Best Of The Best 2006: A Thing For Ming

  • Sheila Gibson Stoodley

Although Grace Wu Bruce was born in Hong Kong, she did not encounter Chinese furniture from the late Ming dynasty until she was an adult and was living half a world away. During a 1977 visit to London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, she became smitten by a pair of huanghuali wood cabinets and an altar table. Soon thereafter, she began collecting similar hardwood furnishings made during the 16th and 17th centuries, and by 1987 she was operating a business that sold them. “Furniture was always part of elegant living [in China], but it was never considered an art form,” she says. “The makers were not allowed to put their names on them, like Chippendale [did].” The skill of the Ming craftsmen enchants her still. When explaining how they held their furnishings together with joinery and sparing amounts of glue, she says, “That’s an engineering feat.”

Grace Wu Bruce
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Photo by Richard Prince
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