Ancient Bronze Sculptures from the Srivijaya Kingdom

Little is known about the kingdom of Srivijaya which was centred on southern Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula around the 8th-13th centuries. Even the kingdom’s form is unclear but likely comprised a loose federation of towns, cities and city states. Essentially, it was the pre-Islamic forerunner of what became the various Malay sultanates that came  … Read more

New Podcast: Celebrated Art Historian Dr Annemarie Jordan in Conversation with Michael Backman

We have a new Podcast! Dr Annemarie Jordan is one of the world’s most important, independent scholars on  luxury goods imported to Europe during the Renaissance. The trade in such goods is fascinating and much of it was destined for Europe’s royal families who delighted in exotica from faraway lands for whom possession of such  … Read more

Architecture of Nan, Northern Thailand

Nan, a city in the very north of Thailand, was one of the nine northern Thai-Lao principalities that formed the kingdom of Lanna, by the 14thh century. The city was midway between Chiang Mai and what is today known Luang Prabang in norther Laos and so was something of a trading city. The Burmese captured  … Read more

Contemporary Palestinian Embroidery on Show in Cambridge, UK

The Kettle’s Yard exhibition space which belongs to the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, UK, has from July 8, 2023 to October 29, 2023, a small but marvellous exhibition called ‘Material Power: Palestinian Embroidery’.  More than 40 examples of embroidered dress from the 19th and early 20th century are shown, but also more recent examples  … Read more

New Podcast: Fiona Kerlogue on Batik, being a Museum Curator & her new Book

We have a new Podcast! Fiona Kerlogue, one of the world’s leading authorities on Indonesian Batik, former senior curator at London’s Horniman Museum and author discusses with Michael Backman her career, being a museum curator, and her latest book on a little-known Batik collection in Prague,  in the Czech Republic. Listen to Fiona Kerlogue in  … Read more

New Palestinian Embroidered Costumes Exhibition

The Kettle’s Yard exhibition space which belongs to the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, UK, has from July 8, 2023 to October 29, 2023, a small but marvellous exhibition called ‘Material Power: Palestinian Embroidery’.  More than 40 examples of embroidered dress from the 19th and early 20th century are shown, as well as more recent  … Read more

New Podcast: An Interview with Thweep Rittinaphakorn, author of ‘Unseen Burma’

We have a new Podcast! Thweep Rittinaphakorn’s new book Unseen Burma presents a rare and stunning photographic record of Burma during the period 1862-1962. In this podcast with Michael Backman, he discusses his motivations for writing the book and his research methods, and discusses Burma’s recent history, as well as touching on its current problems.  … Read more

On the Repatriation of Museum Artifacts – The Spectator

An interesting and different point of view on the repatriation of art from museums, specifically Benin bronzes has been published in The Spectator. Authored by Robert Tombs, emeritus professor in history, University of Cambridge, it is well worth a read. Access the article here!   Receive our monthly catalogues of new items by email. See  … Read more

Extraordinary Pre-Columbian Gold & Terracotta in Antwerp

The world-class Paul and Dora Janssen-Arts Collection of pre-Columbian gold jewellery, terracotta and other items is on display in the Museum aan de Stroom (MAS) in Antwerp, Belgium.  The collection demonstrates the importance of private collectors in assembling important collections for future scholarship and appreciation. Only in 2006 was it confirmed that the collection would  … Read more

New Podcast: Are Antiques Sacred?

We have a new Podcast! Why are we attracted to items that have antiquity? Do such items have a sacredness, or are we attempting to tap into some version of immortality? Is this why we pay more for items with good patina? Michael Backman explores these possibilities in this new Podcast. He also looks at  … Read more

Spain & the Hispanic World – London Exhibition

A splendid exhibition ‘Spain and the Hispanic World: Treasures from the Hispanic Society Museum & Library’ has just opened at the Royal Academy in central London. The exhibition runs until April 10, 2023. Dozens of paintings, textile items, items of furniture, manuscripts, pottery and jewellery are on display beautifully spread across the large and grand  … Read more

Collecting Ethically: In Conversation with Michael Backman in Singapore – January 12, 2023

Event Details: In Conversation with Michael Backman ‘Collecting Ethically’ 12th January 2023 6pm – 7.30pm Crane @ Joo Chiat 285 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427535 To attend:

New Book on Burmese Silverware Just Published!

Burmese Silver from the Colonial Period by Dr Alexandra Green, a Burmese art specialist who has worked at some of the world’s most important museums, presents an exceptional collection of Burmese silver from the 19th and early 20th centuries – around 60-70% of which was acquired from us! (See available examples here.) The book is available  … Read more

New Podcast: Eastern Jewellery Treasures with Oytun Evliyazade Camcigil

We have a new podcast: Istanbul-based Oytun Evliyazade Camcigil, the author of the magnificent volume Eastern Treasures: Ottoman, Oman, Yemen, Turkmen Jewellery discusses with Michael Backman the process of writing Eastern Treasures, collecting Middle Eastern jewellery, and Istanbul’s collecting scene. Oytun has a Masters Degree from Istanbul Technical University, and lived in the Middle East  … Read more

A Rare Pair of Japanese Satsuma Vases for the Islamic Export Market

We don’t often have Japanese items but do occasionally if the items are particularly rare or unusual. One of the most unusual items from Japan that we have had was a pair of late 19th century Awata-Style Satsuma vases made for the Islamic export market. This remarkable pair of Meiji Period Satsuma vases was decorated  … Read more

New Podcast: The Author Robyn Flemming on Alcohol, Art & other Addictions

We have a new Podcast – Robyn Flemming discusses with Michael Backman her new book Skinful: A Memoir of Addiction which details her battles with addictive behaviour including her problematic relationship with alcohol. Originally from Australia, Robyn also discusses her life as a modern-day international nomad, having no specific base in any particular country. Robyn  … Read more

