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Gung Hay Fat Choy!

There’s an old adage warning against ever working with kids or animals.

But at Fort Mason last night for the Arts of Pacific Asia Show (through Sun., Feb 8), both groups, including dragons, were front-and-center.

The opening-night gala of this show benefits the arts and education programs of the Asian Art Museum - Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture. And supporters gaily banged the gong, ringing in the Lunar New Year with great style.

Featuring exquisite goods from dealers ‘round the globe, guests played their part, too -- swathing themselves in cheongsams, saris, kimonos and jewels of jade.

Jennifer Chen (left) with her husband, Asian Art Museum Director Jay Xu and actress Joan Chen

Martha Hertelendy, an Asian Art Museum Commissioner and a member of the show’s Executive Committee, was resplendent in a regal Qing Dynasty Court Robe.

“Actually this is mine,” said Martha. “I just love them and I also collect them!”

Another thing folks love about this particular party? The McCall Associates buffet stands that groaned with servings of both sushi and sirloin.

We’re really beginning to abhor referencing everything we write of late with that dreaded economic “R” word. But its effects are increasingly evident -- from attendance numbers to sale numbers.

Thankfully, dealer Paul Anavian of New York, in town for both Arts of Pacific Asia Show as well as next week’s Tribal & Textile Arts Show (benefitting the de Young Museum), possesses a sunnier outlook.

“I look at these works and see a buying opportunity when nothing else is making you money!,” said Anavian. “People are taking a second look at art and saying, ‘Remember that piece we wanted for the wall? Let’s buy it now’.”

And there are plenty of fab finds at this show from which to choose.

A beautiful gray schist Buddha offered by San Francisco’s own Xanadu Gallery. Or bounteous and precious baubles from London dealer Sue Brown. And delightfully modernist works in the hold of gallerist J.R. Richards of Los Angeles.

There are even mysteries to solve, we discovered, as we perused the colorful tapestry-laden wall’s of Mill Valley gallerist Vicki Shiba.

Surrounded by two Bhutanese monks, Shiba held an ancient mahakala icon made of wood.

“It’s very complex iconography and requires tremendous scholarly knowledge to understand. A well-known scholar, who shall go unnamed, thought he had the answer. But it turned out he was wrong,” explained Shiba, as she and the monks discussed possibilities of the icon’s origins.

The monks are visiting from Bhutan to lead teachings and demonstrations of the mandala at the Asian Art Museum for its upcoming exhibition, The Dragon’s Gift: The Sacred Arts of Bhutan (opens Feb. 20).

Wrapped in their crimson robes, Neten Dorji and Gyem Dorji certainly looked the part of scholars who could crack this cold case. But even they were stumped.

But like all good men of the cloth, they managed to extract a life lesson from the mahakala.

“In Buddhist teachings it is not right to say the scholar was wrong,” said Neten Dorji, gently. “Rather, it is that there are so many ways to see things.”

Check out the photos below.

A 2nd or 3rd-century gray schist Buddha from the ancient region of Gandhara at the Xanadu Gallery (of SF) booth

Asian Art Museum Commission Board President Dixon Doll and his wife, Carol Doll

CA State Attorney General Jerry Brown and his wife, Anne Gust, at the Arts of Pacific Asia Show

A late 18th-century wall tile decoration from the ancient city of Multan in the Anavian Gallery (of NY) booth

A stylish tableaux in the Honeychurch Antiques (of Seattle) booth


Asian Art Museum Commissioner and Arts of Pacific Asia Show Committe Member Martha Hertelendy and Asian Art Museum curator Natasha Reichle

Asian Art Museum Commissioner Judy Wilbur and the museum's Senior Curator of Chinese Art Michael Knight

Bhutanese monk Neten Dorji (left) with gallerist Vicki Shiba, Suzie Rashkis and Bhutanese monk Gyem Dorji

Dragon dancers in the parade

A peek inside the Dragon's mouth

Bill Lee with show patron and museum Foundation Trustee Gorretti Lui and (seated), Bill's wife, Carolyn Lee and Goretti's sister, Rosina Sun

An ancient Indonesian ancestor figure from the Thomas Murray (of Mill Valley) booth

Former Asian Art Museum Director Emily Sano and Jennifer Beiderbeck

Art dealer Heide Betz checks out the goods with Harmonique (of Oakland) gallerist Pat Benson

Michelle Nguyen (left) with Thuy Trang Vo and Alice Lee dressed in traditional Asian costumes

Asian art aficionados Sharon and Sam Singer

Red Babies 2007 Series No. 4 by Beijing artist Yu Chen in the J.R. Richards (of LA) booth