ’19 is critical to the formation of
Freer’s Chinese collection, and the Chinese art of collecting in the United States at large. Although Freer began
to collect Chinese art in 1893, of the 3,404 Chinese objects he gave to the Freer Gallery, over 1600
pieces, including some of outstanding paintings,
jades, bronzes and sculptures were acquired in his last five years. They laid the foundation
of the Freer Gallery’s world-class Chinese collection today. During this period, Freer’s pace of Chinese art collection accelerated. In 1916, if you look at here, the volume of Freer’s
annual Chinese purchases for the Gallery reach its highest point of 663 pieces, since he acquired his first Chinese artwork in 1893. The growth of Freer’s Chinese collection relates to important events in his life, and major changes in the
circulation and reception of Chinese art in the United States. In 1906, the United States Government formally accepted Freer’s gift. In 1915 the site of the future
Freer Gallery was determined. A year later, the plans for
the gallery were approved and the ground was broken. As the gallery was taking its shape, Freer became more actively
involved in collection building. In 1915, Freer settled in New York City, the international center
of Chinese art trade. Here, he worked closely
with leading art dealers and the collectors. As Kathleen Pine has observed, towards the end of his life,
Freer’s increased awareness of his mortality and his search
for spiritual consolation in art might also have
added a sense of urgency and a necessity to his
Chinese art collecting. Freer Chinese art collecting
was part of a bigger picture. As a result of America’s rise
as the world leading power at the turn of the century, and the devastations of
World War I, that broke out in 1914 in Europe, by the mid 19-teens, the
international center for collecting Chinese art had shifted
from Europe to America. The market for Chinese art
flourished in the winter of 1915 and ’16 as Charles Lang Freer observed. Quote, “During this time,
a surprisingly large number “of important specimens
of Chinese art have come “to New York, several of
which have been secured “for my collection. “Early paintings have been quite numerous, “and I have secured one
collection of 100 paintings, “which friends of mine in
China have been gathering “since my last visit to
China five years ago. “Nearly all the museums in America of note “are interesting themselves
very eagerly in Chinese art. “And outlook America for
a better understanding “and appreciation of Oriental
art is very gratifying.” End quote. Freer’s observation was accurate. In 1915, the Department of Far
Eastern Art was established at the Metropolitan
Museum of Art in New York. The year 1916 saw the opening of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. And the Cleveland Museum
of Art with major displays of Chinese art. In the same year, an
exhibition of early Chinese art was held at the Metropolitan Museum, where the display of Chinese
ritual bronzes on loan was acclaimed as a
milestone in the beginning of western understanding
of Chinese culture. In 1917, a loan exhibition was held at the Art Institute of
Chicago, featuring Chinese jades, paintings and sculptures
from Freer’s collection. While the interest in
Chinese art grew vigorously in America, the art
market and museum world on the other side of the
Atlantic appeared rather bleak. In 1916, the Asian art
expert Laurence Binyon at the British museum lamented, quote, “The museum is shot. “But heaven knows when we shall ever “get any grant again for making purchases. “Not for many years. “I dare say so we must
be resigned to America “getting all the fine
things, to our falling “hopelessly behind,” end quote. The shrinking market
demand in Europe prompt a group of Europe based art
dealers to turn to United States to seek new opportunities. The prominent dealer of Chinese art, C. T. Loo was one of them. With offices in New York,
Paris, Beijing and Shanghai, Loo applied high quality
Chinese antiquities to major Euro-American
collectors and museums for nearly half a century. Although Loo establishes
antique business first in Paris, in 1902, his rise as a
leading international dealer of Chinese art began with
the expansion of his business into the United States,
immediately after the outbreak of World War I. In 1915, Loo opened his first gallery at 489 Fifth Avenue in New York. On the occasion of the 1915 Panama Pacific International Expedition in San Francisco, Loo met, probably for the first time, Charles Lang Freer,
who purchased from Loo, 13 paintings. From this point, Loo started
to introduce Mr. Freer to a large number of
important Chinese works. In 1915 and ’16, Loo
acquired nearly 150 pieces. Freer acquired nearly 150
pieces from or through C. T. Loo at a total price over
110,000 U.S. dollars. Another factor that contributed
to the burgeoning market for Chinese art in America
is the availability of a large number of high