Visiting the Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris

In the last week we have been able to visit again the Institut du Monde Arabe (Institute of the Arab World). Located on the Seine in Paris, it is an organisation founded in Paris in 1980 by France with 18 Arab countries to research and promote a better understanding of the Arab world and its  … Read more

SOAS Handling Sessions in the Gallery this Week

We were delighted this last week to welcome two groups of students taking the Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art at the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), University of London, for a handling session. The students, from the UK, Singapore, Cambodia, Myanmar, Ukraine and Spain, were able to handle objects – which they otherwise  … Read more

New Podcast: Straits Chinese Jewellery – Edmond Chin in Conversation with Michael Backman

We have a new podcast – Michael Backman in conversation with Edmond Chin. Edmond Chin is one of the world’s foremost experts on the Straits Chinese (Peranakan or Baba-Nonyas) and their jewellery. He is the author of the renown Gilding the Phoenix: The Straits Chinese and their Jewellery. He is also one of the most  … Read more

Khir Johari’s splendid new book on the food history of the Singapore Malays

Author, collector and food historian Khir Johari visited the gallery this week and presented us with a copy of his fabulous new book, The Food of Singapore Malays: Gastronomic Travels Through the Archipelago. It is a monumental work – more than 600 well-researched and illustrated pages. It is partly a historical narrative, part travelogue, and   … Read more

How Art Dealers Decorate their Homes

I’m reading a splendid book right now, just published: For Art’s Sake: Inside the Homes of Art Dealers by Tiqui Atencio Demirdjian. Having just bought a new apartment in London with plenty of unaccustomed space, much thought has gone into how to furnish and decorate it. So this book is timely – it is interesting  … Read more

A Superb Piece by Oomersi Mawji

Oomersi Mawji has become the best known of India’s colonial silversmiths. He established a workshop in Kutch in the second half of the 19th century. His work is sublime and the equal of the best silversmiths of Europe. The work of his sons and his workshop more generally also is of the highest quality. Most  … Read more

Colonial Spain & Portugal – Conduits for Motif Exchange from Asia to the Americas

Among Europeans, the Spanish and the Portuguese have perhaps the longest histories of interacting directly with the peoples of East Asia. The Philippines, East Timor, Malacca in Malaysia, Goa in India, coastal Sri Lanka and Macau were among the regions under Spanish or Portuguese control from the 16th century onwards. And with Asia. The integration  … Read more

Our Palestinian Christian Pilgrimage Shells now on Permanent Display in Paris’ Musée du quai Branly

We are delighted to announce that this fine set of eight pilgrimage mother-of-pearl shells, which was acquired from us by the Musée du quai Branly in Paris, one of the world’s leading museums for non-western art and material culture, has just gone on permanent display in the Museum. The set is particularly well carved and  … Read more

The Extraordinary Tale of 17th-18th century Dutch Colonial Decanter Sets

Shown here and below is a rare Dutch Colonial decanter case with silver mounts & six gilded glass decanters, dating to the 17th-18th century. The box with its silver mounts is from Batavia in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia today) and the decanters are from Gujarat, West India. Hitherto, the set had been thought of  … Read more

New Podcast: Comparing & Contrasting – A Tuareg object from Africa & a Minangkabau item from Sumatra

We have a new Podcast – Michael Backman & Sarah Corbett compare and contrast two objects: a Tuareg pectoral ornament from northern Africa; and a Minangkabau cast brass cash box from Sumatra. These are pictured below. What are the links between these seemingly unrelated objects? Listen to find out the surprising answer.   Listen to  … Read more

New Podcast: Comparing & Contrasting – An Object from Tibet & one from the Philippines

We have a new Podcast – Michael Backman & Sarah Corbett compare and contrast two objects: an ancient limestone burial jar from the southern Philippines, and a set of Tibetan prayer beads. (Pictured below.) What are the links between these seemingly unrelated objects? Listen to find out the surprising answer.   Listen to the Podcast  … Read more

A Surprising Collection of 19th century Batak Manuscripts in Florence, Italy

Last week whilst travelling in northern Italy, I had the opportunity to view some of the Batak manuscripts in the Elio Modigliani Collection of Indonesian Art held at the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology in Florence. The Florentine Elio Modigliani travelled to the Indonesian islands between 1886 and 1894 and collected many ethnographic items. The  … Read more

Discoveries 6: Our Best Balinese Find – Rawana Kidnapping Shinta

This is the sixth in a series of blog posts devoted to our favourite-ever items that we have discovered. Discovering items that hitherto have been forgotten, to give them the right attribution, is an important task of a good gallery. Research is so important. Many of our discoveries find their way to museums to be  … Read more

Discoveries 5: Our Best Chinese Export Silver Find – A Massive Wang Hing Punch Bowl

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts devoted to our favourite-ever items that we have discovered. Discovering items that hitherto have been forgotten, to give them the right attribution, is an important task of a good gallery. Research is so important. Many of our discoveries find their way to museums to be  … Read more

Discoveries 4: Our Best Sri Lankan Find – Rare Gold & Silver Lime Box (Killotaya) set with Rubies & Garnets

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts devoted to our favourite-ever items that we have discovered. Discovering items that hitherto have been forgotten, to give them the right attribution, is an important task of a good gallery. Research is so important. Many of our discoveries find their way to museums to be  … Read more

Discoveries 3: Our Best Burmese Find – The Disciples Sariputta & Moggallana

This is the third in a series of blog posts devoted to our favourite-ever items that we have discovered. Discovering items that hitherto have been forgotten, to give them the right attribution, is an important task of a good gallery. Research is so important. Many of our discoveries find their way to museums to be  … Read more

Discoveries 2: Our Best Jewellery Find – A Rare 17th-18th century Moroccan Enamelled Gold Necklace

This is the second in a series of blog posts devoted to our favourite-ever items that we have discovered. Discovering items that hitherto have been forgotten, to give them the right attribution, is an important task of a good gallery. Research is so important. Many of our discoveries find their way to museums to be  … Read more

