Ong Chin Huat speaks with Ronald Chak, the Managing Director of Chak’s Investment which organises this prestigious fair and finds out why Tang Ying Soapstone Figure from the 18th Century is the highlight of the fair
LM: Tell us about the International Antique Fair and how it started.
RC: The International Antiques Fair is in its ninth edition and has expanded and opened to all specialties in the field of antiques. The International Antiques Fair was founded by my parents, William and Priscilla Chak. Approximately 40 years ago, my father travelled to many Western countries to attend antiques fairs, including Paris, New York, London, etc.
It was always his aspiration to bring Chinese Antiques back to his own country. Since Hong Kong has a free trade port, it is a perfect location for international dealers to buy and sell.
Hong Kong also acts as a middle ground where Chinese Antiques Dealers could come and meet Western Dealers, as it can sometimes be difficult for Chinese antiques dealers to reach out to Western countries due to China’s strict trade policies. The International Antiques fair is Hong Kong’s first ever systematic and organized fair in the ‘antiques world’, where exhibitors have to pass through a strict vetting committee in order to be selected to exhibit at the fair, this ensures the best selection of art and antiques for collectors.
LM: What’s the underlying purpose of this antique fair?
RC: The purpose of this antique fair is to provide a platform for ‘antiques lovers’, dealers and experts from different backgrounds from all over the world to come together and to gain knowledge about the world of antiques. After years of experience, we’ve been so lucky to have met so many reputable exhibitors from overseas who would be able to contribute their knowledge to the fair. We strive to provide the opportunities for everyone to come and appreciate and learn about the true beauty of antiques.
LM: How will the ninth edition of the International Antique Fair differ from the previous ones?
RC: During previous years, the International Antiques Fair mainly focused on Asian Antiques Exhibitors, specifically, Chinese Antiques Exhibitors. However, over the years, the International Antiques Fair has attracted the attention of exhibitors from Western countries, which had given us the opportunities to meet other dealers, exhibitors, and experts.
Specifically, we were so happy to have met Mr. Christian Deydier, the former President of the Syndicat National des Antiquaires and of the Biennale des Antiquaires, who also exhibited at the IAF previous years.
Since we think the ‘antiques market’ is now mature enough for other countries to join in, we have decided to expand and welcome exhibitors from Western countries like Belgium, Canada, USA, Italy, France, UK, Sweden to join force with Eastern exhibitors, providing a more diversified collection of pieces for the public here in Hong Kong. Mr. Christian Deydier had also helped us bring in many exhibitors from France. Moreover, the International Art Fair is so proud to have been selected as an Associated project of Le French May this year.
One more thing that’s different about this year’s International Antiques Fair is that we’ve formed a strict vetting committee, composed of renowned international professionals in all the specialties represented to ensure that the best quality pieces will be exhibited at the fair. The application to exhibit at the International Art Fair takes about half a year to process as the committee carefully examines and studies each applicant.
LM: For antique collectors and lovers who wish to visit the fair, could you tell Luxurious Magazine a few of the highlights which we should look out for?
RC: The main highlight piece that you should look out for is the Tang Ying Soapstone Figure from the 18th Century. It is truly an amazing and incredibly rare object. The piece depicts Tang Ying, the Qing Dynasty imperial Chinese porcelain kiln supervisor who is seated in the middle wearing a dragon robe. There are also lengthy inscriptions on it that dates back to 1750.
LM: You grew up with antiques all around you….what’s your favourite piece at home?
RC: My favourite piece is a White Jade Teapot from Qing Dynasty, Yangzheng Period. It’s truly one of a kind piece as I’ve never seen anything similar to this in my 30 years of experience in the ‘antiques’ world. It was originally exhibited in a museum in England, where I just couldn’t resist but to buy it right there and then. The quality is exceptional as it’s in perfect condition with no cracks or anything. Each piece of jade is different, and to be able to find a big piece of flawless jade to make a teapot is almost impossible!
LM: Do you collect antiques yourself? If you do, what’s your favourite thing to collect?
RC: Yes I do collect antiques myself, but there’s no specific type of antiques that I focus on.
Since my father specializes in Chinese Ceramics and my mother specializes in works of art. I’ve learned to appreciate a huge range of different pieces.
LM: Why do you think antiques fascinate so many people?
RC: Antiques fascinate so many people because of the history behind every piece. Every piece tells a story about a certain time, the lives of other people. Once you learn how to appreciate antiques, you will realize that different piece gives you a different emotion, feeling, – calmness, sadness, excitement, happiness, almost as if it touches your heart. If you purchased a really perfect and unique piece that you love, it makes you feel so fulfilled and happy, like you’ve accomplished something! That’s why it’s fascinating.
LM: Do you see a trend emerging in antique collecting?
RC: There is a trend emerging in antiques collecting, and the trend is also hugely affected by the market. When the economy was booming (1970s-1990s), there were more Japanese buyers who were more interested in pieces from Tang, Song, Yuan Period. After the Chinese collectors have dominated the market, the trend had shifted to an interest in pieces from Ming and Qing period. However, nowadays the trend is shifted back to pieces from Tang, Song, Yuan Period.
LM: Who are the people (nationalities) which make up your visitors and customers at the IAF?
RC: In previous years, the customers and visitors at the International Art Fair consisted of 60% Mainland Chinese and 40% Hong Kong and International visitors. We will be expecting there to be more Western visitors / customers this year as we’ve expanded it and welcoming so many more international exhibitors from Western countries.
LM: Any advice to those starting collecting antiques?
RC: My advice is to always do research and prepare well before buying a piece. Visiting museums, auction houses, and reading would help you gain knowledge and understanding in different antiques. Attending different exhibitions and fair will not only give you the opportunity to be able to touch and feel the pieces but will also give you the chance to meet experts, exhibitors who would be able to help you and guide you through everything.
This way, you could also meet a good mentor! One last piece of advice is to be aware of con-men who will sell you fake pieces! Don’t be tempted by the attractiveness of the low prices as that probably means the piece is not real.
Interview by Ong Chin Huat
International Art Fair Hong Kong – Where and how
The Ninth International Antique Fair is on from the 28th to 31st May 2016
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
1 Expo Dr,
Tel: +852 2582 8888