Published: April 20, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy Keno Auctions
NEW YORK CITY – Americana dealer Leigh Keno is expanding his areas of expertise and has, for the past few years, been paying close attention to Asian works of art and that particular market. More than 80 percent of Keno Auctions’ spring sale featured Asian works of art, with nearly 95 percent of the 395 lot sale selling for an overall total of $301,000. Keno had registrants from 35 international countries – including 15 bidders just from Italy – and about 100 new clients, of which 65 were successful buyers.
The sale took about 12 hours to sell as Keno discussed some of the merits and flaws of a piece. He was joined at the podium by Brian McClain, an Asian art aficionado and friend who is fluent in Chinese who would translate Keno’s comments into Chinese for the benefit of international bidders.
“Brian was there with me for about 90 percent of the sale. I would comment on the condition as the lots came up and he would help show the pieces, the bottom, the way the piece feels,” Keno said. “You can tell just so much from the surface; he would translate what I said in Chinese, explaining things. I’ve found that to get the best price for my clients, it helps to explain a few things. It was great to see the bids really take off when I was talking about the pieces.”
The top lot in the sale was a Japanese Meiji period six-panel screen with lively battle scene, which sold to a new client to Keno Auctions, bidding on the phone from the Philippines, for $18,750, well ahead of its $4/8,000 estimate. The screen had been acquired in the mid-1940s by John and Dorothy Whiteside for their Seattle, Wash., home and it had descended in the family.
Chinese porcelains were a dominant category in the sale. Securing the second- and third-place prices were, respectively, a Jun ware purple splashed tripod dish from the Song dynasty (960-1127) that soared to $12,160, and a large Guan-type celadon glazed arrow vase with Yongzheng mark, which flew to $10,240. The tripod dish had provenance to a Christie’s sale as well as the estate of H.H. Pao (1937-2009), an art scholar and dealer from Toronto, while the arrow vase came from the collection of Dr Peter M. Greiner (1940-2013), a lifelong collector and student of Chinese art. A buyer in Massachusetts purchased both.
Bronze and jade also saw some strong results despite relatively few offerings. The former finding particularly strong results in a seated figure of Buddha that may have been from Thailand and finished at $9,600 from a new buyer from Minnesota. An Imperial poem embellished a late Eighteenth Century celadon jade brush washer of quatrefoil form, which sold for $5,760.
Not all of the sale featured Asian works of art and there were some strong results among Western fine and decorative arts. Most notable was a Rene Lalique “Merles et Raisins” glass panel, circa 1928, which featured a heavily molded panel of grapes, foliate and seven blackbirds and had been made for the Cote D’Azur Pullman Express train. According to Keno, this panel had been recently been added to the online catalogue raisonné for Lalique (www.rlalique.com) and was panel 1C, which came in two sizes, this and a larger one. It brought $8,960.
Keno said that one of the biggest surprises of the sale was an oil on canvas painting by Joseph Lindon Smith (American, 1863-1950), which depicted Nefertari, the wife of Ramses II. Dating to the late Nineteenth or early Twentieth Century, the work was purchased by the artist’s great-granddaughter for $4,480, well ahead of its $600/900 estimate. It was a good buy as the artist’s Egyptian-themed paintings are among his most sought-after works.
Keno Auctions’ next sale will take place in early June.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
For information, 212-734-2381 or www.kenoauctions.com.
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