Treasures from the Chinese Past
March 16, 2017
BY Anna Heyward

March 16, 2017

On the occasion of Asia Week New York, Gagosian is presenting “Treasures from the Chinese Past,” in a special collaboration with Gisèle Croës Gallery. Croës, whose gallery in Belgium has a world-renowned reputation as an authority on ancient Chinese art, has selected forty outstanding works in bronze for this exhibition, ranging from the sixteenth century BC onward. In conversation with these antiquities are works by three contemporary artists.  Three 2015 drawings by Richard Serra, Ramble 4-21, Ramble 4-23, and Ramble 4-34; an Anish Kapoor sculpture, Syphon Mirror-Kon, from 2005, made of lacquered synthetic wood; and Roy Lichtenstein’s Screen with Brushstrokes (1986) offset the solidity of Croës’s antiquities.

The highlight of the exhibition is a bronze Chinese bixie from the Western Han dynasty (206 BC–AD 9). On the hilt of a bronze sword from the “Warring States period,”(481-221 BC) are the words the King of Yue, Ju Zhou, (had) made (for) himself (for his personal) use (this) sword, scratched out of bird-script, a type of ancient seal script in which some parts of characters have a bird-like head and tail added. These details imbue this exotic item with a narrative quality. There is also a Jue vessel from the twelfth-eleventh century BC, boasting a prestigious provenance going back to 1948, a monumental Jian bronze from the Spring–Autumn period (770–481 BC), and a spectacular animal-shaped Zun vessel from the Late Eastern Zhou dynasty (770–221 BC).

Buddhist statuary is represented by a monumental stone head of Avalokitesvara from the Northern Qi dynasty (550–577) to Sui dynasty (581–618), and a sculpture representing Guanyin from the Song dynasty (960–1279). Also, in the exhibition are a Scholar’s rock and a remarkable ensemble of rootwood furniture with striking extravagant shapes from the eighteenth century.

Each remarkable object demonstrates a perfect technical artistry, unique to region and era. From early Shang Dynasty (c. 1600–1050 BC) to Ming dynasty (1368–1644), bronze vessels, an area of expertise for Croës, played an essential role in ceremonies connecting the living and the dead. They were a symbol of dynastic power.

"Gisèle Croës Presents: Treasures from the Chinese Past" is on view at Gagosian Madison Avenue, New York through March 18, 2017.