Discoveries 1: Our Best Dutch Colonial Find – A Rare Gold & Mother-of-Pearl Betel Box

This is the first in a series of blog posts devoted to our favourite-ever items that we have discovered. Discovering items that hitherto have been forgotten, to give them the right attribution, is an important task of a good gallery. Research is so important. Many of our discoveries find their way to museums to be  … Read more

Are Collectors Addicts by Another Name? Michael Backman & Paul Bromberg in Conversation in a New Podcast

We have a new podcast and it is about collecting. Are collectors addicts by another name? What makes (some) people collect? Is it gross materialism, an ego-driven attempt to evade mortality, or an attempt to save the world’s patrimony? In this entertaining episode, Michael Backman and Paul Bromberg, both collectors and both authors of books  … Read more

New Podcast: The Art of Traditional African Currencies

We have a new podcast – on forms of traditional African currency. These types of currency, generally made of cast iron or copper alloy, were used to buy land, brides, slaves, livestock and goods. In this podcast, Michael Backman & Sarah Corbett discuss the forms, uses, and aesthetic value of these various currencies.   Listen  … Read more

New Podcast: How to stay curious?

We have a whimsical but important new podcast – on how to stay curious as one grows older. Perhaps collectors with their innate sense of curiosity and ever-present need to find the next piece are at a huge advantage here – particularly because rarely are collections ever complete. Michael Backman and Sarah Corbett discuss in  … Read more

Dramatic Cross-Cultural Portuguese Family Saga Just Published

Many of the items we deal with have a cross-cultural aspect, and many relate to the Portuguese colonial world. To this end we would like to highlight a new book, The Portuguese Lady’s Earrings, an extraordinary cross-cultural, multi-generational tale based on true events. It tells of the dramatic lives of members of the entrepreneurial de  … Read more

New Podcast: The Mysteries of Gold & Silver Filigree

We have a new podcast! And the subject is filigree. Objects made of filigree are among the most extraordinary items ever to have been produced from gold and silver. Such items present one of the great mysteries of the art world. Where were they made? Who made them? How? Filigree, it turns out, is an  … Read more

Thomas Becket Exhibition Opens at the British Museum

  ‘Thomas Becket: Murder and the Making of a Saint‘, an excellent new exhibition (until August 22) has opened at the British Museum. Becket was appointed by King Henry II chancellor and then Archbishop of Canterbury (despite Becket not even having previously served as a priest) so that the King could control both the state  … Read more

Personal Adornment & the Subjugation of Women

Jewellery and other items of personal adornment often have been used to demonstrate the social status of women and the wealth of her family, across time and across cultures. Some items of adornment though cross the line from being merely decorative to actually demonstrating that a women does not need to work or at least  … Read more

Slavery, White Slaves & a New Museum Exhibition on Slavery

In 1627, Arab raiders in three ships from the Ottoman-controlled Barbary coast of Northern Africa made their way to Heimaey Island (an aerial view is below) in the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago off the coast of Iceland and captured most of the Icelandic residents of the island. Dozens were killed but almost 400 islanders – men, women  … Read more

Relaunch! Get Ready for Our Upcoming April Monthly Catalogue

Our next monthly catalogue will be available from Tuesday April 6 and will be our first catalogue since last November to feature entirely new stock. Over the last few months, Michael has been busy completing a large manuscript for a book to be published later this year – his eighth published book (more on this  … Read more

Visiting the Wanglee Family Compound, Bangkok

A year ago, I was very fortunate to be given a tour of the well-preserved Wanglee Family compound on the banks of the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok’s Khlong San District, by a member of the family, the very elegant Mrs Nongnute Wanglee.  The compound tells a fascinating story of early Bangkok commerce – being  … Read more

Excellent Podcast on Indian Spices: Then & Now

Listen here to a fine, well-produced podcast of a discussion between Vidhya Iyer, the host of Mindful Businesses and Sana Javeri Kadri, founder of Diaspora Co. They discuss the history of the Indian spice trade and Sana’s efforts to bring the spices of small growers in India to markets in the West. Most importantly, Sana  … Read more

Silver Thai Reliquary Urns

Examples of a group of antique vessels from Thailand and sometimes Cambodia, usually made of silver or silver-gilt, occasionally appear on the market in Europe, the US and elsewhere and are often are described as ‘vases’ or even ‘confectionary jars’. In fact, they are vessels to hold cremated ashes usually of one’s relatives but also  … Read more

Billy Steinberg’s ‘Wild Beads of Africa’ book – Now available on Amazon worldwide!

            Wild Beads of Africa is now much easier to get hold of – it is at last available on Amazon. The book chronicles the bead collection of Los Angeles-based Billy Steinberg. It is one of the most important collections of West African powderglass beads in either private or public  … Read more

A Stunning Book on African Beads – Beads like You’ve Never Seen them!

          A recently published book on African beads is to be highly recommended for those interested in African tribal art, African beads and beads more generally. Wild Beads of Africa chronicles the bead collection of Los Angeles-based Billy Steinberg. It is one of the most important collections of West African powderglass  … Read more

New Book Published on Burmese Silver

      At last a book on antique Burmese silver has been published, and it is excellent. Burmese Silver Art: Masterpieces Illuminating Buddhist, Hindu & Mythological Stories of Purpose & Wisdom by David Owens (pictured above) tells the story of the elaborate silver bowls and other forms that were made in Burma in the  … Read more

New Podcast: Discussing Marjorie Ransom’s Book on Yemeni Silver Jewellery

We have a new Podcast – Sarah Corbett discusses with Michael Backman her favourite book, Marjorie Ransom’s Silver Treasures from the Land of Sheba: Regional Styles of Yemeni Jewelry. It is a superb book – and is utterly indispensable when it comes to analysing and identifying the jewellery of the Middle East.  List to the  … Read more

