Published: September 29, 2015
NEW YORK CITY — Collectors flocked here once again for auctions of Asian art and furniture during the late summer edition of the biannual Asia Week New York that set new auction records and brought in more than $83 million in sales September 11–19.
While there was no counterpart to the landmark five-session auction of the “King of Ming” Robert H. Ellsworth at Christie’s last spring that alone fetched $131 million, there were several notable collections crossing the block to please Asian arts enthusiasts.
Sotheby’s Asian auctions brought a total of $27,393,501.
The week opened with Monochrome, a concept sale that brought together both traditional and Modern Chinese works united in their shared aesthetic of clean lines and subtle variations in color. The sale saw pieces representing the variety of objects in the sale achieve prices well in excess of their high estimates: a rare hexagonal celadon-glazed vase, Yongzheng seal mark and period, sold for $706,000, a Xu Bing landscape led the ink paintings in the sale to sell for $212,500 and a huanghuali yokeback armchair, Seventeenth Century fetched $125,000.
An embroidered thangka displayed in an Arizona home for decades while the owners had little idea of its value, sold for $1,510,000 on September 16 to lead Sotheby’s Images of Enlightenment: Devotional Works of Art & Paintings auction. The beautiful piece was acquired by collectors Mr and Mrs Wilton D. Cole in 1971 and had been passed down to their children. Six bidders fought for several minutes before a private Asian collector placed the winning bid to secure the thangka for $1.5 million, more than ten times the presale low estimate.
Overall the sale, which brings together Buddhist and Daoist art from Nepal, Tibet, Kashmir, Mongolia and China, brought a total of $3,876,500 with particularly strong participation from Chinese collectors. Other highlights included a gray stone head of a bodhisattva, China, Tang dynasty, which sold for $670,000, and a bronze figure of a Nagaraja, Tibet, Fifteenth Century, which fetched $250,000.
Chinese art was offered on September 15–16, totaling $6,942,000. The top lot was a rare imperial gilt-bronze ritual bell (bianzhong), Qianlong mark and period, that was made for the court of the Qianlong emperor (r 1736–1795) and that had been in the Hearst family collection since it was acquired by William Randolph Hearst in 1921. It fetched $1,210,000 to lead the Chinese art sale. In addition, there was strong demand for jades, a pale celadon jade “Crane and Deer” vase and cover, Qing dynasty, Nineteenth Century, selling for $910,000 and a white jade “Taotie” censer and cover, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period fetching $370,000.
A total of $10,322,125 was recorded for the September 17 sale of classical Chinese paintings and calligraphy. The top lot was Fu Baoshi’s “Scholars Traveling At The Red Cliff,” which finished at $550,000, while “Classic Of Filial Piety In Regular Script” by Huang Daozhou was the top calligraphy work in the sale selling for $490,000.
For additional information, www.sothebys.com or 212-606-7000.
Christie’s concluded its Asian Art Week with a combined total of $54,891,189 achieved over four days of nine sales, September 15–18.
Totaling $6,099,000, the Sporer collection of Himalayan sculpture came to auction on September 15. Assembled between the early 1960s to the mid-1980s by Drs Andrew and Edita Sporer, the collection comprised 61 exceptional bronzes spanning the Twelfth–Nineteenth Centuries, most of which were rediscoveries and fresh to the market. The top lot was a gilt-bronze figure of Vajrabhairava and Vajravetali, Tibet, Sixteenth Century, which realized $989,000.
The same day, Christie’s offered Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian art featuring an array of Indian stone and bronze sculptures, Himalayan bronzes and an important collection of Tibetan thangkas ranging from the Sixteenth Century onward. Highlights in the $2,946,750 sale included a rare mottled sandstone figure of Buddha, India, late First/early Second Century, which made $1,085,000.
When Chinese paintings came to auction on September 16, the sale offered approximately 135 paintings and calligraphies ranging from the Ming dynasty to the contemporary period, with a focus on works from American private collections. Totaling $4,497,000, the sale was led by a work attributed to Qiu Ying (circa 1495–1552) of immortals playing chess, fetching $1,805,000.
