HONG KONG - The Western idea of the cabinet of curiosity and the culture of the Chinese scholar’s studio share a profound kinship. The traditions both flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries and they were similarly conceived as whimsical microcosms of the natural world. They present a natural order that predates the scientific revolution, where analogies and contradictions, through the process of juxtapositions of objects or paintings, allow one to migrate from the visible to the invisible, from the known to the unknown. Nature appears here as a principle of unlimited diversity whose power manifests itself in the marvellous objects and their uncanny assemblage. Every object, every image, whether a strange rock or the lone limb of an erstwhile god, carries with it its own dimension and the cabinet or studio becomes a chapel for contemplation and meditation, the launching pad for a still voyage into space and time.
Play lies at the heart of the two traditions; they are human games that mirror the divine game of creation. The Contemporary Literati: Curiosity sale is conceived as the imaginary studio of a modern day Chinese literatus, at the crossroads of the scholarly aesthetic and 21st century sensibility and highlights works on paper that draw upon the abstract and fantastic qualities of the ink medium. The selection of contemporary art includes some of the finest paintings by Liu Dan and Li Huayi ever to come to the market, while the wide array of objects comprises both “objets trouvés” – strange rocks and roots, fossils, fragmentary sculpture –, as well as scholarly works of art, whether tea bowls or writing implements, all to be displayed on austere ancient wood and stone furniture. We hope that you will enjoy this sale, a dual homage to the Chinese scholar’s studio and its distant European cousin.