Printemps Asiatique: highlights from Paris’s Asian art week

The event in June will give collectors the opportunity to preview works from the Asian art sale at Christie’s in July

Inspired by the Asian Art Week events in London and New York, Printemps Asiatique has gained a reputation of its own among discerning collectors, thanks to an expertly curated selection of galleries and dealers.

After a two-year hiatus, the event will take place in person again from 8-16 June, led by a new team including Printemps Asiatique chairman Christophe Hioco, as well as Camille de Foresta, a senior specialist at Christie’s Paris. They are intent on widening its scope, and from 8-12 June the 2022 edition will also offer the opportunity for collectors to preview highlights from the Asian art sale taking place at Christie's Paris in July.

Printemps Asiatique will take over an extraordinary building on the Rue de Courcelles, just a stone’s throw from the auction house. According to Hioco, it’s an ‘emblematic’ site for Asian art. In 1926 this hôtel particulier was transformed into a pagoda with a striking red facade by Ching Tsai Loo, a celebrated collector and dealer in this field.

The Pagoda Paris on the Rue de Courcelles
The Pagoda Paris on the Rue de Courcelles

Now, thanks to Hioco and his team, collectors and Asian art lovers will have the rare opportunity to view the exquisite interiors. ‘This place is absolutely beautiful,’ says de Foresta. ‘People don’t really know about it because it has been closed for a long time.’

The new and expanded edition of the fair will host more than 50 dealers, galleries and auctioneers from Europe and the US. It is an exciting opportunity for Asian art to come to the fore in France, de Foresta explains. ‘I have always liked the idea of doing something interesting for clients who focus on Asian art because there is a lot of it in France that rarely gets seen.’

Hioco agrees: ‘I was elected chairman last year and I accepted this position because I was always convinced that Paris deserves an Asia week of its own. I wanted to create a group of events that would be attractive to collectors — not only French collectors but those overseas as well.’

According to de Foresta, one of the jewels of the auction series is a pair of Qing dynasty zitan cabinets, which have never been seen on the market before. ‘Zitan is a kind of hardwood that was only used for imperial commissions as it was very rare,’ she explains. ‘Today it is even more precious because you don’t find zitan wood anymore.’ The cabinets are intricately carved with a dragon motif — an impressive feat, she says, when you consider how dense this type of wood is.

An exceptional pair of zitan cabinets, China, Qing dynasty, 18th-19th century. Height 19¼ in (49 cm); Length 17⅛ in (43.5 cm); Depth 8⅝ in (22 cm). Estimate €60,000-80,000. Offered in Art dAsie on 6 July at Christies Paris
An exceptional pair of zitan cabinets, China, Qing dynasty, 18th-19th century. Height: 19¼ in (49 cm); Length: 17⅛ in (43.5 cm); Depth: 8⅝ in (22 cm). Estimate: €60,000-80,000. Offered in Art d'Asie on 6 July at Christie's Paris

Another example of virtuosic craftsmanship comes in the form of a turquoise-ground porcelain dish that bears the Qianlong imperial mark on its base. ‘This dish is interesting because it is supposed to imitate the cloisonné technique,’ says de Foresta. ‘During the Qianlong Emperor’s reign, craftsmen became so accomplished in their discipline that they started to imitate the other materials of Chinese works of art — such as lacquer, bamboo and cloisonné enamelware — just to show what they could do in porcelain.’

A rare and magnificent turquoise-ground yangcai imitation cloisonné dish, China, Qing dynasty, Qianlong gilt six-character sealmark and of the period (1736-95). Diameter 15¼ in (38.7 cm). Estimate €150,000-200,000. Offered in Art dAsie on 6 July at Christies Paris
A rare and magnificent turquoise-ground yangcai imitation cloisonné dish, China, Qing dynasty, Qianlong gilt six-character sealmark and of the period (1736-95). Diameter: 15¼ in (38.7 cm). Estimate: €150,000-200,000. Offered in Art d'Asie on 6 July at Christie's Paris

Further highlights include a pair of bronze stags — an animal that is auspicious in Chinese culture, de Foresta explains — that also date from Qianlong’s reign. These measure at more than 120cm in height and, according to the specialist, are notable for the exceptional finish of the casting and for having remained in the same family for almost 100 years.

An exceptional pair of bronze stag censers, China, Qing dynasty, Qianlong six-character marks within rectangles and of the period (1736-95). Height 50¾ and 52 in (129 and 132 cm). Estimate €250,000-350,000. Offered in Art dAsie on 6 July at Christies Paris
An exceptional pair of bronze stag censers, China, Qing dynasty, Qianlong six-character marks within rectangles and of the period (1736-95). Height: 50¾ and 52 in (129 and 132 cm). Estimate: €250,000-350,000. Offered in Art d'Asie on 6 July at Christie's Paris

Christie’s Asian art auctions will also boast an important selection of works in lacquer, including ‘very good quality’ Qing and Ming boxes, as well as significant works of Southeast Asian art. A highlight from this section of the sale, which will also be on display at Printemps Asiatique, is a large thangka (a Tibetan Buddhist painting on cotton, silk or appliqué) from the Lionel and Danielle Fournier collection. ‘It’s a very important piece,’ says de Foresta. ‘All the jewellery of the deity has been rendered in relief, so the gold is really vibrant. This is the only thangka known with this kind of relief work.’

A rare and important thangka of Mahakala, Tibet, late 17th century. 25⅝x 21¼ in (65 x 54 cm). Estimate €400,000-600,000. Offered in Art dAsie on 6 July at Christies Paris
A rare and important thangka of Mahakala, Tibet, late 17th century. 25⅝x 21¼ in (65 x 54 cm). Estimate: €400,000-600,000. Offered in Art d'Asie on 6 July at Christie's Paris

As well as showcasing works from auction houses and dealers, Printemps Asiatique will also offer visitors the chance to explore the public collections of Asian art in Paris, alongside works from regional museums in Boulogne, Angers, Nice and Toulon. The fair has partnered with institutions that are filled with treasures from this category, such as the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild — within walking distance from Christie’s Paris — which is usually only open by appointment. The fair is hosting a guided tour of the Louvre’s stores of jade and porcelain, as well as a number of conferences. According to Hioco, these will lend ‘depth’ to the event, appealing to ‘true collectors’.

While Hioco remains cautiously optimistic about attracting large crowds after such a long break, the ambitious range of exhibitors and events convened by the chairman and de Foresta shows they have built, as Hioco puts it, ‘sound foundations’ for the future of Asian art in Paris, and that this year’s Printemps Asiatique is not to be missed.