Sachiko Hori on Meiji Period Opulence and More

Sachiko Hori is an internationally-recognized dealer, curator, and consultant. She specializes in Japanese scrolls, woodcut prints, metalwork, armor, and ceramics. Sachiko served as a vice president and head of Sotheby’s Japanese Works of Art department for 10 years. During Sachiko’s tenure she oversaw Sotheby’s inaugural sale of Contemporary Art Asia: China, Japan, Korea in 2006. Prior to Sotheby’s, she worked at Christie’s, London as a Japanese art specialist. Sachiko also contributed to the 2011 publication of Art of Armor: Samurai Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection.

What are your top tips for an aspiring collector in your area of expertise?
If you decide to collect, you should familiarize yourself with quality items and always compare before you buy. Train your eye by viewing high quality and particularly good examples of whatever you decide to collect. Pay attention to what is selling well at auction, but most importantly buy pieces that you really love.

What should a collector ask to identify an item and avoid common pitfalls?
Quality and condition. Beware of apocryphal marks! When an object bears a famous or sought after maker’s name, it is often not genuine. Before determining whether or not an object is genuine, I would recommend doing research and seeking out a second opinion. Occasionally there are very good quality works that carry fake signatures. If you understand that, and still like the piece, there’s no inherent reason you shouldn’t buy.

Condition is very important! It can be quite easy if you know where to look. For Netsuke, examine the tips and edges e.g. feet, hands, horns. For woodblock prints, I make sure to inspect the verso under bright light to check for areas of restoration. For porcelain, I look at the edges for chips and I scan the body for cracks and hairlines.

What questions should a collector ask to determine the fair sale price of an item
Comparison shop! If you can, find similar types of objects sold at auction and compare with those being sold by dealers or galleries. If the prices seem similar, compare for size, subject, quality, and condition. This should help you distinguish a fair market price from retail prices.

What is selling best in today’s market (which particular makers/styles)?
Meiji period (1868-1912) metalwork is very popular right now. Komai (iron ground inlaid with gold) is popular as is metalwork with lighter colors (as opposed to dark bronzes) with multi-metal inlays. Komai is sometimes referred to as ‘Kyoto damascene’ and features intricate geometric and brocade work as well as famous views of Kyoto. Cloisonné enamel and silver Meiji period objects are also very desirable.

What other questions do people ask you most frequently in your area of expertise?
I work with many different types of items, so this really varies. I’m often asked to read and identify signatures or dates. More generally, collectors want to know what their objects are worth and where they can sell them.