If you want a whistle-stop tour round the West End’s Asian galleries taking in some of the most interesting artworks London has to offer, try being on the judging panel for Asian Art in London.
Over the course of a few hours you can be whisked from ancient China to the Himalayas, and Mughal India to Meiji-era Japan, as you survey pieces the participants have put forward to win the two AAL Awards sponsored by Antiques Trade Gazette and Apollo.
It’s an energetic day. The panel, made up of around half a dozen people (museum curators and arts journalists), selects a shortlist of works from those submitted by prospective candidates to view in more detail.
These visits offer the opportunity to examine the pieces closely and quiz their owners on details of background, provenance and comparative examples.
What is on the judges’ tick list? Quality, of course – the piece must be a very good example of its type – but that is not all.
You look for something a bit out of the ordinary, with perhaps an interesting back story or some distinctive quality that gives it that little bit extra.
Sometimes an object grabs your attention immediately while others will grow on you as you look more carefully and the details and context are explained.
That is why, after viewing, the panel retires to discuss, debate and come to a final agreement. Past prize winners, which have ranged from a Song dynasty Tenmoku bowl on stand and a trio of 8th-9th century gold Buddhas to a contemporary gouache, gold leaf and ink work on paper, illustrate these factors and highlight the diversity of London’s Asian expertise, one of the main goals of this 20-year-old initiative.