Spending Time in the Past: A Contemporary Art Aficionado Meets Archaic Asia

The March 2020 auction gave me an even greater appreciation for my Art History degree, especially the one semester I spent studying Asian Art, Ceramics and Porcelain with Professor Hamilton Hazelhurst at Vanderbilt University.  My specialty is Modern and Contemporary Art, but the degree required a broad base of knowledge and thus I found myself immersed in Asia and was so happy for all that I had learned about it in college.  I have been honored to work with the family of Robert and Nancy Hall as we brought their spectacular collection of archaic Asian ceramics and porcelain to auction.

As someone whose career requires keeping up with the latest and greatest in the world of art, it was humbling for me to pause and appreciate the artistic endeavors and expressions that had come centuries before and how their influence can be seen today. It was a manifestation of the concept that there are no new ideas and/or everything old is new again.  I saw several similarities between works lot 1576, Three Chinese Terracotta Dancers, from the Han Dynasty, 206 BC-220AD and lot 1028a, Keith Martin’s Primitive Carved Stone Figure, in particular the whimsy and movement.  The work of contemporary ceramicist, Fance Franck, seems completely reminiscent of Qingbai porcelain from the Song Dynasty, 12th-13th century in their simple beauty and gorgeous celadon color.  Lots 1133, 1134 and 1135 show the work of Franck with 1525, 1526 and 1551 depicting much earlier pieces.  And lastly, lot 1028, Bust of a Woman by Evangeline “EJ” Montgomery came to mind when I saw lot 1549, Chinese Carved White Clay Bust of Woman from the Tang Dynasty, 618-907 AD.

Not only was the collection remarkable, but the Halls were as well. The Halls led a life devoted to philanthropic and cultural interests.  Nancy Hall was a docent at the Walters Art Museum for 25 years as well as a trustee of the Museum from 2001-2007.  Her husband of almost 60 years, Robert Hall, was a renowned and highly respected portfolio manager with philanthropic and cultural interests.  Together they were instrumental in supporting multiple charitable organizations including Johns Hopkins and the city of Baltimore.  They established an endowment program at the Walters Museum in support of education and career development of art historians.  In keeping with their life’s philosophy, the proceeds from the sale of this remarkable collection will be donated to the Robert and Nancy Hall Brain Research Fund at Johns Hopkins.

Robert E. Hall created a memorial fund to honor his wife Nancy H Hall by supporting brain research at Johns Hopkins Medicine.  Funding supports initiatives by Dr Peter Rabins and Dr Chiadi Onyike to better understand Alzheimers, Lewy’s Body Dementia, and other forms of dementia through research and clinical initiatives including the Johns Hopkins brain autopsy program amongst other projects.

We look forward to all the amazing pieces finding new homes and to Johns Hopkins making strides in Brain Research.  Thanks for the lessons, Professor Hazelhurst.

To see the complete catalog from the March 14th Gallery Auction, click here.

Kathleen Hamill
Director, Modern and Contemporary Art