quality works from China after the fall of the
Qing Dynasty in 1912. At the time of political
and financial unrest, imperial collections,
important private collections and excavated objects
surfaced on the domestic and international art markets. Such a condition was
observed by Freer in 1916. Quote, “Many beautiful
paintings and other art objects “have come here from China
during the last few months. “I’m sure that many Chinese
collectors are now disposing “of their chief treasures. “Largely, I believe on the
account of general insecurity “in China,” end quote. In 1919, Freer paid $4,000
for this nearly two feet long, 11th century BC jade blade with important historical inscription. This piece was owned by Duanfang One of the leading collectors
of the late Qing period. This shows the piece published
in Duanfang’s jade catalog. Duanfang, an important Qing
official was assassinated in the riot in 1911. His family was forced to
sell a large number of pieces from his collection to
dealers and collectors. In addition to the
availability, Chinese works on American art market
were competitive in price when compared with Japanese works, or works by contemporary American artists. As Warren Cohen pointed out that by 1914, Freer no longer focused
on adding Japanese art to his collection, because
he found it possible to buy at lower price, much finer examples by the early Chinese. In 1916, Freer spent over $306,000 on 663 Chinese pieces, including
some important paintings, jades and sculptures. In the same year, Freer
purchased 66 Japanese pieces for a total sum around $2,500. In 1916, while buying an oil painting
entitled Late October, by contemporary American
artist Dwight William Tryon at a price of $5,000,
Freer paid a close sum for the hand scroll, the Shoe River, attributed to Ligon Ling, the first rate 11th
century Chinese painter. The hand scroll, now dated
to the Southern Sung Dynasty, or the 13th century had
a prestigious pedigree as being one of the most
treasured pieces owned by the Qing emperor, Qinglong. As Freer accelerated his pace
of collecting Chinese art, his focus shifted as well. We was concentrating on early Chinese art such as paintings believed
to be earlier than the Ming Dynasty, ancient jades, bronzes, sculptures and ceramics. Such a shift was both a matter
of taste and a strategy. Freer, a shrewd businessman
and ambitious collector, approached Chinese art
with a vision toward building an outstanding
collection in the west. At his time, many major
Euro-American collectors were focusing on high value
Ming and Qing ceramics and other decorative arts. In 1915, John D. Rockefller Jr. paid over 1.5 million dollars for a group
of Ming and Qing porcelains, much in vogue from the Morgan Collection through the renowned art
dealer Joseph Duveen. So this shows the Rockefeller’s
New York residence, filled with his Qing porcelains. Also, the Morgan Collection was sold to other collectors including Henry Frick. Although Freer had accumulated
considerable wealth, to buy art, his resources
however were in no way comparable to those of
his contemporaries such as John D. Rockefeller Jr. To excel, Freer had to
formulate his unique strategies, based on his understanding of Chinese art and the market conditions. Freer collected smartly and selectively, focusing on neglected
but unique or important types of objects. The availability of
less sought after items, such as Chinese stone
sculptures, ancient jades and ceramics available
at a relatively low price promised new opportunities. For example, while Rockefeller
paid nearly $50,000 for a Qing period enamel
porcelain figure in 1915, Freer acquired a year
later, this marvelous late 6th to early 7th century stone sculpture, the standing bodhisattva,
for $4,500 dollars. From 1915 to 1919, the
structure of Freer’s Chinese collection changed as well. A comparison of his 1906 and 1916 Chinese acquisitions
show that his collection not only grew in size, but
also became well-rounded with nearly every major
category represented here in 1916. Categorically, in Freer’s last five years, if you look at here, the total here, painting ranked the first
followed by metalwork, jade, ceramics, sculpture, and textile. In terms of price of each category, painting in Freer’s 1916 acquisitions was the dominant category, both
in total value and number. Freer was also buying
sculptures and textiles of relatively high value per piece. Jade and metalwork stood out in number, but their average prices are
lower than other categories. Prior to 1907, Freer’s main
interest was in ceramics and occasionally he added a few paintings, but painting emerged as
the most important category in 1909, and again in 1911,
thanks to his visit to China. Ingrid Larsen has wrote
a wonderful article on Freer’s collecting of Chinese painting if you want to learn more. It is in 1907 that Freer
began to acquire a significant number of metalworks and sculptures. Compared to other categories, jade, jade was a later comer. Freer began to collect
