Editor's note: The following 1976 article was published on August 23, 2004 in Resource Library with permission of Thomas Daives, New Canaan, CT. If you have questions or comments regarding the article please contact Mr. Daives by writing to the author at 58 Beacon Hill Lane, New Canaan, CT, 06480.


An American Art Collection in Hong Kong

by Thomas Davies


Having been an enthusiastic collector of American art for twelve years, I really purchased my first painting before collecting art became the highly popular and publicized activity that it is today. No doubt like most incorrigible collectors, I have always had a secret desire to put on a great exhibition of the pictures I've acquired over the past years, complete with publicity, catalogue, and all the trimmings. Living in New York for the better part of that twelve-year period rendered such a desire nearly impossible. Who can compete with the proliferation of exhibitions by museums and galleries, not to mention some of the great private collections? However, in mid-1974 my job took me to Hong Kong to live.

Hong Kong is an exciting and unique city, often considered a rather mysterious place by Westerners. As a British Crown Colony on the coast of mainland China, it has the reputation of having literally anything you could ever want, if you can pay for it. Well, that is almost true, it has about everything, except it does not have, and has never been exposed to, good representational American art.

The opportunity to do what I had thought about for many years occurred as a result of a major event staged in Hong Kong called the "American Fortnight." This was an extravaganza sponsored by the American Consulate and American Chamber of Commerce, whose primary emphasis was on expanding trade between Hong Kong and the U.S. through various industrial, service and consumer goods exhibits. However, numerous aspects of American culture were much in evidence such as films, theater, concerts, art shows, sporting events and many other related activities. The Colony was literally blanketed with "things American" as most of the retail trade, hotels and restaurants tied in with various theme promotions relating to Americana. Considering that Hong Kong's 4.3 million population is over 98% Chinese, with the remainder divided up among other Asians plus British, Australians and Americans, it is obvious that most of the activity was aimed at the Chinese population.

About nine months before the American Fortnight began, I was discussing my company's participation in the event with its organizers, when I proposed the idea of an exhibition focusing on the development of America during the past 175 years as depicted by her artists. At the time, it did not seem like a major endeavor and I had only begun to formulate the approach I wanted to take. Of course, I had to work within the limitation of my collection, numbering about 175 paintings. I decided to stick pretty much to a chronological development of art and history and therefore chose a simple title for the show, Art America 1825-1975. I also believed that a catalogue was necessary, besides I felt it would be a challenge to write one myself. My basic objective was to develop an exhibition for a people who were, at best, vaguely acquainted with our history and totally unfamiliar with our artists. Subject matter, therefore, and how it inter-related with the narrative was more important than the individual artists. In essence, the challenge was to develop the exhibition and all its related material to interest a completely different culture and nationality.


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About the author:

In an August 2004 transmittal letter to Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Mr. Davies provided insights into his extensive interest in representational American art, and that of his son, Kristian Davies.

Thomas Davies lived in Hong Kong with his family in 1974-77 and "participated in several Bi-Centennial celebrations, one of which was organizing an exhibition of American art from our collection." Mr. Davies pioneered the exhibition of American art in that city which at that time had "virtually no knowledge of Western art, especially American representational art." His art was presented at an exhibition titled "Art in America: 1825-1975" held at the City Hall Exhibition Center from October 24 through November 2, 1975. The show was accompanied by an illustrated 51-page catalogue. In the Volume III, Number 3 May-June 1976 issue of American Art Review, he wrote an article about the Hong Kong exhibition.

In 1994, Mr. Davies wrote an article titled Sharing Your Paintings -- or --"It's Better Than Selling Hot Dogs", describing his experience of organizing an art exhibition held at King Low-Heywood Thomas School in Stamford, CT. KLHT is an independent, college preparatory school serving students from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. The article published in Resource Library contains the author's original unedited text. A condensed version of the article appeared in American Art Review, Volume VI, Number 4, August-September 1994, p. 140-145. Mr. Davies wrote to Resource Libary that the KLHT exhibition "covered a unique experience I had of organizing an exhibition of paintings...integrating the whole exercise into a high school program. After I did it I thought it would make a good story and ideally encourage other to do the same."

In 1996, Mr. Davies was asked by the Rockport Art Association to write an essay in connection with the first major retrospective on Aldro Hibbard, held September 28 through October 27, 1996 at the Association's galleries. Mr. Davies says, "I tried to take a distinctively different approach, with the support and approval of his [Hibbard's] daughter." The A. T. Hibbard, N.A. article published in Resource Libary contains the author's original unedited text. A condensed version of the article appeared in American Art Review, Volume VIII, Number 4, September - October 1996, p. 142-149.

Mr. Davies' son, Kristian Davies, wrote a hardcover book in 2001 titled "Artists of Cape Ann; A 150 Year Tradition," ISBN 1-885435-18-5, published by Twin Lights Publishers, Inc.[1] Artists of Cape Ann: A 150 Year Tradition, an exhibition featuring some of the paintings in the above book, but also several not included in the book, was held in 2003 at the Lyme Art Association. Kristian Davies later wrote an article for the exhibition which was published in American Art Review, Volume XV, Number 1 January-February 2003. Art & Antiques published an essay by Kristian Davies titled "Raised on Art" in its Summer 2002 issue and another titled "Family Tradition" in the June 2003 issue.

1. Copies of the book may be obtained {as of August 2004) by forwarding $29.95 plus a $4.50 mail and handling fee to Thomas Davies, 58 Beacon Hill Lane, New Canaan, Ct 06480.

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