Subject: Jonathan Napack Art Expert and Critic Dies At 39Jan 24th, 2007 | By Chris | Category: News and events, Random Shanghai stuff...
Via sfcc mailing list.
Jonathan Alan Napack, an expert in Asian contemporary art, died of pneumonia on Jan. 20 at the age of 39 at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Hong Kong.
Over the past decade, Mr. Napack worked as a writer and critic. He developed a specialty in the Asian art market, and became well acquainted with artists, gallery owners and collectors. After moving to Hong Kong from New York City in the mid-1990s, Mr. Napack parlayed a freelance journalism career into a position in 1999 as the first Asia adviser for the international show Art Basel.
Guided by a brilliant recall of facts, tireless appetite for travel and strong opinions, Mr. Napack resolved to discover artists — and understand their work. Employing a broad smile and thick skin, Mr. Napack gained unusually deep passage into art society from Japan and Korea to Vietnam and China.
“He knew everything because he invested the time and made it his life, and also because he had an incredible memory,” said Samuel Keller, director of Art Basel. “He was very undiplomatic in what he said, but knowing enough about manners to never cross the line, able to express a clear opinion without insulting,” Mr. Keller added.
For almost 15 years, Mr. Napack’s thoughtful writing appeared in the International Herald Tribune, South China Morning Post, Wall Street Journal, Art In America, ArtNews, Art & Antiques Magazine, Far Eastern Economic Review, New York Observer, New York, Discovery, GQ and Spy. Often, Mr. Napack’s reports were the first introduction English-speaking audiences had to up-and-coming Asian writers and painters, as well as the region’s unique cuisines and other social trends.
“He was always a good listener – and a good talker,” said Chinese writer Mian Mian. “I knew him for 11 years but for the first three I didn’t understand anything he said, really. But he was so interesting, very curious with a sweet heart,” she added.
In an article nearly seven years ago, Mr. Napack told readers of ArtNews about a 24-year-old he called “the senior artist of China’s youngest city.” Today, the photographs by Yang Yong that Mr. Napack termed “gutsy” are among the most sought after pieces any Chinese artist has produced.
Later, Mr. Napack wrote “Beijing is on the move” in a June 2004 story for “Art In America.” The report correctly foreshadowed how — and why — the art world’s attention was beginning to shift toward China, and Mr. Napack identified some of the must-watch artists. Mr. Napack was active elsewhere in Asia too. He met Vietnamese artists in 2005 eager to “Break free from their ‘Velvet Prison’” in a story published in the IHT.
Sometimes known by a Chinese name, “Jiang Luo San” or “parachute,” Mr. Napack modeled himself into one of the art industry’s best-known pan-Asian experts. In 2004, he co-authored “Art In America: Focus China.” In recent years, Mr. Napack’s writing was translated into Asian languages. In his Art Basel position, Mr. Napack had been turning his attention to India’s budding art market. For Art Basel’s first event in China, in September 2006, he organized a well-attended, and well-received, “conversation” at Beijing’s National Museum hosted by its director Dr. Fan Di’an.
Mr. Napack, who was single, was born on Feb. 13, 1967 and grew up in New York. He earned a degree from Boston College in 1989.
Mr. Napack is survived by his parents Carol and Howard Phillips of Sarasota, Florida and East Hampton, New York. A younger brother, Alexander, 34, lives in Los Angeles. His father Alvin Napack passed away in 1978.
Arrangements are being made for memorial services in Hong Kong, at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, and Beijing, tentatively planned for early February.