Brief Review of John Kuiper's Background as an Art Collector
Collecting art and antiques has been my passion and hobby for many years, but it is not my profession. I am not an art dealer nor do I have formal academic qualifications in the fine arts. My professional life has been quite different, with two B.Sc. degrees in Physics and Economics from MIT and a Ph.D. in Engineering from Stanford University. Much of my career was as an international consulting engineer for the planning of large electric power projects, and in the last thirteen years of my career from 1991 until 2004, I worked in the energy projects division of the Asian Development Bank, at their headquarters office in Manila, Philippines. There I was responsible for preparing and administering large loans for power projects in Asia, and supervising studies related to the planning and feasibility of power projects and for improving electric utility management practices and reforms. I took early retirement in 2004 so that I could move back to Canada and spend more time on my other hobbies and interests.
This career provided opportunities to travel to many interesting developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. During the course of these travels I had opportunities to explore the cultures and artistic traditions of many countries and to collect traditional ethnographic arts in those countries. Initially my collecting was focused on tribal arts from Africa and New Guinea that I acquired in Ivory Coast, Ghana, Kenya, Canada, USA, London and Paris. Then my collecting focus shifted to Asia after a three-year assignment as an expat consultant and advisor resident in Kathmandu, Nepal from 1982-1985. I collected many artifacts from Nepal and India during that period and on subsequent visits to South Asia. As my collecting interests became more serious and my knowledge and tastes more refined, I also raised my standards for new acquisitions. I started to purchase tribal art objects from Africa and New Guinea from Sotheby's in NY in 1981, and I purchased eight antique Indian stone sculptures at auctions of Sotheby's and Christies in New York and London from 1984 to 2004.
During my residence of thirteen years in the Philippines, I became familiar with Philippine tribal art and collected more than 150 documented Philippine ethnographic artifacts, including many bulul statues. My collections of tribal art from the Philippines and other countries are so large now that only a small fraction can be displayed at home, and most of these objects are in storage.
My purpose is establishing this album is to share photos and descriptions of my Philippine tribal art collection with others interested in this subject. Otherwise, this collection would simply remain in storage, locked up, unseen and unkown by all other people.
I have not sold any objects from my collection yet, except for two New Guinea wood carvings that I sold at Sotheby's NY in November 2006. One of these came from the Nelson Rockefeller collection and both had been purchased from Sotheby's in 1981, so they had a good provenance. But I may consider selling more in the future.
I have exhibited some parts of my Asian art collection in recent years. In 2010, I proposed a special exhibit of Buddhist art based on my collection at the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, Canada. This proposal was agreed to and an exhibit called Visions of Enlightenment - Buddhist Art at the Museum of Anthropology, was finally organized and held for five months from May until September 2012. Half of the objects in this exhibit came from my collection, and the rest from museums and other private collections in British Columbia. To see photos from this MoA exhibit, click here.
I was also on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Society for Asian Arts from March 2012 until March 2016. The CSAA is a non-profit society based in Vancouver that promotes public events related to the Asian arts and sponsors or helps to organize exhibits of Asian arts, both fine arts and performing arts.