A Case of Mistaken Identity: Elephant Teeth

  It is extraordinary the number of times auction houses, museums and others mistake elephant tooth for mammoth ivory, fossilised ivory, and any number of other permutations. The silver snuff box shown here is from Trichinopoly, in South India, and dates to around 1880. It is inset with flat panels taken from the molar tooth  … Read more

Our Sales, so far this Year, to Museums around the World

Brass Grain Measure (Gantang), Malay people, Brunei, 1899/1900   Museum sales are an important part of what we do. We sell to museums around the world. This year has been more of a challenge because many museums have been closed on account of the pandemic and acquisition committees have been unable to meet, but we  … Read more

New Podcast – Michael Backman discusses his favourite ever book on Asia art – ‘Court Arts of Indonesia’

We have a new Podcast! In this episode, Michael Backman is in conversation with Sarah Corbett, about the book ‘Court Arts of Indonesia’ by Helen Ibbitson Jessup. Published in 1990, it was one of the first books on Asia art Michael bought and it has remained his favourite since, despite now having a library of  … Read more

New Podcast – Michael Backman Talks about Writing his Latest Book on Malay Silver & Gold

Michael Backman is the author of 8 books, and numerous articles and columns. Another book is on the way! When not involved with his London Gallery, he has been spending this year researching and writing a new book on the silver & gold of the Malay world. In this podcast he talks with Sarah Corbett  … Read more

Headhunters! A New Exhibition in Germany

The innovative, non-profit, privately-funded research centre the International Foundation of Indonesian Culture and Asian Heritage (IFICAH) and its Museum of Asian Culture  in Hollenstedt, Germany, opened recently a splendid new exhibition: ‘You can Leave your Head on – Asian Soul on Tour‘. The exhibition focuses on the material culture of six ethnic groups in Asia  … Read more

New Podcast: All you need to know about our Monthly Catalogues

Our innovative monthly catalogues have become something of an institution among our followers and clients. The catalogues showcase our new items of material culture drawn from around the world, but all sourced from UK & European collections. The work that goes into each catalogue is enormous. Between 30 and 50 new items are features every  … Read more

Michael Backman speaking about the Malay World – A Podcast Produced by Asia House

Listen here to Michael Backman in conversation about the Malay world – its impact on world commerce and art – with Juan de Lara of Asia House. This is an Asia House production. “In one of our most exciting podcasts to date, gallerist, economist and author Michael Backman reveals the importance of the Malay world  … Read more

Excellent New Documentary on Southeast Asia’s Empires Presented by Peter Lee

  Singapore curator, author, scholar and good friend of the Gallery, Peter Lee,  has produced in conjunction with Singapore’s Channel News Asia, a four-part documentary series – The Mark of Empire. The series explores the the history of four epic Southeast Asian empires. Peter travels across Thailand,  Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia and Indonesia to explore ancient  … Read more

LACMA’s Extraordinary Damascus Room

  The Damascus Room at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) features an installed and preserved reception hall from a house in Damascus, Syria. The interior dates to 1766-67/ AH 1180. The interior was part of a house that was pulled down to make way for a highway. It was bought by a  … Read more

Status Shoes in Ornament Magazine

  Robert Liu has written about the role of women’s shoes in elevating the status of women in some cultures for the blog for the online version of the splendid Ornament magazine. He focuses on a pair that we have and draws comparisons with others. Robert Liu is Co-Editor of Ornament (together with his wife Carolyn  … Read more

Women’s Kolam Patterns of Tamil Nadu, South India

Each morning in Tamil Naddu, at the entrance to the family home, the woman of the house will draw in the dirt or on the cement before the main step, a beautiful, geometric line-drawing composed using rice flour or chalk. Usually the pattern, called a kolam, is in white only but sometimes coloured chalks are  … Read more

Europeans in early 19th century Thai Temple Wall Murals

Europeans have long portrayed Chinese and other Asian people in their art, often in inaccurate and stereotypical fashion. But at the same time Europeans were being depicted in Asian art. The high, interior walls of Wat Matchimawat, an important temple established around four hundred years ago in Songkhla, southern Thailand, are covered in the most  … Read more

Podcast: Michael Backman in conversation with Narisa Chakrabongse (Part 2)

The first of two Podcasts with Narisa Chakrabongse has been our most downloaded Podcast ever.  So, we have an important new Podcast – the second part of Michael Backman in conversation with Narisa Chakrabongse. Narisa Chakrabongse grew up in England, but is a member of Thailand’s extended royal family and a great-granddaughter of King Chulalongkorn.  … Read more

Indonesian Shadow Puppet Dishes – Unusual Exportware from Japan

  We are used to thinking of porcelain produced in China and Japan for export as intended mostly for the European market, but of course it was also produced for markets in Asia too. This pair of dishes, which date to the 19th century, are part of a rare genre of ‘blue & white’ porcelain  … Read more

Podcast: Thai Royal & Publisher Narisa Chakrabongse, in Conversation with Michael Backman (part 1)

We have an important new Podcast – Michael Backman in conversation with Narisa Chakrabongse. Narisa Chakrabongse is a member of Thailand’s extended royal family, and a great-granddaughter of King Chulalongkorn. She grew up in England, the daughter of a Thai prince and an English mother. At 15, while still living in England, she found herself  … Read more

Rare ‘New World’ Treasures on Display at Buckingham Palace

  The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Place in London currently has a beautiful exhibition of art treasures collected by George IV. George IV: Art & Spectacle encompasses dozens of extraordinary paintings, exquisite furniture and vases from England, France & Russia but it also has a small collection of unexpected ‘New World’ items such as kris  … Read more

New Podcast: With Anupasana Suwanmongkol – Saving Thailand’s Silver Nielloware Industry

Above from left: in Pattani – former Professor of Philosophy at Hong Kong University, Michael Martin; author Paul Bromberg; Anupasana Suwanmongkol; & Michael Backman.   We have a new Podcast: Michael Backman discusses with Anupasana Suwanmongkol, his efforts at saving Thailand’s nielloware industry. Nielloware is a traditional type of richly-decorated silverware produced in southern Thailand.  … Read more