jade in earnest in 1911 when he made his last visit to China and acquired nearly 30
pieces from Chinese dealers. But if you look at this table, in 1916, and 19, oh sorry. 1916 and 1917, ancient
jade figured prominently in his Chinese collection. He purchased 146 pieces of jade in 1917, making jade the biggest category in his purchases of the year. Although the price of a small number of jade pieces were high, such as this dagger X of
the early Zhou period, at the price of 6,000 US dollars. The majority of Freer’s
jade purchases were in the price range of a few hundred, such as this 4th to 3rd
Millenium BCE jade disc. (speaks in foreign language) culture. In response to the ask
price of 800 and 500 for two jade pieces
from the Chinese dealer Wang Xin Tang. Freer advised him in 1916, quote, “No one in America will
pay such a very high price “for jade and I strongly
advise you to send no more “unless the price you put upon them are “several hundred percent less,” end quote. That’s for 500 and 800 dollars. (laughs) While collectors like Herbert
Bischoff were amassing 18th to 19th century Qing jades. My current show does the
Bischoff collection on display at the MET in 1917, Charles
Lang Freer built a distinctive high quality and substantial
ancient jade collection at a reasonable cost, in
this new field of collecting. Freer’s gift formed the
core of Freer Gallery’s ancient Chinese jade collection today which contains the largest and the most significant group of jades from
(speaks in foreign language) culture outside of China, so
if you haven’t visited our newly reinstalled jade gallery, I highly encourage you to do so. Freer’s fascination with early jades was also deeply personal. Freer was attracted to their subtle hues, fine grains, smooth and course surface. Moreover, as Kathleen Pine noted, when desperately ill,
at the end of his life, Freer would cling to
certain pieces of jades for their mystical restorative power. Freer’s interest in early Chinese art was also influenced by his
advisor Bertold Laufer, who you have known, the
anthropologist and curator of Asiatic ethnology at a field
Columbia museum in Chicago. One of the pioneering
American experts of Chinese language and culture, Laufer
authored some of the early scholarly monographs
on ancient Chinese art in the western world, including
pottery of the Han Dynasty in 1909 and jade, a study
in Chinese archaeology and religion in 1912. Freer’s acquisitions in his last few years evidenced the impact of
Laufer’s scholarship. So here on your left is a page featuring a tall jade tube tomb
in Laufer’s jade book. On the right is a Freer piece, and again on the left
is an illustration of a group of eastern Han ceramic vessels from Laufer’s book, and on
the right is a Freer piece. It has been argued that Freer was an art for arts sake type of collector, with an emphasis on
aesthetic appeal of an object and his connoisseurship of Chinese art was largely shaped by
Japanese art scholars, dealers and collectors. It is evident that between 1915 and 1919, Freer’s Chinese collecting
was deeply influenced by scholarship based on Chinese sources. Freer was in close contact
with experts well versed in Chinese language and culture, including Laufer, John Ferguson, and Masu. A painting expert from China. Upon Freer’s request Chinese
scholars translate inscriptions on objects, or wrote notes
about Chinese artists. Freer was actively collecting
Chinese language literature on painting, jade and bronze
related to his collection. His library held the catalogs
of the jade and bronze collections of the famed
collector Duanfang. After acquiring two jade blades, previously in Duanfang’s collection, Freer wrote to the
Chinese dealer Yosha Shin. Quote, “I’m very anxious to know what the “Chinese books say about
the two jade swords “bought from you, will you
kindly send me translations “and give me the name of
the book and the dynasty “in which it was published? “Information of this
kind is very much needed “in this country, where
many people are becoming “interested in ancient
Chinese art,” end quote. Another major factor that impacted Freer’s Chinese acquisitions was
America’s entry into World War I, in April 1917, and the
shortage of transportation, as well as heavy increase in taxation. We hope that will never
happen again. (laughs) If we look at the year here. In 1917, and then 1918, you’ll notice that Freer’s purchases dropped from 398 to 73 in 1918. The lowest point in his last five years. In October, 1917, US Congress passed the War Revenue Act,
increasing income taxes to unprecedented level, to raise
more money for the war effort. For incomes of one million
dollars, the rate went from 10.3% in 1916, to 73% in 1918. In 1918, the clause of
the new war revenue bill was enacted, placing a
tax of 10% on all artwork sold in the United States,
except works by living artists. In 1919, a tax of 10%
