If I told you that the most important collection of Chinese art in private hands outside of China could be found in Torrance, California, would you believe me? It’s surprisingly true – a fact we learned while marveling at the treasures inside the Chen Art Gallery. The gallery artifacts and art work represent more than 25 years of research and collection by Dr. Tei-Fu Chen. The tour was part of our trip with Discover Torrance, and it really is something for scholars and art lovers to see.
We were treated to a tour of the Chen Art Gallery by Holly Chase. Ms. Chase is the curator and advises Dr. Chen on future purchases. Needless to say, Ms. Chase offered a wealth of information on the collection.
Items in the gallery cover more than 5,000 years of history, and the pieces are organized by theme rather than dynasty or chronology. From opulent and hand carved pieces from the rarest of woods built during the Qianlong period, to more restrained pieces from the Ming dynasty (yes, including the vases), it’s impossible not to be awed by the craftsmanship (though you still can’t convince me that a jade pillow would be very comfortable).
Speaking of jade, the collection has many fine examples of it, including a jade dragon believed to be the oldest depiction of it in the world (approximately 5,500 years old). Detailed snuff bottles wow with their intricate drawings, and the Buddhist sculptures were surprising in their variety and detailing. While it would be impossible for me to choose my favorite piece in the collection, I’d have to say that I took special notice of the carvings, gold inlay and zitan wood pieces in the “Throne Room” and “Study Room.”
Most of the pieces in the gallery are Chinese in origin, but there is a unique temporary exhibit currently on display of 100 Picasso etchings. The deluxe Vollard Suite will remain available for public viewing until May 2016.
If you’re curious and would like to take a tour of the Chen Art Gallery, you can! Tours are available Tuesday through Friday from 10am-4pm, but you must phone ahead to book the tour (regardless of group size). Typically, the tours are small, but they have set a max of around 30. The gallery is located at 1625 Abalone Ave, Torrance, CA 90501. To visit, call 310-781-3808.