New Podcast: In conversation with prolific author on Asian art, Dawn Rooney

Our latest Podcast is with the trailblazing and highly accomplished researcher and author Dawn Rooney. Dawn is the author of many articles and at least ten books on the arts and material cultures of Southeast Asia including Betel Chewing Traditions in South-East Asia (Oxford University Press, 1993), Ancient Sukhothai: Thailand’s Cultural Heritage (River Books, 2008), Angkor, Cambodia’s  … Read more

New Exhibition: Fabulous India Paintings for the East India Company at London’s Wallace Collection

  London’s Wallace Collection currently has the most marvellous exhibition of 18th & early 19th century paintings by Indian artists for the East India Company: Forgotten Masters: Indian Painting for the East India Company. The exhibition is guest curated by the author-historian William Dalrymple. It brings together for the first time many large East India  … Read more

Visiting the Southern Thai Culture Museum in Pattani, Southern Thailand

We visited recently the little known Southern Thai Culture Museum at Songkhla Nakharin University (Pattani Campus) in Pattani in Thailand’s southern Pattani province. The museum is unexpectedly large, well funded and very well organised. It is in the grounds of the University and showcases the material culture of the various local communities, including the dominant  … Read more

‘Yeh Ballet’ – Julian Sands & Netflix India

    Julian Sands, Hollywood actor, a good friend of the gallery, and a collector of colonial Indian silver, plays a lead role in Netflix India’s just released movie Yeh Ballet, a fine account of a gritty, difficult Israeli-American ballet teacher (played by Julian) who comes to India and teaches ballet to two Indian boys  … Read more

New Ashanti Gold Weight Exhibition at London’s V&A Museum

  A small exhibition (until October 31, 2020) of Ashanti gold weights and gold regalia is now on at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Personal weights were used in Ghana and elsewhere in West Africa. Principally, small weights were used to weigh gold dust which became the currency used to settle everyday transactions. Each party  … Read more

Betel Nut Sets

Betel (also known as paan in India or sirih in Malaysia and Indonesia) is the palm nut, lime powder & vine leaf quid that traditionally was chewed in South & Southeast Asia. It is a mild social stimulant similar to alcohol or tobacco. Single betel boxes held the betel quids in India, but it was  … Read more

Fakes & Forgeries – Listen to our New Podcast on the Topic

Listen to our Podcast on how we cope with the problem of fakes & forgeries in the art world. Serious collectors, curators and gallerists face a growing challenge: how to identify fakes, forgeries and reproductions in the art world. The supply of genuinely old items is fixed by definition, but the quantity of fakes and reproductions  … Read more

Patric Hollington – Parisian Designer

Patric Hollington, the designer of most of my clothes and especially my jackets which I wear to our gallery functions, passed away this week at his home in Paris. Patric was of Irish descent but made his home in Paris for the last fifty years. He produced wonderful fusion-style clothes for men, and travelled across  … Read more

Our New Podcast: Chinese Export Silver

  Listen here to our new Podcast about Chinese Export Silver. Chinese export silver was produced in the southern coastal provinces of China in the 19th and early 20th centuries mostly for sale to expatriate Westerners based in Asia, and for export to Western Europe and the United States. The silver typically has European forms  … Read more

Our New Podcast: Julian Sands, Hollywood Actor & Collector in Conversation with Michael Backman

Listen here to our new Podcast with Julian Sands in conversation with Michael Backman. Julian is a renown British-born actor based in Hollywood. He has starred in dozens of movies including A Room with a View, The Killing Fields, Leaving Las Vegas, Arachnophobia, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo & Oceans Thirteen, and many television  … Read more

Southeast Asia’s Red-Stained Gold

  Old items of gold from Southeast Asia, especially Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, and the Malay world, often have a pronounced red colour – and yet they might be of high-carat gold. The red colour is not due to a high copper content but because the surface of the gold has been stained chemically.  … Read more

An Oddity from China & Nepal: The ‘Cadogan’ Teapot

There exists a curious type of teapot or wine ewer that first originated in China and which has no lid and fills not from the top, but from the base. This means that these vessels when standing upright appear to have no entry point, and thus no way to be filled. And yet there is  … Read more

Bangkok’s National Museum’s New Textile Gallery

Bangkok’s National Museum recently opened its new textile gallery as part of the Museum’s overall ongoing refurbishment. A small but exceptional range of textiles, many associated with the Courts are on display in a marvellous room. The lighting is subtle and the textiles are well displayed and protected. The room, at last, is befitting a  … Read more

Announcing: World Art Now

We have established a new business called WorldArtNow. It is for publishers, authors and buyers of books about niche, non-Western art. Here is what it is all about: Those of us interested in collecting and curating tend to be avid book buyers but how often does one only find out about a good book that  … Read more

New Exhibition & Book on the last 20 years of Acquisitions by the world’s greatest non-Western & Tribal Museum, the Quai Branly Museum

Last month a new exhibition opened in Paris as the Quai Branly Museum on its last 20 years of collecting. As is typical of the Museum, most of the pieces included are among the best of their type – although in the last 20 years, the museum has acquired more than 15,000 new objects! Ritual  … Read more

Brilliant new Buddhism Exhibition at the British Library

A superb exhibition on Buddhism has opened at the British Library – on until February 23, 2020. Curated by Jana Igunma and San San May and accompanied by 224-page long catalogue full of excellent colour photographs, the exhibition draws particularly on the Library’s rich collection of Burmese, Chinese, Thai and Sri Lankan manuscripts. Many of  … Read more

Thorns in Oman & Men’s ‘Bullet’ Tweezers

Oman’s interior is very dry and many of the plants and shrubs are covered with long thorns. As a consequence, many Bedouin Omani men carried tweezer sets – not to pluck their beards or eyebrows but to pluck out thorns from their feet and other parts of their bodies. The fascinating implement shown below is  … Read more

Our Top 15 Discoveries!

