Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Asia Week 2010


by Wendy Moonan

Attending last month’s auctions of Chinese works of art was like watching a thrilling tennis match, as bidding quickly bounced back and forth from one end of the saleroom to the other.

Auction specialists on phone banks whispered in Chinese to clients on landline phones before waving their hands to bid, while Asian dealers on cell phones took instructions from their bosses in Beijing or Shanghai. Western dealers lost out early on most lots, as prices climbed to staggering highs.

It was a boon to the auction houses.
For the Enjoyment of Scholars: Selections from the Robert H. Blumenfield Collection. 25 March 2010, Christie's New York.

A RARE IMPERIAL ENGRAVED TURNED IVORY BOWL, 18TH CENTURY
Estimate: $30,000 - $50,000
Sold for $842,500
Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Including Property from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections. 25 March 2010, Christie's New York.
A MAGNIFICENT AND VERY RARE WHITE JADE PEACH-FORM BRUSH WASHER
QIANLONG PERIOD (1736-1795)
Estimate: $250,000 - $350,000
Sold for $902,500
A VERY RARE LARGE LIMESTONE FIGURE OF A KNEELING BODHISATTVA
10TH/12TH CENTURY
Estimate: $300,000 - $500,000
Sold for $914,500
Christie’s reported $60 million in sales from Asia Week (which includes Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Southeast Asian art). It was its second-highest total for Asia Week New York. Chinese works of art accounted for $40 million.

Many lots went to the same buyer, reportedly a Chinese building magnate who is putting together a private museum.

Sotheby’s Asia Week sales totaled $22.8 million, of which $14.4 million went for Chinese ceramics and works of art.
Fine Snuff Bottles from the Collection of Margaret Polak. Bonhams, New York, 24 March 2010.
An unusual blue overlay glass snuff bottle, Qianlong Period
Estimate: $6,000 - 10,000
Sold for $36,600
A Suzhou agate bottle, 19th Century.
Estimate: $6,000 - 8,000
Sold for $42,700
Bonhams had two sales and sold more than 100 snuff bottles from the collection of the American Margaret Polak for $911,005, an auction that was 98% sold by value.
The sale at Doyle Galleries achieved $3.1 million, triple the estimate.

Any discernable trends at auction? Perhaps a greater appetite for classical Chinese paintings, Imperial carved jade, rhino horn and (only exceptional) snuff bottles and less for lacquer, porcelain and cloisonné. At the same time, one must recall that dozens of galleries were selling works of equal or better value all over town. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, for example, bought a stunning Indian miniature watercolor, 1590, from dealer Carlton Rochell. It was a rare illustration for a particular Sanskrit fable.
Fine Japanese Works of Art. Bonhams, New York, 25 Mar 2010.
A GILT-BRONZE RITUAL CENSOR (EGORO) 13th century
Sold for $34,160
Fine Japanese Works of Art. Bonhams, New York, 25 Mar 2010.
LEONARD TSUGUHARU FOUJITA (1886-1968)
Portrait of a young man
Sold for $36,600
A RUSSET-IRON ARMOR WITH AN UCHIDASHI CUIRASS Helmet by Nagamitsu, 18th century
Sold for $64,050
A few auction highlights:

At Christie’s, a hand scroll painted on silk by Yu Zhiding titled “Happiness through Chan Practice: Portrait of Wang Shizhen” sold for $3.4 million, a new auction record for a classical Chinese painting sold in the U.S. It was from the collection of the American Robert H. Blumenfield, whose single-owner sale totaled $13.9 million.

An imposing and beautifully carved limestone figure of a Bodhisattva, 10th to 12th century, sold for $914,500 at the auction of property from the collection of Arthur M. Sackler, a golden provenance.

A pure white and very large jade figure of Buddha was the highlight of the various owners sale and achieved $3.2 million. Willow Hai Chang, director of the gallery at the China Institute, said the highly desirable color is called “sheep’s milk” in Chinese.
Sotheby’s New York. Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art. 23 March 2010.
Lot 92
Property from an Important North American Collection
Bada Shanren
Two Mynas on a Rock
Ink on paper
Est. $400/600,000
Sold for $2,994,500
Top: Lot 186
A White Jade ‘Bajixiang’ ‘Ruyi’ Scepter
Qing Dynasty, 18th Century
Est. $170/190,000
Sold for $482,500

Above: Lot 106
Zhang Daqian (Chang Dai-Chien, 1899-1983) and Pu Ru (1896-1963)
Album of eight figures and accompanying calligraphy
Est. $40/60,000
Sold for $662,500
At Sotheby’s, the two top sellers were pictures. “Two Mynas on a Rock,” a very modern-looking painting from 1692 by the highly sought-after artist Bada Shanren, sold for nearly $3 million.

The second-highest lot, a 20th-century portrait of a scholar in ink on paper by Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), sold for $903,500. “This artist did not paint that many figures and this one is quite good,” Ms. Chang said. “The scholar is probably one of the Taoist immortals, as he carried a staff and has a gourd hanging from his neck; the calligraphy reads ‘someone who is crazy about wine.’”
Sotheby’s New York. Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art. 23 March 2010.
Lot 168
A Fine and Rare Imperial ‘Zitan’ Stand and Base
Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period
Est. $180/250,000
Sold for $602,500
Lot 31
A Rare White Jade Vase, Cover and Stand
Qing Dynasty, 18th Century
Est. $70/90,000
Sold for $392,500
Lot 106 at Sotheby’s, an album of eight figures by the same artist with accompanying calligraphy by Pu Ru from 1947, made $662,500 against a high estimate of $60,000.

“The artist was related to the last emperor and went to Taiwan,” Ms. Chang explained.

Not that many years ago, traditional Chinese art and antiques were quite reasonable, especially when compared to the prices paid for contemporary art. Now the supply can barely meet the demand from Chinese collectors (there are 98 billionaires in China), so the market is sure to stay hot for a white. Stay tuned.
 
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