Antiques 4-16-11

These lacquer plates are from the end of the Edo period so around 1860. I am amazed at the modern, that is 1920s European, feel they have. Klee, Malevich and Mondrian weren’t born and Western painting was still in a hard realism stage.

The next pictures are of a copper pot that was lined with pewter. It is formed by hand and hammer. There isn’t anything special to say about it but it was bought yesterday by Mr. Kawase at an auction I attended.

Very few items today but there was  very interesting happenings.

I used to go to a different antiques dealer on alternating weeks, one week Mr. Kawase’s, the next to the other dealers. The other dealer is a scholar in Imari, tea ceremony minutiae and kilns; 3 areas I am very interested in. The reason I stopped going is he treated his knowledge like pearls, only doled out to the privileged few.

Today, out of the blue, Mr. Kawase asked about the other dealer who I will now call ‘my dealer’. I said I haven’t been there in a very long time. He then started badmouthing him. It is the first time I have heard him do so about anyone and was very surprised. The same dealer, ‘my dealer’, was at the auction  the pot above sold at  yesterday and I saw something with him very interesting there too. The dealers at the auction are grouped into  groups, each acting as guarantor for the rest of the group. If someone doesn’t pay their bill, the rest are responsible. This of course leads to a kind of cliquishness of which I am not really a part of since I don’t know who the others are I am guarantor for, I only know Mr. Kawase is the main person in my group.  The auction, on the whole, has a friendly atmosphere with everyone joking with each other and most dealers know who in interested in what and the same people generally bid for certain pieces against the same people. A piece came up and ‘my dealer’ was bidding against someone else. The bidding stopped at about 65,000 yen with ‘my’ dealer winning. The person who had put the piece on the block has the right to pull the piece if the top bid isn’t enough or can also ask for a minimum, say 100,000 yen or what ever. The winner can refuse, meet them in the middle, in other words there is usually some back and forth with a friendly resolution. Yesterday with the bidding stopped at 65,000 the person selling asked for a little more, say 68,000 yen. ‘My’ dealer flatly refused with a head and slight hand gesture. This is the interesting part. The auctioneer, usually the one smoothing over the cracks and helping everything flow, said, ‘oh, so desu ka?’ Translation = ‘Is that right?’ Text book Japanese, right?  The way it was said said everything. The take away I got was ‘my’ dealer goes by a completely different set of rules, isn’t to be messed with, don’t dare ask for even 1 sen extra. That coupled with the very uncharacteristic comments from Mr. Kawase made for an interesting slice of what the dealers think of this particular person.

One more interesting thing.

The Miho museum is one of my favorite museums in this area, I always recommend it to travelers. The first time I went there was when I was doing my apprenticeship in ceramics. A traditional apprenticeship, be a hard worker and not be heard unless you are praising the teacher’s wisdom might be a good summary of what it is about.  The first comment I had on the way home was that there looked like there were a lot of counterfeit pieces in the collection. The second time I went I took a friend of mine, a teacher of art history  from a college in California. The first comment out of my mouth upon leaving that time too was the same, lots of dodgy pieces. Both times my comment was met with a ‘oh you silly boy’ type looks. The Miho recently hired someone to do an  appraisal of the collection. Mostly fakes was the answer. I only heard this today and it was delivered in hushed tones. I can’t say for certain this it true but I did remember my comments above upon hearing it. If the rumor is true they have spent A LOT of their followers money on fakes. The site linked to above for the museum doesn’t say it but it is run by a religious organization but it is.  I don’t remember the exact circumstances but I heard that the philosophy of the religion is along the lines that beauty = holiness. I was riding a train way back some years ago with a British man who also runs a church. On the train the Miho had an advertisement for their latest show and I told my friend about the beauty = holiness thing. He assumed a far away look for about 30 seconds and then blurted out, in hushed tones that got stronger as he spoke, “That’s Lucifer.”

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3 Responses to “Antiques 4-16-11”

  1. Franz Frexo Says:

    I am curious to know what made you feel like “there looked like there were a lot of counterfeit pieces in the collection”. Could you give a good example on one of the more obvious fake pieces in the Miho permanent collection that your intuition strongly felt were so?

    • togeii Says:

      Great question. The answer is more difficult than I can spell out. It has been a number of years too so I am not sure I could spell out everything that led me on both occasions to think as I did.
      Dave

  2. Galen Lowe Says:

    In your post dated: Antiques 4-16-11 you have a group of lacquer trays. A beautiful set. Did you sell them, are they available? I’ve had a set like this before and would love to find another, as I regret selling the first set. Thanks in advance, Galen

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