on works of art imported to the United States were levied. The heavy taxation meant large expenditure on the part of more wealthy art patrons and collectors like Charles Lang Freer, and his friends. One month after passage
of a 1917 War Revenue Act, the Yamaka and Company offered Freer the ritual bronze set from
the late collector Duanfang currently in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Although Freer considered this
group the most interesting group of bronze, thus
far discovered in China, he stated, quote, “I’m sorry to say that I have
no means with which to buy it. “Especially in these war-time days, “and the consequent uncertainty of income. “The most of which, in my case,
will go to the government, “regardless of the much
discussed income bill now “before the congress,” end quote. One month after the
passage of the revenue act, Freer wrote to the Chinese
dealer Yosha Shin, quote “The money demanded for war purposes “has very much lessened the
purchases of Chinese art “in this country, and until after peace “has been declared, I feel
that it would be very risky “to attempt to make further
sales in this country. “My friends have all
practically stopped buying, “and I am thinking seriously
of doing likewise, myself.” End quote, moreover, by
April 1918, the shortage of shipping had led
the American government to take steps to prohibit the
importation of art objects. Due to all these war time constraints, Freer’s purchases from
dealers in China passed. Between March 1918 and the June 1919. And even worse. In addition to the increased taxation and the government restrictions, the rise in the price of
silver and the resulting increase of the exchange
rate of the U.S. gold dollars to Chinese silver currency tails. Also, effected transactions
between Freer and the art dealers in China, for example, in November 1917, the exchange
rate of US gold dollars to Chinese tail rose from .72 to 0.90 in 14 months. This means if Chinese dealers
converted 10,000 US dollars Freer paid them to Chinese tails based on the exchange rate, they would
lose 2,900 Chinese tails. Although Freer significantly slowed down his pace of collecting during the war, he was still making Chinese
acquisitions selectively, focusing on painting and jades. In early 1918, Freer acquired
from the Chinese dealer Wang Xin Tang 49 pieces at a price of $19,600, during the war, the law
of supply and demand created new market conditions. In June 1918, when Freer
was not buying art from Chinese dealers, he received
from a Shanghai based dealer Yosha Shin, a tantalizing report. Quote, “At the present time,
owning to the distrubances “in China, some collectors
are willing to sell “their works of art, which are valuable “at very reasonable prices, “but unfortunately, during
the war, these goods, “owing to the shortage of ships, “cannot be imported into America. “Consequently there’s a large accumulation “of goods here, and no
ready money to purchase “the really valuable works which are now “being offered at such
moderate prices,” end quote. Not buying from dealers in
China between March 1918 and June 1919, Freer
relied on the Japanese firm Yamanaka and Company as
his major source of supply for Chinese art. Constraints in post, and
art collectors in Europe and America, might have
let dealers to seek buyers elsewhere, so where? When Freer turned down the offer of the Duanfang bronze group, he had advised the
Yamanaka and Company that they should consider the
collector of ancient Chinese art, Mist Sumimato in Japan. After the war ended,
Freer resumed his business with dealers in China in 1919. The number of Freer’s Chinese
purchases from a gallery increased from 73 in 1918 to 178 in 1919. Although Freer passed
away in September 1919, his last five years
collecting of Chinese art left a gallery still in building many areas of a great strength. His interest in early Chinese
art and Chinese scholarship laid the foundation of the
future Freer Gallery’s work. Between 1915 and 1919,
Freer’s Chinese acquisitions came mainly from 19 dealers. These dealers shifted, these dealers were very
different in their statures. By the mid 19-teens, firms
such as Yamanaka and Company, funded by Yamanaka Sadajiro,
had already been noted international establishments
with office in New York. So here you see Yamanaka, and he is of 680 Fifth Avenue shop front currently is occupied by Gap. (crowd laughs) And an interior view of the shop. Yamanaka was in a privileged
position to access American clients and
to enjoy invisibility. Without a permanent gallery in the US, the Shanghai based dealers such as Wang Xin Tang, Lee Wen
Xing, and Yosha Shin needed to travel to New
York to meet their clients or they had to have
helping agents or partners. Dealers’ relationship with
Freer were also different. Yamanaka and Company,
for example was selling Charles Lang Freer
Chinese things every year. A. W. Barr, for example, was doing business with
Freer only in 1915 and ’16. Dealers had a distinct
