Published: October 13, 2020
Review by Greg Smith, Photos Courtesy Asia Week New York
ONLINE – It has been a year of learning and perseverance for Asia Week. The twice-annual main event of the Asian antiques world saw its dominant edition open in March and immediately slam shut in New York City on account of COVID-19. It was followed by a July event where the organization of both dealers and auctioneers mounted an online showroom with programming to make up for that lost opportunity. That brings us to September, where Asia Week normally launches its second event of the year, typically a quieter though spirited presentation of the Asian arts, bringing together scholars, dealers, auctioneers, curators and collectors for another round of selling exhibitions and talks.
Building upon the experience of the July edition, Asia Week in September was again online and driven forward with a focused approach on presentation.
A dozen dealers came together to present their inventory and connect virtually with clients all throughout the world. As some would learn, those virtual presentations act much like the opening to a funnel that catches interest and builds momentum for education and selling opportunities.
“I thought of it as a group show,” said Katherine Martin, who serves as the chairwoman of Asia Week.
Each dealer presented four works within a viewing room on the Asia Week website. Some dealers who organizer their gallery by exhibitions were presenting from their regularly scheduled programming, while others went with new and exciting acquisitions.
The organization hosted a webinar where a lightning round of four-minute talks were provided by ten dealers, some who focused on scholarship and others who brought viewers into the gallery for a broader virtual tour.
“It was exciting and we got great feedback from those who attended,” Martin said. “Most people stayed through the entire hour, which was encouraging. We’re all learning new things and trying new ways of connecting with collectors.”
Following the live webinar, the videos were posted to both the Asia Week New York site as well as YouTube and have been watched collectively over a thousand times.
New connections were made, Martin said, as each participating dealer individually spread word of the sale to their respective audiences, creating a pool of interest among collectors with wandering eyes and curious minds.
New York City dealer Joan B Mirviss was among those who had a successful show selling from her regularly scheduled exhibition titled “Father and Sons,” exhibiting the duo of Suzuki Osami (Kura) and Suzuki Tetsu alongside Wakao Toshisada and Wakao Kei. Mirviss said she sold more than 40 works in the exhibition and has only four left at press time. She says the media her gallery creates, which includes videos and talks from curators on her website, is complementary to the viewing room and webinar on the Asia Week site.
“A novice collector receives needed support from hearing about the work from the artist’s own mouth and then by further hearing penetrating and interesting questions put forth by curators who have that artist represented in their institutional collections,” Mirviss said. “Their interest is endorsed by a more experienced and professional art historian as well as from the artist who can more often shed light on their work that might not have been overtly apparent.”
Adding to her digital toolkit is a fleshed out website with 360-degree videos on all of her objects.
“We’ve done really well,” Mirviss said. “We had buyers from the Middle East, Europe, Australia, and the majority have been Americans.”
Thomsen Gallery, also based in New York City, prepared an exhibition of Japanese Ikebana baskets.
“It was a great way to show our clients that we are still active. We were able to reconnect with some people who I haven’t heard from for a long time. I received quite a few inquiries and emails and made some sales as a result,” said Erik Thomsen.
Among his favorites in the exhibition were examples from Maeda Chikubosai I. The dealer wrote, “Maeda Chikubosai I is known for the high quality of his work. After a period of intense study of earlier bamboo pieces made or the sencha style of tea drinking, he made works which were presented to the Japanese emperor and imperial family.”
Thomsen said of them, “It’s the combination of very precise craftsmanship with use of natural bamboo branches. It’s beautiful.”
Thomsen related that focused buyers are out there.
“Several people have made appointments to come in and visit,” he said. “A number of new buyers who I had known, but never sold to. They went to the viewing room and then my website as a result. Since you can’t visit, this is a wonderful way to connect.”
Katherine Martin, who directs Scholten Japanese Art, presented an exhibition of woodblock prints and paintings in “Composing Beauty.”
She said, “The exhibition looks at how beauty is presented as a concept in terms of actual beauties, but also how they’re composed in a way similar to poetry, music, dance and other genres of arts. It looks at an idealized beauty and explores what that means – what accoutrements might a beauty associate with to define what she is and elevate that to a higher level.”
