and trying to interpret the West to thenEast, and the East to the West.”nBiannually, the China House featuresnan exhibition organized by anguest curator on a specific aspect ofnChiriese art, complete with a fullynillustrated catalogue. Virtually allnChina House exhibitions are distinguished:nthe roster of guest curatorsnreads like a Who’s Who in the world ofnart. No matter what the scope andnambition of a guest curator may be,nthe works of art are displayed in justnone small room (20′ x 20′) with ansingle door. The walls contain glassncabinets that stand on a uniform darknbase, waist high, putting all the artworksnat eye-level but imposing limitsnon how much can be shown. Despitenthese cramped quarters, I have nevernfelt that the art objects have beenndisplayed in what the Victoriansntermed “organized clutter.” The bestnof all aspirations, it seems to me, hasnbeen followed at China House. Entrancenis free, with inexpensive cataloguesnpublished on a shoestring budget,noffering the finest of Chinese artnin an extremely simple setting. In fact,nno attempt has been made to createnthe least element of atmosphere; thentiny staff of China House does no morenthan change the background in thenglass cases, usually a different color forneach show. For smaller works of art,ntiny cubes and raised areas are similarlyncovered with the same monochromenfabric as the interior of the glass cases.nPerhaps small and large institutions, asnwell as universities, ought to send anscout to any one of the China Housenexhibitions and emulate them. Just asnthe artistry of the Old Masters hasninspired many imitators, I see no reasonnwhy the brilliance achieved by thenChina House in managing and curatingnconsistently first-rate showsnshould not be duplicated elsewhere innAmerica.nWhich brings us to The SumptuousnBasket, an exhibition of Chinese lacquernon basketry panels, shown atnChina House from March 30 to Junen3. The idea for this show of 33 objectsnoriginated with Laurence Sickman,nDirector Emeritus of The Nelson-nAtkins Museum of Art in Kansas.nJames C. Y. Watt, Curator of AsiaticnArt, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston,nwas the guest curator. Most of thenlacquer pieces came from eminentnRectangular box with white brass inlay aiij frame. First luill of 17th century, late Ming.n15.8 cm X 12.3 cm X 9.4 cm. Photograph courtesy China Institute of America.nAmerican museums, but some camenfrom leading American dealers in Chinesenart (like Alice Boney and RichardnH. Ellsworth, both of New York City),nand others from the Museum for FarnEastern Antiquities, Stockholm. Butnall of the pieces gathered from thesensources revealed the mastery of Chinesenlacquer artists in creating beautifulnbasketry panels.nAt the opening of The SumptuousnBasket show, I talked with James Watt,nthe guest curator. “Lacquer,” he toldnme, “is a natural plastic. It is resistantnto everything.” The effects of extremesnof temperature—such as those experiencednin Paris and New York Citynapartments, for instance — are toonwell-known among restorers. Collectorsnof art tend to forget about thendamage caused by hot, dry interiors innwinter and by humid ones in summer.nThe toll on fine French furniture fromnthe age of the three Louis to that of thentwo Napoleons, in just these two citiesnalone, has been terrible. “Lacquerndoes crack in extremely dry conditions,”nMr. Watt observed, “otherwisenit will last forever.” Because of inadequatencare, very few Coromandelnnnscreens—delightful in interiors andndarlings of contemporary Americanndecorators — have been preserved.n”Most of the damages to Chinese lacquer,”nMr. Watt emphasized, “occurrednwithin the last century, particularlynwithin the last few decades.”nOnly London and the famed countrynhouses of the English have been immunenbecause they are, as many visitorsnknow, notoriously unheated. Innthe manner of the nursery rhymenPussy Cat, cognoscenti of Chinese lacquernhead for London, still a goldnmine for these works of art.nWith the introduction of paper bagsnand now plastic ones, even the mostnrugged of shoppers in contemporarynAmerica rarely thinks of using baskets.nThe chic prefer brand names and tagsn—Cucci, Pucchi, Tucci—to wovennbaskets of any kind, including sumptuousnsorts. I have discovered that besidesnserious connoisseurs of art, thosenAmericans most likely to appreciatenthe intricacy in basket art are dentists,nsurgeons, and other professionals whonrely on their hands. Many othernAmericans do not fully appreciate thenkind of work on display in The Sump-nOCTOBER 1985131n