area of specialization and their own selling strategies. A study of Freer’s 1916
Chinese acquisitions from 10 dealers shows that
dealers of Chinese origin such as Lee Wen Xing and
Wang Xin Tang concentrated on painting and jade. Non-Chinese firms dealt
little in painting, but specialized in other areas. The prominent art dealer Decran Coll-e-kan for example focused on
high end Chinese sculptures and textiles. In 1916, Coll-e-kan sold Freer
eight pieces of sculpture at average price of over $4,000 each. Including this Tang Dynasty
standing bodhisattva. In contrast, A. W. Barr supplied 177 objects, mostly low value small scale metalworks, such as this bronze garment
hook for five dollars. During this period, one of
the most significant changes in Freer’s collecting
activities was the formation of a special system between Freer and a small group of dealers in China. His last two trips to
China, in 1909 and then from 1910 to ’11, Freer worked
with a number of important Chinese collectors and dealers from home, he bought a large number of works. Building on these connections,
Freer no longer able to travel to China, due to
his deteriorating health. Freer had to rely on a select
group of Chinese dealers who sourced objects for
him direct from China, such a system gave Freer
access to a large quantity of high quality Chinese artworks at competitive prices. In 1916, Freer acquired 105
objects from the Chinese Dealer Lee Wen Xing at the price of over $86,000. Four China based dealers
supplied over half of Freer’s entire 1916 Chinese
acquisitions of the year in value. Freer informed the dealers of his particular areas of interest. Dealers in China visited
important sites, antique markets, and collectors to gather both
excavated and heirloom objects in the world without emails and iPhones, they sent Freer letters with
photographs and descriptions. Even produced catalogs
for their collection, of their collection for Freer, and his fellow collectors. So here is the sale catalog
of 60 Chinese paintings published by C. T. Loo’s
firm in Shanghai in 1916. Upon Freer’s request,
objects were shipped to Freer for inspection in a
transaction with Chinese dealer Yosha Shin and Wang Xin Tang. Freer was in a position to
determine the final price. The amount Freer paid was
usually 50 to 70 percent of the asked price. So why did Chinese dealers
want to work with Freer in this manner? Chinese dealers had direct
access to the sources of supply in China at
prices probably much lower than the prices they asked. The Chinese dealers would still expect considerable proft, even when Freer asked for a deep discount. On the other hand, still
new to the art market in America without permanent
galleries in New York, or easy access to American
collectors in museums, Chinese dealers chose to
rely heavily on Freer, who had gained a reputation
as a leading authority and collector of Chinese art with extensive connections
to dealers, collectors and museum curators. Freer willingly acted
as a middle man between his trusted dealers and
potential buyers of Chinese art to create a win-win situation for all parties involved. While building his own
collection for the Freer Gallery, Freer had a sense of
mission to spread Asian art among other museums and collectors. Toward this end, he often
divided the collections offered by dealers between himself and his fellow collectors. For example, in 1915, C. T. Loo offered Freer at the price of a half million Francs, that’s over $85,000 a group of outstanding
bronze and jade objects from the French dealer Marcel Bing. Among this group, is this 11th century BCE ritual bronze grain server known as (speaks in foreign language) which documents an
important historical moment in the early western Zhou Dynasty. The vessel was acquired by Freer’s friend Eugene and Agnes Meyers, and the later bequeathed to
the Freer Gallery of Art. Freer’s mode of operation was described by the Chinese dealer Yosha Shin as such. ‘When the goods arrived,
you buy those you like best “for your own purpose, and
then sell the remainder “to your friends and other museums.” Freer offered dealers other
kinds of practical help. In 1917, after four cases
of jades, bronzes, ceramics and paintings from the dealer Yosha Shin arrived in Detroit from China, Freer offered to provide
storage in the vault of his Fairy Avenue residence in Detroit. For objects that he could
not sell at the moment. For the dealer, to his friends without any charge, of course. Freer also acted as
dealers’ financial advisor. In 1916, Freer financed
the dealer Wang Xin Tang’s art purchases through a 10,000
US dollar loan agreement. According to Freer, if in the future, Wang could bring him things
that were satisfactory, Freer would apply the
10,000 US dollar loan on his purchases from Wang. Although Chinese porcelain
had gained wide popularity in Europe and America earlier, Chinese painting, sculpture,