“I got new buyers this show,” Martin said, “I have to attribute that to the Asia Week outreach. They found me.”
Martin said she had some productive foot traffic in the gallery. “Of the few that came, they came to buy. You get focused people who make the effort, don the mask, make the appointment and look at the objects.”
Eric Zetterquist of Zetterquist Galleries, also of New York City, said his September show was in some ways a continuation of his March exhibition, though with new acquisitions, covering a range of Chinese ceramics from the Seventh through Fourteenth Centuries and Japanese ceramics from the Sixth through Seventeenth Centuries.
“The organization and the publicity people did a great job,” Zetterquist said. “These are bizarre times and we had no concrete expectations, but it turns out that, myself included, people who were involved with it did sell things. It also reinforces the important message that we’re here. Many of us are open by appointment, we’re alive and kicking and we want to see our clients. The foot traffic is less than usual, however, the hit rates were huge. I saw a handful of people, but almost all of them bought something. It was a very positive experience and I think it puts out a message that people are cautiously getting back into the art market. It’s what they love and brings them joy, they are happy to be participating again, as we are.”
Among Zetterquist’s notable works was a baluster-form Southern Qingbai lidded jar with pinched handles and a pagoda-shaped lid that dated to the Song dynasty (960 to 1279 CE). He wrote, “the lid is reminiscent of Cambodian pieces of the Khmer dynasty, and suggest that this piece may have been destined as an export piece to Southeast Asia.” It had provenance to dealer Robert Hatfield Ellsworth.
Other participants in the viewing room included Koichi Yanagi Oriental Fine Arts, New York City; Akar Prakar, New Delhi, Kolkata, India; Thomas Murray, Mill Valley, Calif.; Kaikodo Gallery, New York City; Sebastian Izzard LLC Asian Art, New York City; Ippodo Gallery, New York City; HK Art & Antiques LLC, New York City; and Egenolf Gallery Japanese Prints, Burbank, Calif.
Martin expects the March edition to be of similar presentation to the fall show, coupling an online initiative with programming from dealers and perhaps curators and others.
For additional information, www.asiaweekny.com.
NEW YORK CITY – Doyle’s auction of Asian Works of Art on September 21 presented the arts of China, Japan and Southeast Asia dating from the Neolithic period through the Twentieth Century. Showcased were porcelains, jades, snuff bottles, bronzes, pottery, scholar’s objects and paintings from prominent collections and estates. The 355-lot sale realized a total of $754,469, with about 68 percent of the sale selling.
The sale was anchored with property from two estates: that of Ethel L. Farrand and those of W.R. Appleby and Elinor Appleby, longtime donors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Appleby estates showcased a wide range of porcelain, sculpture, bronzes, paintings and other objects acquired by prominent and discerning connoisseurs. From the Farrand estate was a large collection for finely carved Chinese jade objects. Offered as group lots, the jades attracted competitive bidding that sent the prices soaring over their estimates.
The sale was led by a Chinese imperial sgraffiato enameled porcelain medallion bowl from a New Jersey private collection that sold for $47,500 ($10/15,000). Highlights from the Farrand estate were a group of ten Chinese jade and hardstone carvings that made $43,750 ($1/1,500); three lots of ten Chinese white jade carvings that finished at $23,750, $16,250 and $15,000, respectively (each estimated at $1/1,500); and a group of ten Chinese jadeite carvings that finished at $20,000 ($1/1,500).
Noteworthy results from the Appleby estates included a Chinese celadon glazed twin-handled lotus porcelain vase that made $15,000 ($6/8,000), the same price realized for a Chinese robin’s-egg blue glazed porcelain vase ($500/700). Two Chinese glazed Qingbai-ware vases, cataloged as “exceptionally rare,” sold for $13,750 ($8/12,000), while a Japanese Ming-style Tsuishu lacquer Kogo, estimated at $500/700, ran to $12,500. Animal forms were apparent favorites with bidders, as evidenced by a pair of Chinese gilt-bronze buffalo, from the late Ming or early Qing dynasty, which galloped to $11,250 ($2,5/3,500) and a Chinese painted pottery figure of a mounted horse sold within estimate, to bring $10,625.
