SNUFF BOTTLES FROM BAY AREA COLLECTORS
Wondrously intricate and beautiful, the diversity of Chinese snuff bottles has captivated
people for three centuries. Over the years, they have found their way thousands of miles
away from their place of origin and into the hands of international collectors.
Amalgamating the most outstanding pieces from local collections, the Chinese Culture
Center's Small Wonders: Chinese Snuff Bottles from Bay Area Collectors exhibition will
assemble one of the largest and most diverse snuff bottle displays. To be held from
July 15 to October 8, the show is curated by Mr. Clarence Shangraw, currently Curatorial
Consultant to the Crow Family Museum of Asian Art in Dallas. With Mr. Shangraw's
experience as Chief Curator Emeritus of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and
Director Emeritus of the Tsui Museum of Art in Hong Kong, the viewer can expect
exceptional organization and selection.
Since its introduction to China nearly 400 years ago, tobacco has gone through waxing and
waning periods of popularity and condemnation. But regardless of tobacco's overall level
of acceptance, social convention continually favored snuff over smoking. Initially used
to store medicines, snuff bottles were perfectly suited for tobacco storage in China's
climate, and their originally simplistic design quickly evolved into fine works of art.
Made of glass, ivory, jade, gemstone, porcelain, and other materials, snuff bottles were
further accentuated by carving intricate details on the surface, or by painting both on
the exterior and interior surfaces of the bottle. By the 1700s, when snuff was reaching
the height of its popularity, the snuff bottle found a high level demand as storage,
conversation pieces, and collectibles.
Given the wide diversity of media, sizes, and time periods, this exhibition will diverge
from convention and group the snuff bottles into 21 themes, ranging from dragons to
landscapes. With snuff bottles attracting the curiosity and appreciation of collectors
over 300 years, the show will sure to be a wonder for neophyte and expert alike.
Funding for this exhibition has been provided in part by Grants for the Arts of the San
Francisco Hotel Tax Fund and the California Arts Council.