Published: July 21, 2020
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Lark Mason Associates
ONLINE – If there is an inauspicious Chinese symbol for auctions, it may very well be embodied by a rat. Early in 2020, as the rodent was taking its place on the Chinese calendar throne, the COVID-19 pandemic was throwing the globe into disarray. Lark Mason realized he needed a new strategy for his traditional series of sales tied to the New York City’s weeklong celebration of all things Asian. He went ahead with the first part of his online sale Asian Works of Art in April, which fortunately resulted in record prices across the board. However, just as a surfer surveys the ocean to make sure there are sufficient waves to catch, Mason postponed the second part of the sale — Chinese jades and works of art from the collection of Isidore Cohn Jr, MD and other owners — to June-July.
The online sale closed on July 8, with 56 items totaling $602,738, out of a total of 106 lots offered.
The sale included one of the most important collections of Chinese jade from the Cohn estate, according to Mason, considered one of America’s leading collectors of decorative arts. Cohn, he said, who lived in New Orleans, La., also had one the finest collections of Steuben glass, English silver and Modernist furniture by the British designer David Wilder.
A Chinese dark green jade covered censer from the Eighteenth Century settled at $150,001 to become the top lot. Illustrated and described in Roger Keverne’s Jade, first edition, 1991 (UK, Anness publishing Ltd.; USA, Van Nostrand Reinhold) the piece featured archaic carving on exterior of taotie and phoenix and had a circular Spink & Son label on its base. Pushing it beyond its $40,000 high estimate was exhibition history that included the International Exhibition of Chinese Art, The Royal Academy, London 1935-36. Measurements were 6-3/8 inches (with cover), 8-1/8 inches wide and 5½ inches diameter of body.
Also doing well was a 23-carat gold Liao-style floriform box, which received numerous bids, and sold for $131,875.
Complementing the jade works was an array of furniture, which included a pair of Eighteenth Century imperial Chinese incised and colored lacquer demilune tables, with an inventory notation to the Hanying Hall of the Summer Imperial Palace in Chengdu; a Qing dynasty Chinese white jade tripod censer with Buddhistic lion-form feet and a carved wood stand; and a Qianlong period Chinese zitan table cabinet with lotus carved doors. Leading furniture was an Eighteenth Century Chinese hardwood recessed leg table. It blew away its $10,000 estimate to finish at $48,750.
A Chinese bronze ritual wine vessel, Jue, Shang dynasty, Twelfth/Eleventh Century BCE rolled to $43,750, while a pair of Chinese incised and colored lacquer demilune tables from the Eighteenth Century was bid to $37,500. A Chinese huanghuali table, Seventeenth Century, sold for the same amount.
Additional top highlights included an antique Chinese bronze figural foo dog censer for $25,000 and a Chinese archaic buff jade collared bi disc, Third/Second Millennium BCE, garnering $10,631.
And what of the sale’s star attraction – the Cohn jades? It’s back to surfer timing. Exquisite pieces – even in online photographs – they beg to be witnessed in person by the right buyers. Mason told Antiques and The Arts Weekly that had the sale been conducted as it was planned, these objects, despite high reserves, would have sold.
“The sale showed the continued resiliency of the market in Asian works of art, with items having realistic estimates finding numerous bidders and those with aggressive estimates with less interest,” said Mason afterwards. “The market remains strong for the best items and we anticipate that sales will remain robust in spite of the weakness of some areas of the economy. People still desire items of value and beauty, and auctions will remain resilient in the face of unprecedented circumstances.”
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