The sale featured about 75 lots of snuff bottles, which were led by a Chinese jadeite double gourd snuff bottle from the estate of Loucel G. Lipman, that brought $10,625 ($1/1,500). A large Chinese School ink and color painting of an assemblage of Luohan topped the paintings category, bringing $15,000 against an estimate of $2/4,000, and a set of nine conforming Chinese porcelain sweetmeat dishes achieved $7,500 ($600/800).
Doyle is at 175 East 87th Street. For information, 212-427-2730, www.doyle.com.
NEW YORK CITY – A Thirteenth/Fourteenth Century gilt-copper alloy figure of Maitreya from the Khasa Malla kingdom was the top lot of Bonhams’ marquee Asia Week sales in New York. Sold on September 23 at the Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Art Sale, the cover lot realized $680,075, well exceeding its estimate of $400/600,000.
An exceptional bronze for its size and clear refinement, the sculpture depicts Maitreya – the bodhisattva of loving kindness – seated in a relaxed posture of ease on an exquisitely modeled blooming lotus, with his right hand raised to reassure his followers. Despite his languid pose, his toes remain flexed, a delightful detail that signals the bodhisattva remains alert from his celestial abode to the suffering of others.
Edward Wilkinson, Bonhams’ global head of the Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art and executive director, Asia, commented, “The superb and magnetic figure of Maitreya achieved a great price consistent with a buoyant market. Strong results were also seen across all areas within the category.”
Dessa Goddard, United States head of Asian Art at Bonhams, added, “We are delighted to see an Asian art market buoyed by strong resilience. Despite global developments this year, collectors want to collect. Fresh, rare and high-quality properties with good provenance continue to attract active and deep bidding from our international clientele across sales.”
Bonhams’ Asia Week offerings consisted of four live sales and one online-only event. Kicking off the series of sales on September 21 was “Elegant Embellishments Featuring the RenLu Collection,” a sale of approximately 65 lots of antique Chinese jewelry and objets du vertu. A crystal and gold bead necklace achieved the top price of $15,075, just ahead of its $10/15,000 estimate.
The day closed with Chinese paintings and works of art. Highlights from that sale include Qi Baishi’s “Narcissus, Rock and Quail,” which achieved $437,575 against an estimate of $80/120,000. A pair of jade and hardstone overlay lacquer panels from the Eighteenth-Century Imperial Workshops closed at $387,575, nearly 20 times their $20/30,000 estimate.
An additional highlight from the September 23 Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Art sale was a pair of silver and gilt-copper alloy figures of the Seventh Karmapa Chodrak Gyatso and the Fourth Sharmapa Chokyi Drakpa, Tibet, Late Fifteenth/Sixteenth Century that had an estimate of $100/150,000 and which closed at $437,575.
The September 24 sale of Fine Japanese and Korean Art was led by a large and fine Korean porcelain moon flask, Joseon dynasty (1392-1897), from the Sixteenth or Seventeenth Century that rose above its $70/80,000 estimate to bring $87,575. Bringing $68,825 was a late Sixteenth Century Haramaki cuirass, Muromachi (1333-1573) or Momoyama (1573-1615) periods.
Bonhams’ final Asia Week event was “Leaves of Wisdom: Tibetan Illuminated Manuscripts from American Collections,” an online-only sale that closed September 27. It was headlined by an illuminated Sutra page with Hevajra and Krodha Kali in the Pala style, circa Twelfth Century done in opaque watercolor and ink that made $10,075.
For additional information, www.bonhams.com.
NEW YORK CITY – Christie’s live sales of Asian Art, conducted during Asia Week, achieved a total of $82.8 million with 90 percent by value and 84 percent sold by lot across the eight live auctions. There was global participation with bidders from 41 countries across five continents. Additionally, unique visitors from over 110 countries visited the sale pages leading into the week. During the week 13 records were achieved and 13 lots exceeded $1 million across all geographies of Asian art. Online sales continued through October 1, when an additional $2.3 million was reached for an overall total of $85.1 million.
