It’s Asia Week here in NYC. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile you know I love this. I put on respectable clothes and decent shoes — allowing for the fact that there’s a good deal of walking involved — and I go from gallery to gallery, I hit most of the museums, and I go to the auction houses, which are holding preview shows of the week’s auctions. At the auction houses and many of the galleries you can ask to handle the art. Even the prints and ink paintings; you sit down at the table and lift them by their edges. The porcelains and bronzes almost cry out to be touched. They were made to be used, after all. You can learn a lot by running your fingers along the glazes, turning teacups in the light, feeling the weight of incense burners. The auction house employees will bring out a velvet tray and hand you anything you want to hold. In the galleries young assistants are eager to answer questions and explain things. This is because for all they know, you might be a collector. You might be some not-famous Getty heir who doesn’t care about being a celebrity — just about collecting art. Or at least, an adviser to a collector. Of course, some of the real collectors and advisers come equipped with tiny flashlights, loupes, and magnifying glasses. The lack of these doesn’t disqualify you, though. You just have to look as though the only real question you have about the item is whether it really fits in your collection. This is especially true at the auction houses, where nothing is sold on the days it’s exhibited anyway, so no one looks at you funny if you ask to examine a piece and then hand it back and walk away. Even at the galleries, when the item in question is a $3,500 tea bowl — one of my favorites today, sorry, no photo — no one’s surprised if you want to go home and think it over.