A good gallery owner is essentially a curator – research is a big part of the job. Discovering items otherwise lost, giving them the right attribution and bringing them back into circulation for future generations is the single most satisfying part of the job – at least it is for me. So I have been  … Read more

Visiting the Orientalist Museum, Marrakech

Marrakech in Morocco is home to an increasing number of splendid private, small museums. One, the Orientalist Museum, opened in February 2018. It is within the old walled city and has a fine collection of Orientalist paintings and related art, including ethnographic pieces from the Yves Saint Laurent-Pierre Berge Moroccan collection. Artists represented include Marjorelle,  … Read more

Raffles at the British Museum

An exhibition on Raffles as a collector that was part of a broader exhibition earlier in the year in Singapore is now on at the British Museum. Two items acquired from us are part of the exhibition – in fact they play a lead role: both are in the first cabinet as you enter the  … Read more

Kohl & Kohl Containers – A Fascinating New Book & Lecture by Jolanda Bos

Kohl – the dark cosmetic that ladies (and men) paint around their eyes in north Africa, the Middle East & West Asia – and the containers that hold kohl is not something that has been written about in any substantive way – until now! Jolanda Bos, a Netherlands-based writer, ethnologist & archaeologist, and author of  … Read more

Exhibition in Paris on Felix Feneon, Early Tribal Art Collector

The Musee du Quai Branly, the world’s best museum decorated to non-western-tribal arts, currently has a fascinating exhibition devoted to the Parisian art collector Felix Feneon (1861-1944). Feneon amassed a large collection of Impressionist paintings but then turned his attention to traditional African art from around 1923.  It was at a time when ‘tribal’ art  … Read more

The Snake Charmers of Marrakech

Marrakech in Morocco has long been at the confluence of trade between the Mediterranean and the Sahara. The city is vibrant and dynamic. It reeks of trade. Its famous, massive square, the Jemaa El-Fna, is the heart of the medina and may have been in its current, approximate form for as long as a thousand  … Read more

Teapots that aren’t! Water Vessels from Southeast Asia.

There is the temptation to describe any vessel with a spout and a handle as a teapot or a kettle. But in Southeast Asia rarely are ‘teapots’ or ‘kettles’ any such thing, despite auction houses, collectors and even some museums persisting with such categorisation. In Thailand, most items made from silver which appear to be  … Read more

Dayak Ear Weights & Ornaments of Borneo

Among the Kenyah and other Dayak peoples of Borneo, ear ornaments of cast solid brass were signs of prestige and power. (Borneo is an island in Southeast Asia shared between the countries of Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. The Dayak tended to live across all three borders. The Malaysian states in Borneo are Sarawak and Sabah,  … Read more

Himalayan Art in Russia’s State Hermitage Museum

The Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, has a huge collection of Renaissance paintings and ancient Greek terracotta but what is less well known is that it has a small but good collection of Himalayan art – especially drawn from Mongolia. These items are rarely published and seen outside Russia. The over-representation of Mongolian pieces  … Read more

Executing the Malay way – the Kris Panjang

Most people are familiar with the Malay and Indonesian kris sword with its double-edged, way blade. But occasionally kris-like swords are encountered with thin, unusually long blades that are doubled edged but which have no waves. This type typically is known as a kris panjang. They tend to come from either the Malay Peninsula or  … Read more

The Spectacular Mansions of the Chettiars in Chettinad, South India

The Nattukottai Chettiars or Chettis is mercantile and banking group in South India, most particularly in the Sivaganga district and Pudukottai Districts of Chola Nadu in Tamil Nadu – an area that has become known as the Chettinad. The group came to dominate local trade financing around Southeast Asia in the 19th and early 20th  … Read more

Visiting the Faberge Museum, St Petersburg

Private collectors and private philanthropy usually are what have made great museums great. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the British Museum would not be as celebrated as they if not for the efforts of several important collectors who amassed collections which then came into the possession of these museums. Museum curators and civil servants  … Read more

Tekat Embroidered Textiles from Malaysia

Tekat is the Malay name given to the technique of decorating textile panels (usually velvet) with thickly applied gold thread decoration. When the thread is applied by couching, the technique is  known as tekat timbul or tekat suji. Often the decoration is in the form of arabeques or flowers (bunga). Sections of the decoration can be  … Read more

Surprising Thai Niello Silverware in Russia’s State Hermitage Museum

St Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum and the Winter Palace have enormous holdings of art – much of it little known outside Russia. A recent trip to St Petersburg yielded this extraordinary centrepiece and two candelabra from Siam (Thailand). The set dates to the late 19th century and is executed in gilded silver niello. The set  … Read more

Why are many Miniature Indian Bronzes so Worn?

Why are so many small Indian bronze images of Hindu deities so worn, often to the point that their facial and other features no longer are recognisable? Most small bronzes are not from temples but from households – from the family altar. And for many practising Hindus, the bronzes are not static, lifeless representations of  … Read more

School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS) & the Alphawood Foundation

We had two handling sessions in the gallery this week and a lecture on Southeast silver at the School of Oriental & African Studies in conjunction with SOAS’ Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art. Included were students from Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Poland and the UK. (SOAS is a part of University College London – UCL.)  … Read more

Metalwork of ‘Tribal’ Africa

We have a new category in our catalogue – Metalwork of Tribal Africa. We have decided to make this a separate category so we can better highlight this discrete and interesting collecting area. Africa is rich in natural copper and other metals. This is the case especially in West Africa. Consequently, there is a long,  … Read more

Singapore’s Asian Civilisations Museum’s Superb Makeover

Singapore’s Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) is fast becoming one of the world’s leading Asia specialist museums. A recent visit revealed the extensions and rehangs in the South Asia, Southeast Asia, Asia Trade and Asian Cross-Cultural Christian sections of the gallery. It really is a superb museum now. The flow through the galleries now is more  … Read more