September 16 also saw Chinese snuff bottles from the Ruth and Carl Barron collection: Part I, crossing the block, a rich trove of more than 140 snuff bottles from one of the most well-known and respected collectors in this collecting category. Over a period of 20 years, the Barrons amassed a comprehensive collection of a diverse range of bottles, with a focus on rare and fine examples in glass — particularly faceted and multicolored overlay snuff bottles — and a preference for the colorful and innovative examples produced by the Imperial Glassworks in Beijing. The sale totaled $1,253,438, and a top highlight was a rare imperial five-color-overlay pink glass snuff bottle, Palace Workshops, Beijing, 1750–1850, bringing $68,750.
World auction records for both the artist and category were achieved on September 17 when the firm’s South Asian Modern and contemporary art sale was led by Francis Newton Souza’s (1924–2002), “Birth,” oil on board, painted in 1955, attaining $4,085,000. The sale itself totaled $8,770,063.
Top lot in the $428,875 sale titled Elevated Beauty: Fine Chinese Display Stands From An Important Private American Collection on September 17 was a red lacquer scroll-form stand from the Eighteenth Century earning $32,500. Also on that day a rare massive Nanmuinset huanghuali painting table, hua’an, Seventeenth Century led the Lai family collection of Chinese furniture and works of art, selling for $2,261,000 in a sale that totaled $6,989,313.
Christie’s wrapped up the sales series on September 17–18 with Chinese ceramics and works of art, totaling $22,878,875 and led by a rare set of four huanghuali “four-corners-exposed official’s hat” arm-chairs, late Sixteenth/early Seventeenth Century that were bid to $4,197,000.
For additional information, www.christies.com or 212-636-2000.
Doyle’s Asian works of art auction on September 14 attracted strong competition from an international audience of bidders participating in the salesroom, on the telephones and live on the Internet. The sale comprised more than 350 lots showcasing the arts of China, Japan and Southeast Asia from the neolithic period through the Twentieth Century. Offerings included porcelain, jades, scholars’ objects, furniture, bronzes, screens and paintings.
With competitive bidding, the sale totaled $1,661,563, surpassing its estimate of $942,200–1,431,700, with 65 percent sold by lot and 87 percent by value.
Highlighting the Chinese porcelains was a famille rose “millefleurs” glazed porcelain vase with the Qianlong seal mark and of the period. Measuring 11¼ inches high, the vase was decorated in an all-over pattern of brightly colored flowers, including peony, lotus, chrysanthemum, hibiscus, morning glory, gardenia, aster and lily. The vase far exceeded its estimate of $30/50,000, selling for $335,000.
Chinese furniture featured a table made of precious zitan, a dense, dark wood that was traditionally restricted for use in imperial furnishings. Measuring 55 by 19¾ by 33 inches high, the recessed leg table quadrupled its estimate of $18/25,000, selling for $100,000.
Bronzes in the sale fared were highlighted by an Eighteenth/Nineteenth Century Tibetan gilt-bronze figure of bodhisattva seated in dhyanasana on a lotus base and measuring 11 inches in height. It achieved $59,375, ten times its estimate of $4/6,000. A late Ming dynasty gilt and lacquered bronze depicted the warrior Zhenwu dressed in full armor and seated on a red lacquer stepped plinth, 21 inches tall, fetched $50,000, also ten times its high estimate.
Chinese paintings offered a 1961 watercolor on paper depicting a “Fishing Village Snow” by Chen Qikuan (b 1921) that sold for $40,625, far surpassing its estimate of $8/10,000.
Japanese works of art in the auction were highlighted by a Meiji period cloisonne enamel covered vase signed by Hayashi Kodenji Workshop that soared past its estimate of $4/6,000 to fetch $81,250. Measuring 8¼ inches high, the vase was decorated with small birds perched in a blossoming tree surrounded by flowers on a midnight blue ground.
For additional information, www.doyle.com or 212-427-2730.
Although outside the New York City nexus of Asian Art Week, Freeman’s began its autumn auction season with a $3.9 million result in its September 12 Asian arts sale. The sale attracted bidders from across the globe. Collectors from China, Japan, Thailand, Australia and the United Kingdom competed against each other for works from private collections in this selection of imperial and scholarly works.
The highlight of the sale were two imperial Chinese gilt-bronze ritual bells. Each bell doubled presale estimates to bring $605,000. There was also a great deal of excitement surrounding an ink and color work on paper attributed to modern Chinese artist Fu Baoshi. The work, depicting Six Dynasties poet Tao Yuanming sold for $413,000 after competitive bidding from collectors both on the phone and in the room.
For additional information, www.freemansauction.com or 215-563-9275.
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