ancient jades and bronze arrived in America in the 19-teens as relatively new category. Dealers of Chinese art
served a growing, but small band of American collectors
with limited resources and visibility, dealers collaborated. Unable to come to the United States, the Shanghai-based dealer
and collector of painting, Pow-yen-zee had C. T. Loo and Yosha Shin to represent him in his
transaction with Freer in the mid 19-teens,
the Paris-based dealer C. T. Loo was in partnership
with Guan Foo Chu, a prominent Shanghai based dealer and painting expert,
who helped Loo to secure paintings from collectors across China. The ownership of an
object can be transferred among dealers as well. This sixth century
Stone burial couch front for instance, was imported
by C. T. Loo from China to France, and then sold
to the French dealer Charles Vin-yay, and
then Loo purchased back from Vin-yay before selling
it to Charles Lang Freer. On the other side of picture, dealers compete against each
other to win Freer’s favor. C. T. Loo was a major
supplier of Chinese painting and jades to Freer in 1915. A year later, three other
Chinese dealers came to the scene with similar type of items. In 1916, Loo offered Freer
60 paintings at $60,000. When Freer asked for a much lower price, Loo insisted on $60,000
because he told Freer, Freer’s offer was less than
the cost of the collection. Freer, who considered himself
to be the absolute authority was offended and decisively
ended any further transaction with Loo after 1916. Although dishonesty on
Loo’s part might be a main reason why Freer
made such a decision, it’s also evident that
Loo’s presence was no longer critical to Freer’s
Chinese art collecting. In 1916, Freer approached by dealers who allow him to set the final price made at least six important transactions, including 100 paintings from Lee Wen Xing, at the average price of $650 per piece. In comparison, Loo’s
offer had average price of $1,000 per piece
seemed less competitive. Now to end my talk, I would like you to, take you to the journeys of Chinese objects. Chinese objects acquired
by Freer followed two main routes in their global journeys from China to the United States. One route is illustrated by the journeys of this burial couch front. It was first sent to C.
T. Loo’s Gallery in Paris from China, probably via
the Trans-Siberian railroad, then shipped to the United
States across the Atlantic. The other route was first
to cross the Pacific Ocean from Shanghai to reach Vancouver, or San Fransisco as port
of arrival then to Detroit as the port of entry by freight train. Before shipping their offerings to Freer, Chinese dealers obtain an invoice from the United States consular office in Shanghai, we learned from this consular invoice of September 15th, 1917, that
one case of Chinese paintings including this Ming
hanging scroll was sent from the Chinese dealer
Wang Xin Tang to Freer, packed in a tin-lined case with paper. They were shipped from Shanghai to Freer’s residence in Detroit on
the ship S.S. Ecuador. The invoice also contained
information about the value and the contents of the shipment, cost of freight, duties, insurance and consulate fee, but if you
look at the total value of 4,000 Mexican silver
dollar, it’s problematic, because the correspondence between dealers and Freer reveal that
Chinese dealers often put in the consulate invoice
a much lower value for their goods, sometimes only 10% of the actual price they asked. So the last slides I want to show you is we need to be very careful when we look at export statistics, and also look at it very critically, because this might just be a tip of the iceberg. If dealers are repeat
that kind of practice, so you’ll see actually, the actual scale of the Chinese
art trade between dealers and Charles Lang Freer and
other collectors United States, was probably much more impressive. And also to end my presentation, I want you to call your attention to two concepts I think that
kind of common threads in all our talks is one is, the idea of complexity. So here we’re looking at
collecting Chinese art in America, but we also have to
look at what’s going on in Europe, what’s going on in Japan, and also another idea
is inter-connectivity, because for example, here you see dealers, collectors and scholars,
and curators of Chinese art formed a small, but close-knit circle. Of course, in the first
half of the 20th century, Chinese art dealers played
a very important role in shaping many major collections because of their access to resources. On the other hand, you also see that all those rows can cross over in the case of, for
example, John C. Fergusson. Also, in terms of
methodology, we’re looking at a very complex factors,
art historical, personal, political and economic. I think that all makes
the history of collecting such a fascinating field
for interdisciplinary study, that’s why we’re all here, thank you. (applause)

About the Author: Michael Flood

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