Ramadan, Southeast Asia & Food

It’s Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month. The sentiments behind the month are noble – not eating or drinking and abstaining from other activities such as smoking during daylight hours is intended to promote empathy with the poor among the faithful. It is also a time of socialising.  In Malaysia and Indonesia (Indonesia has the world’s  … Read more

Selling to Museums – Singapore’s Asian Civilisations Museum

We are fortunate to often sell to museums around the world. Protecting the world’s material culture as the world slides down a funnel of Internet-driven cultural sameness, by researching it, giving it the correct attributions, and acquiring it for important public and private collections, is a task we take seriously. The role of curating and  … Read more

The Escalating Problem of Faking

The world’s supply of antiques is fixed. The number of items made in the 18th century for example is a finite quantity (or declining when one considers that each year some will be lost to fire and so on). But each year, more and more fakes are made. This means that each year, the proportion  … Read more

It’s Easter! It’s Passover! Jesus in Islam, Judaism & Hinduism

It’s Easter, the holiest festival for the world’s largest religion. But Jesus is a figure not just for Christians. Of course for the Jews, Jesus is a renegade figure, the leader of a breakaway sect. And as for Jesus himself, he always thought of himself as a Jew. The Last Supper was a simple and  … Read more

Morocco Jewellery & Islamic World Evening

We hosted the British-Moroccan Society in the gallery last evening. Members, who do a fantastic job at promoting ties between the UK and Morocco, were treated to a superb presentation by Sarah Corbett on regional variations in the traditional jewellery worn by Moroccan women, and a presentation by Michael Backman on Haj-driven, cross-cultural exchange across  … Read more

Russian & Ottoman Art at Buckingham Palace

‘Russia: Art, Royalty and the Romanovs’, an exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace due to end at the end of April, draws on fabulous items in the Queen’s collection of items associated with Russia’s Imperial Romanov Dynasty. Included are several spectacular weapons from the Ottoman-influenced Caucasus. There is a coral-inlaid qama dagger and  … Read more

Christian influence on Mughal Art – A Presentation at Asia House

Dr Mehreen Chida-Razvi, a SOAS research associate and specialist on the art and architecture of Mughal South Asia, gave a very interesting presentation at Asia House in London earlier this week. She spoke on the influence of Christian art on depictions of power in Mughal miniature painting art in the Court of the Mughal emperor  … Read more

Thai Silver & Nielloware in London

We were very fortunate last night to host in the gallery a superb presentation by Paul Bromberg, author of Thai Silver and Nielloware, newly published by River Books. He spoke about antique Thai silver, who made it, for whom, and the techniques that were used. Attendees included Narisa Chakrabongse, publisher and founder of River Books,  … Read more

India’s Tipu Sultan, his Library & the Destruction of his Palace

This evening, we attended a fascinating lecture at the Royal Asiatic Society by Dr Ursula Sims-Williams from the British Library about Tipu Sultan’s library. Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore in south India, was killed at the siege of his palace at Seringapatam by British forces in 1799. The ruler’s treasury was looted as was  … Read more

Zanzibar’s Controversial Princess Salme & her Museum

Princess Salme, a daughter of Sultan Sayyid Said, the Zanzibar-based ruler of Oman and Zanzibar in the mid-19th century, caused a sensation by running off with a German man who was based in Zanzibar and marrying him later and living in Germany. The princess, a Muslim girl who had until that point almost never met a  … Read more

Central Javanese Manuscripts at the British Library

Last night we attended a splendid presentation by Annabel Gallop, the British Library’s Lead Curator for Southeast Asia, on the Library’s magnificent collection of illuminated central Javanese manuscripts, many of which date to at least the 18th century. The presentation marks the end of the Library’s digitalisation (and restoration) of the manuscripts so that their  … Read more

International Women’s Day & the Minangkabau People

It’s International Women’s Day today (March 8) so it seems timely to consider the 8 million-strong Minangkabau people of Southeast Asia as an interesting anecdote. Why? Because they are a rare example of a matrilineal society. They are a Muslim group concentrated in West Sumatra, Indonesia – but also there are large numbers around Malaysia’s  … Read more

Ethiopia’s Disputed Maqdala Treasures at the V&A

London’s Victoria & Albert Museum currently has on display in its Silver Galleries, some of the treasures taken by the British from Ethiopian emperor Tewodros’ fortress in Maqdala, in 1868. The Emperor had taken several British envoys as hostage and so the British retaliated by attacking the fortress and the city, looting its treasury and  … Read more

Exhibition of Bencharong Porcelain & Related Arts, Bangkok

Last month, I was very fortunate to be given a tour of the excellent ‘Bencharong Journey: From China to Siam’, an exhibition of the colourful Bencharong porcelain produced in China for the Thai market, by the exhibition’s curator, the author and researcher Dawn Rooney. The exhibition, which also included excellent examples of Thai silver and  … Read more

Visiting the UNESCO-Protected Necropolis at Al Ayn, Oman

Earlier this year we visited the astounding series of rock tombs at Al Ayn in central northern Oman, north of Nizwa towards the border with the UAE on the Arabian Peninsula. The site is quite isolated and little visited. The tombs only became known to the outside world in the early 1970s and are believed  … Read more

Visiting Bangkok’s Private Prasart Museum

Bangkok’s privately-owned Prasart Museum can be difficult to find but it is well worth the effort – it is splendid. We visited earlier this month. The Museum was founded by Prasart Vongsakul, and comprises an enclosed compound of a series of buildings set amid particularly beautiful landscaped tropical gardens and ponds. The buildings are full  … Read more

Visiting Zanzibar’s Beit el Amani Museum

We visited the Peace Memorial Museum (Beit el Amani) in Stone Town, Zanzibar, in late December.  It is the main museum in Stone Town dedicated to the cultures of the Swahili Coast, which are a blend of indigenous African, Indian and Middle Eastern (particularly Omani) influence, despite its name. The museum is in a fine  … Read more

