Sydney L. Moss Ltd.
Our gallery is devoted to literati Chinese arts - painting, calligraphy and objects in "the scholar's taste" - and to the Japanese art forms most beloved of serious Western collectors; painting and calligraphy, netsuke, lacquer, inro and other sagemono, tea ceremony utensils and sword furniture. In the case of each culture we avoid all but the finest and most intriguing of especially late works of art, and in only the rarest of circumstances do we deal in contemporary material. Our focus is on the most refined sensibility in the fine and applied arts; not only works which reflect the advanced civilization of ancient China or Old Japan, but the creations - within the parameters of that civilization, of course - of an individual artistic personality, making something original. By and large we dislike works of art made by some repetitive mechanical process, preferring such inventively hand-carved and -conceived organic materials as bamboo, lacquer, ivory, wood, rhinoceros horn, jade, soapstone and the various stones and hardstones of which the Chinese literati were so enamoured, whether for use as ink-stones or as strange rocks in the garden or the study.
In Japanese art we similarly concentrate on a native taste rather than that more superficially appreciated by foreigners; but here rather than simply accept the current parameters of the Japanese marketplace we attempt to second-guess the aesthetics of the artist or artisan in their premodern and pre-conventional society. What we value at least as much as the obvious finesse of super-fine line carving or cutely precise minimalism is the robust originality of design and the extraordinary sense of subversive humour of the Japanese artist, whether manifested as heart-stoppingly perfect beauty or as powerful rustic, half-decayed asymmetry. In either case we look for individual character rather than more technical facility - so that, for example, our acquisition of Meiji period and later objects will always be restricted to a very few special works.
Indeed, the concept of "special" works of art is what defines our taste and our series of narrowly focussed areas of expertise in both Chinese and Japanese art. It has a great deal to do with the intent of the artist or artisan in making them in the first place. Virtually all of these areas are influenced in both style and content by the arts of painting and calligraphy, and although it has become really quite difficult over the last few years to find superior graphic works we insist nonetheless that we continue to pursue especially desirable examples of elevated collector and museum appeal, if only relatively few in number.
We have discussed and illustrated to a richly indulgent standard all of the above categories of Chinese and Japanese art in our many densely researched catalogues, details of which are to be found in our website or upon application to the gallery. They are conceived both as visual entertainment and helpful introductory guides, and as serious reference works.
The gallery was founded in 1910 by Sydney L. Moss, grandfather of the present director, Paul Moss, and celebrated its centenary throughout 2010 with an admirable range of equally self-indulgent parties and, on the other hand, publications. Much upheaval in terms of personnel thrust itself to the fore towards year’s end, and Paul is now ably assisted by a young team of fast learners, who might reasonably be described as the most dynamic handful of proto-experts currently in intensive training. Hortense Marandet remains in place as frontwoman, electronic image organiser and more besides, and other than Paul is the only surviving full-time link between our newly refurbished home from home and the stick-uppingnomadism of the past eight years. Finn Daley Roberts specialises in Japanese, and even speaks the language. Oliver Moss, Paul’s eldest son, is on the evidence so far, of Chinese inclination rather more than of Japanese, though he for one firmly intends to straddle both cultures. A Chinese speaker and, increasingly, reader, for these next few years he proposes to spend as much time travelling and learning as he does inhabiting our gallery. We do intend, though, that each of our houseful of aesthetes has the opportunity to learn both practically and academically about any aspect of Chinese and Japanese art, and to take their own chosen direction within those mutually referential disciplines. This is a new set of potential developments, based upon the happy coincidence of a group of talented young people and the perfect gallery-house environment for them to hone their education in. Good things will happen. Watch this space; in three or four years they should be beginning to take off as significant presences in their fields.
The gallery also continues its association with one of the more legendary of three-quarters retired London dealers in Chinese and Japanese art, Douglas J. K. Wright; a man from whom a young person with good attitude could learn a lot. Sydney L. Moss, Ltd., is one of the longest-lived family-owned Asian art dealerships in the Western world, certainly the longest in London; and has survived the rocky road of the last couple of decades by identifying more and more narrowly the most gratifyingly high-quality areas of Chinese and Japanese taste, while averting its gaze from the flashier and currently popular plutocrat / Imperial aspects of that taste, and studying them in depth rather than jumping on the bandwagons of availability and marketability.
This website can offer only a glimpse into the range of our specialist areas, and we recommend that if you have an interest which coincides with ours you obtain our relevant catalogues and, better still, visit our Queen street gallery in London's West End (map in "contact us" file).