The top lot of the week was a rare and magnificent gray schist triad of Buddha Shakyamuni that sold for $6,630,000 and set the world auction record for a Gandharan work of art.
Christie’s sale of Japanese Art and Korean Art on September 22 totaled $8,475,000 with 82 percent sold by lot and 84 percent sold by value. The top lot of the sale was a woodblock print by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), “The Great Wave,” which achieved $1,110,000 against a low estimate of $150,000 and set the record for the print by the artist. Other notable results included an important pair of six-panel screens by Kano Tsunenobu (1636-1713), “Chrysanthemums Blooming in a Garden” that sold for $175,000; along with prints by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806) and Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), including “Red Fuji” that sold for $337,500.
The live sale titled “A Lasting Engagement: The Jane and Kito de Boer Collection” on September 23 totaled $3,563,625 with 82 percent sold by lot. Six records were set within the sale including artist records for Chittaprosad Bhattacharya, Prosanto Roy, Prokash Karmakar and Rama Mukherji along with a record for an early Bengal oil painting and a record for a figurative work by Biren De. The live auction was accompanied by an online sale of additional works from the collection. Closing September 25, the online sale of more than 150 works totaled $189,500, topped by Prosanto Roy, untitled (Arabian Nights), that realized $13,750.
The September 23 sale of South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art totaled $4,904,750. The top lot of the sale was an untitled painting by Tyeb Mehta that sold for $1,110,000.
One of the most important collections of Gandharan art in private hands, “Devotion in Stone: Gandharan Masterpieces from a Private Japanese Collection,” achieved a total of $13.8 million on September 23, more than quadrupling its low estimate. The top lot of the sale was a rare and magnificent gray schist triad of Buddha Shakyamuni with bodhisattvas that sold for $6,630,000 against a low estimate of $600,000 and achieved a world auction record for a Gandharan work of art.
Selling on September 24, part I of the James and Marilynn Alsdorf collection achieved a total of $15 million with all lots selling. The top lot was a rare and magnificent bronze figure of Shiva Tripuravijaya, South India, Tamil Nadu, Chola period, circa 1050 that achieved more than four times its estimate selling for $4,350,000, establishing the record for a South Indian sculpture. Part II of the Alsdorf collection sold later that day and achieved $7.3 million. It was led by a hanging scroll by Xu Beihong (1895-1953), “Horse” that sold for $687,500 against a low estimate of $20,000. An online component of the Alsdorf collection that closed September 29 featured porcelain from the Kangxi period, jade carvings, Himalayan bronze figures, a Chinese painting signed Lin Liang and a Japanese painting attributed to Nagasawa Rosetsu. The sale totaled $639,500 and was led by a Tibetan or Mongolian silver-damascened iron helmet from the Seventeenth or Eighteenth Century that finished at $62,500.
Following the Alsdorf collection sales, the September 24 sale of Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian works of art achieved a total of $1,181,250. The top lot of the sale was a rare Central Indian red sandstone figure of a Salabhanjika from the collection of Herbert and Florence Irving that sold for $500,000.
Selling on September 25, Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art achieved a total of $28,378,500 with 86 percent sold by lot. The top lot of the sale was a Northern Qi grey limestone figure of Buddha that realized $2,550,000 against its low estimate of $400,000.
Contemporary Art Asia online sale totaled $1,057,750. The top lot of the sale was a painting by Le Pho (1907-2001) titled “Le Philosophe (Philosopher)” from the collection of Terry Allen Kramer which achieved five times its low estimate selling for $100,000.
Closing October 1, the online sale, “Crafted Landscapes: The Ankarcrona Collection of Japanese Lacquer and Asian Works of Art” achieved a total of $466,125. The top lot of the sale was two Chinese blue and white “Eight Immortals” bowls, Qianlong six-character seal marks and of the period (1736-1795) that sold for $50,000 against the low estimate of $12,000.
For information, www.christies.com.
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