Opening of Raffles Exhibition, Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore

We attended the opening night of ‘Raffles in Southeast Asia’ earlier this month – a major new exhibition at Singapore’s superb Asian Civilisation Museum. The exhibition, a collaboration between the ACM and the British Museum, marks the 200th anniversary of Raffle’s arrival in Singapore. It includes items collected by Raffles whilst administering Java now held  … Read more

Presentation in Bangkok on Fine, Antique Thai Silver

Attended recently a superb presentation by Paul Bromberg in conjunction with the publication of his new book ‘Thai Silver and Nielloware’ (Riverbooks, 2019). The evening was held at the historic Chakrabongse Villas on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok. The Villas provided the perfect backdrop for the occasion. They belong to the Chakrabongse family, part  … Read more

Exploring the Carved, Wooden Doors of Zanzibar

It is believed that there are 277 remaining carved wooden doors in Zanzibar, such as the examples shown here photographed on a recent visit to the island. It is the largest concentration on the Swahili Coast. (The final two images show lintel panels we have had, now sold, which came to the UK during the  … Read more

Rosewater Antiques in the Islamic World

Rosewater, made from steeping rosewater petals in water,  traditionally has been used across the Islamic world from the Middle East to Indonesia. It is used in conjunction with religious rituals such as weddings and burials. But it is also used simply to freshen up oneself and one’s environs. In many traditional, Islamic-derived cultures, it is  … Read more

Visiting Sur, Oman – another unique home for Omani Jewellery

Sur, on Oman’s coast, was an important port for Oman’s trade with Zanzibar and the rest of the Swahili Coast on Africa’s East Coast as well as with Gujurat in India. It was a vibrant commercial port. Trade financing and ship building were also important industries. The town grew rich and with riches the demand  … Read more

Visiting Nizwa – Oman’s Old Silver Jewellery Capital

Nizwa, in Oman’s interior, was an important centre for the manufacture of silver jewellery for Bedouin clients. For that reason we visited it recently. (It was also the old capital of Oman, when Oman and Muscat were essentially ruled as two different territories.) Today, there is little or no silver production in the city. Oman’s  … Read more

Lending to a new exhibition on Hieronymous Bosch

Cross cultural influence & the international trade in luxury goods has been going on for centuries. Art historians are still surprised to see accurate representations of Middle Eastern & Asian objects in European paintings painted 5oo years ago or more. But it’s no surprise when one has an understanding of economics. We have just lent  … Read more

Visiting Oman’s New National Museum

Omani jewellery and other artefacts are becoming more popular with collectors and is emerging as a speciality for us. Accordingly, we have just visited Oman’s new National Museum in the capital Muscat. Many examples of local traditional dress & jewellery are on display in a magnificent, new, purpose-built building. The collection emphasises Oman’s tribal diversity  … Read more

Launch of ‘Desert Silver: Understanding Traditional Jewellery from the Middle East and North Africa’

Last night we hosted in the Gallery the London launch of the superb new edition of Desert Silver: Understanding Traditional Jewellery from the Middle East and North Africa by Sigrid van Roode, a Netherlands-based archaeologist and Egyptologist. The book provides an excellent overview of the silver jewellery worn and places it in the cultural, trade and migration  … Read more

Thanksgiving 2018

A very happy Thanksgiving to all our US clients wherever in the world you might be. Thanksgiving has its origins as a harvest festival with thanks being given for the bounty that the land had provided. Turkeys became synonymous with such bounty and now are central to the traditional Thanksgiving meal. The example here is  … Read more

Recent Sales to Museums Worldwide

Museum sales are an important part of what we do. We sell to museums around the world, and in the last two months, we have sold, or are in the process of selling, these seven items to four  museums in Germany, the US & Singapore. In the last five or so years we have sold  … Read more

Visit by Author Paul Bromberg – Thai Silver

Paul Bromberg visited our gallery in London last week, ahead of the publication of his new book, Thai Silver and Nielloware, to be published in December by River Books. Paul, who is based in Bangkok, is a great friend. He is also a contributing editor of Arts of Asia magazine, and the editor of The  … Read more

SOAS ‘Silk Roads’ Visit

We hosted a visit to our gallery yesterday of around 30 wonderful students from the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), part of University College London. The visit and talk was part of SOAS’s ‘Maritime Silk Route: Across the Seas of Asia’ course.  Items associated with trade and travel were examined with particular reference  … Read more

Chinese Temple Visit, Central London

More than 120,000 ethnic Chinese live in London (about 1.5% of the city’s population), where there has been a significant Chinese population since the 19th century. Mostly, they have come from the UK’s colonies and former colonies including Hong Kong, Malaysia & Singapore. So traditionally, the population has been mostly Cantonese, Hokkien, Hakka & Teochiu.  … Read more

Our November Catalogue is Coming…

Our November monthly catalogue will be available from this coming Wednesday – October 31.  Receive our catalogues here if you don’t already (almost 10,000 collectors & curators do!) Forty new items will be added – from India, Indonesia, Ottoman Turkey, Tibet, Philippines & elsewhere, including the fine Indian gold earrings shown here. There will also be  … Read more

Visit by the Author Dawn Rooney

The marvellous Dawn Rooney, who is usually based in Bangkok, visited us in London this week. She is one of the finest writers on Southeast Asian art around. Her latest book, on Thai Bencharong porcelain and published by RiverBooks,  is shown here, along with several of Dawn’s past books. Dawn is a rare author in  … Read more

Opening of the British Museum’s New Islamic Galleries

We attended the opening last night of the British Museum’s new Islamic Galleries. The refurbishment has been funded by Malaysia’s Albukhary Foundation, which is behind Kuala Lumpur’s Islamic Art Museum. The Malaysians insisted that the British Museum not just display Persian, Ottoman & Mughal arts passing this off as the sum total of Islamic art  … Read more

Recent Posts