Blog post

Then and Now: Modern Chinese Art Meets Ancient

Join us for an EXPO CHICAGO satellite event and discussion with Dr. John Tancock of Chambers Fine Art NY and Helyn Goldenberg of Sotheby’s.

Then & Now
Exhibition: Thursday 9/27—Sunday 9/30, 10am—6pm
Discussion: Saturday 9/29, 11am—1pm
PAGODA RED, 400 N Morgan, Chicago
Then & Now features a selection of contemporary Chinese artwork in dialogue with ancient Chinese objects. Dr. John Tancock and Helyn Goldenberg will discuss the role of tradition within modern art, and walk attendees through the exhibit, explaining the connective tissue between each pairing. The event marks a rare opportunity to hear from these renowned experts, and we are honored to host.

The exhibition was a collaborative effort—John Tancock with Chambers Fine Art selected the modern works and the PAGODA RED team curated the antique “partner” for each.

“The artists we’ve chosen are interested in what has come before them,” explains John. “For example, Fu Xaitong works use a traditional, hand-made Chinese paper called Xuan.”

Fu Xiaotong, “216,000 Pinpricks,” 2017

“Fu uses a needle to penetrate the surface, and the titles are all based on the number of pin pricks. It is an organic looking form–kind of a creamy colored paper–and we’ve paired that with a porcelain called Ding ware,” says John.

Ding ware or Dingyao porcelain is prized for its warm white coloring, incised surface patterning, and refined forms. “There’s a nice resonance between the contemporary work and the ancient porcelain,” says John.

Dingyao Porcelain Vase | c. 1000 | $14,800 | Dia: 8.0″ H: 15.5″

Since its founding in 2001, Chambers Fine Art has been interested in the relationship between contemporary and classical art, and has mounted several shows exploring the theme. “The Chicago exhibition will be another manifestation of that,” explains John.

According to Daniel Chen, the Director of Chambers Fine Art in New York, many of the gallery’s contemporary artists reference a mix of Western art history and traditional Chinese art history in their work–in a way that is not yet familiar to U.S. audiences.

“By seeing their work alongside classical Chinese objects, visitors to the exhibition will be able to catch a glimpse of the rich cultural history that these artists often draw upon, whether consciously or not. I’m delighted to be working with PAGODA RED on this collaborative exhibition,” he says.


Fu Xiaotong: Proliferation
Installation view at Chambers Fine Art, New York

Helyn, who works closely with private collectors, museums, institutions and corporations to help them develop fine art collections, has an encyclopedic knowledge of modern art, and is a passionate, prominent collector in her own right.

“No art is created in a vacuum,” explains Helyn. “It doesn’t spring from the forehead of Zeus. It all has historic references whether that’s Chinese, or Indian, or German, or anything else you can think of. A contemporary vision is not monolithic.”

“There is so much around us, so much information we are exposed to… and of course, we absorb all of these things,” says Helyn. “When someone who has talent creates something, it’s an amalgam of all that they’ve seen in their lives. I think that’s why this is such an interesting concept.”

Another inspired pairing in the show includes work by artist Gui Hong Wei, who is particularly well known for water color—his signature medium.

Guo Hongwei, “The Illustration Book of Natural Form No. 9,” set of 6 | $16,580 | W: 13.0″ H: 13.0″

“He often does paintings of objects in the natural world,” says John. “We have two sets of watercolors called ‘Illustration Book of Natural Form,’ which are beautifully executed works of rocks and minerals.” For Then & Now, the Gui Hong Wei work is paired with a Monumental Burl Wood Chair.

Monumental Burl Wood Chair | c. 1900 | $8,800 | W: 35.0″ D: 31.0″ H: 22.5″

The wooden chair is actually a rare, naturally-formed wood burl. This burl was discovered by a collector who spent years scouring the Chinese countryside for remarkable specimens. The group of watercolors and chair visually relate through their pure, organic forms.

“It’s thrilling to host this striking juxtaposition of China’s past and present. Conceptually, the exhibition reveals the strong role of tradition in Chinese art now,” says PAGODA RED founder Betsy Nathan. “Visually, the contemporary works energize the antiques which, in turn, bring soul to the mix.”

Wang Dongling, “Wei Zhuang – Bodhisattva Melody” | $12,180 | W: 22.0″ H: 30.0″


“Moon Gate” Lingbi Scholar’ Stone Scholars’ Stone | c. 1850 | $7,800

This satellite event is presented in conjunction with EXPO CHICAGO, the International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art. Join us—

Then & Now: Exhibition + Discussion
Saturday, September 29, 11am-1pm
PAGODA RED, 400 N Morgan, Chicago
RSVP [email protected]

EXPO CHICAGO takes place at Navy Pier, September 27–30, 2018. Artwork from over 3,000 artists from 135 leading galleries representing 27 countries and 63 international cities will be featured.

Previous Post

Next Post

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *