Dr. Wei Yang discusses the appreciation, connoisseurship and valuation of Chinese art from the perspective of a trained Chinese art historian (Ph.D. in Chinese art) and a practicing Accredited Senior Appraiser (ASA) in Asian Art and Appraisal Review and Management (ARM).
Dr. Yang's ConfessionI am writing for new Chinese art connoisseurs and appraisers who wish to develop a Chinese art expertise. In the past fifteen years, I have been constantly asked about how to appreciate Chinese art, how to master the Chinese art aesthetics and connoisseurship, and how to achieve professional competence in Chinese art. This set of questions has always been on my mind, making me feel guilty for not being very helpful, since I had not achieved my own goal yet. After serving as a Chinese art appraiser for 17 years, I believe I have completed the professional transformation from a fresh Ph.D. in Chinese art to a competent Chinese art appraiser and an effective expert witness for Chinese art. I am finally comfortable with giving advice on the appraisal of Chinese art and commenting on some practical issues concerning Chinese art expertise.
Wei Yang received a Ph.D. in Chinese art from Northwestern University, a M.A. in Asian art, B.A. degree in art history from Smith College and designations of Accredited Senior Appraiser (ASA) in Asian Art and Appraisal Review & Management (ARM) from American Society of Appraisers; published a memoir(in Chinese), Desert Bloom, in 2020 and Wei Yang's Guide to Chinese Painting and Calligraphy in 2022.
The field of Chinese art is big enough for more art appraisers to cultivate their passion and develop a new expertise. However, jumping into the field without an honest self-evaluation is risky. Learning the appreciation of Chinese art takes time, energy and dedication, taxing heavily on your patience. Having a road map for developing a new career accelerates your success.
The appraisal of Chinese painting requires some knowledge of the essentials. Your passion for Chinese art forms the basis for success. A correct identification of value features determines authenticity. Verification of the given information prevents mistaken attribution. Adopting a ranking system enhances compatibility. Relevance in analysis (stylistic and market) supports objectivity.
TThe evaluation of Chinese ceramics follows a systematic analysis of the basic features. Recognition of regional features, ranging from the texture of clay, color of biscuit, shape of kiln to the firing method, comments on origin. Identification of types (pottery, earthware, stoneware, porcelain) sheds light on dating and availability. Analysis of shapes, sculptural methods, decorative tools and motifs and glazing methods determines authenticity.
Understanding the symbolic power (earthly and spiritually of Chinese jade is essential. Knowledge of why Chinese elite used jade as fine ornaments or ritual objects is a must. Key physical attributes include durability, color, texture, translucence, and sensuous tactile quality. Recognition of visible (material body) and invisible (spiritual association) qualities endorses competence.
Conservation and restoration have a deep impact on value. Superficial damage (wrinkles or stains on the edges of painting) located on the marginal part of the work of art may not affect any other part of the work. Structural damage (tears or losses of part of the work) on central image, background or perimeter and corner), however, affects the work deeply in both aesthetic and commercial values.
“I just finished reading the report and I want to say that it is superlative. It is such an unbelievable appraisal; I cannot believe how good it is. You found out the artist, that must have been really hard work and impossible to recover that information.... In short, thank you so much for a truly amazing appraisal.”Jack M. NJ
“I wish there was a more fitting way to express my gratitude to you for your expert opinion. It helps us, as a family, put this issue aside with reassurance we are not neglecting or over valuing a family heirloom...., again, many thanks for your time and attention to this collection.”Dick G. MN
“I received your thorough and excellent appraisal of the painting. I truly appreciate all the time and efforts you took, for it is the best appraisal I have ever seen. I of course knew of Princeton by its reputation; this is an example of its excellent scholarship as well.”Ronald S. NY
“Your entire approach is very engaging and intriguing with a combination of enthusiasm for the works of art, level of expertise and desire to meet the needs of the clients.... I have had a chance to read through your summary consultation a couple of times. It is professional, informative and very helpful.”Simmons, E. NY
Dr. Wei Yang
Princeton, NJ 08540, US
(609) 688-6891; email@example.com
Arriving at the right attribution via a correct reading, recognition and authentication of signatures and seals on a Chinese painting is the basic and indispensable tool for connoisseur and appraiser. An art appraiser checks, and counter-checks signatures and seals to measure and correct our visual analysis of style.
The appreciation of Chinese art is an organic process to achieve an intuitive enlightenment via two stages: semi-understanding and full understanding. The former addresses the basic rules for appreciating individual performance of works of art. The later emphasizes a process of psychic preparation for one’s entire being in a state of acute sensibility.
Conservaton and restoration have a deep impact on value no matter what types of value we are talking about. The decision on conservation and restoration of a Chinese scroll on silk and paper is based on the type of damage (superficial or structural), the cause (fire, flood or mishandling) and the scope of damage (severe or marginal).
Forgery is hardly new in the world of Chinese art. Even the best museums have bogus pieces in their collections. Fakes are usually identified as “Reproduction,” “copy,” “in the stroke of” or “after,” reflecting different levels of resemblance to the original.
Not all masters produce finest works, and not all copies or fakes are worthless. The study of copes and fakes and all manners of forgery is to see what is truly bad in relation to what is good. Appraising a "lousy original" or a "high quality copy or fake" is standard in the valuation of classical Chinese painting.
In the appraisal of premodern Chinese painting, some mistakes are endemic in general, and the problems and their solutions are unique. Be aware of five common mistakes and some good methods for avoiding them will help appraisers with specialties other than Chinese art to develop their expertise in Chinese art.
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