Published: April 12, 2023
NEW YORK CITY — Sotheby’s annual March Asia Week New York auctions, spanning 4,000 years of history, featured extraordinary collections of rare and exceptional Chinese porcelains, early ceramics, jades and furniture, South Asian paintings and bronzes, as well as a selection of Tibetan Fifteenth Century thangkas, in five live and online auctions.
Concurrent with the Asia Week exhibitions was a special preview of porcelains from the Wolf family collection, one of the largest and most significant private collections of American art, sculpture, furniture and decorative arts, and Twentieth Century design to ever appear at auction. The ten-part single-owner sale series will take place at Sotheby’s New York beginning April 19.
The March auctions commenced with a landmark auction featuring 75 lots from across India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, capturing the beauty and diversity of art from the subcontinent. The star lot was Maqbool Fida Husain’s 1961 masterpiece, “Bulls.” This painting is one of the artist’s most recognizable works, gracing the cover of the seminal 1971 monograph on the artist, published by Harry N. Abrams. “Bulls” sold for a record-setting $2.7 million, exceeding the estimate of $1/1.5 million.
“Bulls” is one of the most important works by the Indian Modernist. The history of the work serves to illustrate the growth of Husain’s market, and that of modern South Asian art more widely. Formerly in the collection of Abrams himself, “Bulls” was exhibited in Husain’s first solo show in an American museum, the Worcester Art Museum, Mass., in 1974.
Next on March 21 was Celestial Colors: the Cadle family collection of Chinese monochromes. A testament to the collector’s discerning eye and exacting attention paid to quality, condition and provenance, this sale comprised an exceptional spectrum of monochromatic porcelains commissioned for the emperors of China’s three greatest dynasties — the Northern Song, Ming and Qing — and included representative examples of the most iconic Chinese glazes. Amassed mostly in the 1980s and advised closely by J.J. Lally & Co, the collection included pieces from some of the greatest private collections of Chinese works of art, including the collections of Edward T. Chow, T.Y. Chao and Henry Knight.
The highlight of the next sale, Indian and Himalayan art, including Masterpieces from the Nyingjei Lam collection, was a group of eight masterpieces of Tibetan art from the Nyingjei Lam collection, which was sold to raise funds to support medical and educational projects throughout Asia. The centerpiece of the assemblage was the sublime silver and gilt image of Milarepa, unparalleled in quality and widely exhibited and published. The Tibetan section also included a selection of Tibetan Fifteenth Century thangkas, including a large image of Vaishravana and a mandala of Nairatmya originally in the collection of Stella Kramrisch.
The last of the live auctions, Sotheby’s signature important Chinese art sale, featured an array of porcelains, early ceramics, jades and furniture from important private and museum collections. Leading this sale was a rare archaic jade ceremonial axe from the esteemed Guennol collection, which sold for more than $1 million, exceeding its estimate of $400/600,000. This jade axe is exceptional for the richly varied colors of the stone and the simple yet powerful silhouette. As the level of workmanship involved in the creation of jade objects was an indication of its owner’s importance, it is likely that the axe belonged to a powerful person who was in the position to command such an important piece.
Important Chinese art also featured a comprehensive selection of more than 60 Kangxi porcelains from the London dealer Marchant, as well as a group of rare imperial porcelains collected in the 1880s, being deaccessioned by a Northeastern Institution.
Closing the sale week was the China/5,000 Years online auction, which comprised a diverse selection of porcelain, textiles, early ceramics, bronzes, furniture and other works of art. Highlights included a group of Qing porcelains from the collection of Silas Friedlander, a Seventeenth Century kesi “phoenix” panel and a selection of hardwood furniture from a Massachusetts private collection, a group of Ming and Qing blue and white porcelain from a New York private collection and a variety of early bronzes from a Midwest private collection offered at no reserve.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For additional information, www.sothebys.com or 212-606-7000.
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