Sotheby’s have added an evening sale to Asia Week New York for The Chew Family Collection of Chinese Paintings & Calligraphy. The March 22 auction will feature seventy-six paintings and calligraphy assembled by two generations of the Chew family. The collection has the added luster of the Chew family’s friendship with Zhang Daqian and includes one of his works previously unknown to the public (above). In 2011, during the first year of exploding art sales among Mainland Chinese buyers, Zhang Daqian was the third most valuable artist by sales volume at the three major auction houses worldwide. Sotheby’s has a short but enlightening video on the artist that is worth viewing.
Proceeds from the sale will benefit two trusts established by Frances Chew prior to her passing to continue her mission and to benefit those in need. Here’s Sotheby’s release on the Chews and Zhang
THE CHEW FAMILY COLLECTION
In the 1930s, Joan Chew, daughter of famous revolutionary officer General Wu Luzhen, arrived in the United States to study music at the University of Southern California. There she met and married Thomas Chew, a fellow student at the business school; together they managed a number of businesses in import, export and Chinese antiquities, including the Great Wall Inc. in Los Angeles, China Commerce Co. in San Francisco and the China Art Center in Carmel. In Carmel, where Frances, Joan and Thomas put down roots, the Chew Family managed the Dolores Lodge, which became a favorite rest stop for the celebrated modern painter, Zhang Daqian, and his friends.
Frances Chew was a brilliant student and accomplished athlete, graduating from Mills College before travelling to the Sorbonne in Paris and Yale University to study and teach French literature. Following her father’s untimely passing, she returned to California to support her mother, to manage the China Art Center, and to become a mentee of Zhang Daqian. In her own words, “it was a way [Zhang Daqian] communicated – quick, deep insights on art and on life. It was not something to be analyzed or explained. For those who understand, no explanation was necessary, for those who didn’t, no explanation was possible.” In the 1980s, Frances left California to pursue a vocation with the Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Theresa to care for the sick and the poor; over the next decade, she, then known as Sister Asha, lived and worked in New York, Rome and Haiti, before returning home in 1992 to take care of her mother. Frances Chew passed away in early 2017.
ZHANG DAQIAN AND THE CHEW FAMILY
One of, if not the most, illustrious modern Chinese artist of his time, Zhang Daqian emigrated to the United States in 1967, living first in Carmel and later in Monterey. There, he befriended the Chew Family, staying at the Dolores Lodge whenever he travelled to Carmel. During these visits, Zhang Daqian and the Chews exchanged gifts including the artist’s own works such as Water and Sky Gazing after Rain in Splashed Color and Five Fortunes, which Zhang inscribed with wishes for the Chews’ 60th birthday. Zhang also inscribed paintings by other artists, including Yun Shouping’sLandscapes After Song and Yuan Masters, Tao Cheng’s Wild Rabbit Amongst Bamboo and Chrysanthemum, and Lin Liang’s Two Geese in an Autumn Lotus Pond and Two Pheasants Under a Wintry Willow Tree.