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
The work of living, practicing artists has always held a special interest for me. The first pictures I ever bought were by living artists, probably because I had the opportunity to get to know the artists and discuss their work with them. Even though my interests progressed towards the earlier artists, as I read more, attended good shows, and visited the galleries, I still buy selective works by contemporary artists. However, I try to get to know them first. The pieces exhibited by contemporary artists generally reflected the Eastern Coast of the U.S. in subject matter, since that was my home. They also concentrated on artists of the Rockport area, where my family now has a summer home, as well as artist members of the Salmagundi Club in New York. These pictures provided the Chinese with a representation of many aspects of contemporary American life; both rural as well as urban and a wide range of landscape, seascape, still life and figure study. This group of paintings generated their own kind of attention, probably because of their fresh representation of our daily existence. I think the young people of Hong Kong responded particularly strongly, especially those who were obviously art students or involved with design or draftsmanship. Two pieces are worth noting for their diversity of mood, subject matter and style of execution. Reflecting our crowded, urban existence, which is certainly characteristic of Hong Kong, was a piece by New York resident and Salmagundi member, Gerry Knipscher, entitled Avenue of the America's, 1970. The other piece was by a Rockport artist and resident, Tom Nicholas, entitled Pumpkins. This New England winter scene held a special fascination for the Chinese, and was probably the most photographed painting in the whole show.
Now that the exhibition is over and behind us, and all the paintings are returned to their rightful places on our apartment walls, there is a lot to reflect upon. Certainly, the most rewarding aspect of the whole effort was the attendance, a total of 51,000 people visited the show. I would estimate all but a hundred or less were Chinese. Both my wife and I spent both weekends that the exhibition was open actually on the premises, my wife selling catalogues and I generally wandering about just watching. Nobody knew they were our pictures; we were onlookers, like everybody else. Our biggest frustration was the language barrier, not being able to speak Cantonese, therefore unable to evesdrop on their conversations. I remember saying to my wife on the last day, when crowds were still pouring in, "When we get these paintings home, we are going to have the nose prints of 50,000 Chinese in our living room." They literally had to get right up to the pictures for the minutest examination. I should note that there was absolutely no damage done to any picture, they were treated with remarkable respect.
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