By Michele Leight
Asia Week has become a very big deal in New York. Christie's Rockefeller Plaza galleries were packed during previews, and two lectures drew record attendees. From March 20-23rd, Christie's Asian Art Week will feature a staggering 1,800 lots in seven sales that are expected to realize in the region of $48 million, but will most likely exceed that estimate. Asia's rich and ancient arts span centuries, and this eagerly ancitipated week highlights the ascendance of two contemporary superpowers, India and China - once again - one must add, because these two nations had phenomenally sophisticated civilizations when most others were just getting started. The dates of execution - one bronze wine vessel was created in the 12th century B.C. -and superb quality of some of the artifacts are testament to Asia's illustrious history, and it is encouraging to see that present generation Asian artists are drawing on the treasure trove of their cultural past, often incorporating traditional themes and motifs into their work in innovative ways. Many have studied art and worked in America and Europe, and have become internationally acclaimed. Lot 131, the superb Tibetan mandala illustrated above is from The Doris Weiner Collection, which generated considerable excitement during previews, and there is lots more to drool over in that collection. Other fine collections include "Auspicious Treasures for Scholars and Emperors: Selections from The Robert H. Blumenfield Collection," "Luminious Perfection: Fine Chinese Mirrors from The Robert H. Ellsworth Collection," and South Asian paintings and sculpture from The Keehn Family Collection and Garden Silk Mills Ltd: The Chairman's Collection.
If only Asia Week could be Asian Art Month...then we would be able to savor all the treasures at less than break-neck speed. It really has become a phenomenon, and what better city is there on the planet to host such a dazzling spectacle than New York?
Christie's Asia Week New York sale achieved $69 million dollars.
Jonathan Stone, Chairman and International Head, Asian Art said: "Led by distinguished single owner collections, including The Doris Weiner Collection, Luminous Perfection: Fine Chinese Mirrors from The Robert H. Ellsworth Collection, and Auspicious Treasures for Scholars and Emperors: Selections from the Robert H. Blumenfield Collection, the week achieved an overall total of $69 million, which demonstrated our preeminence in this field."
Internationally there is enormous interest in contemporary works of art from South Asia, whose artists have long been "global citizens," and therefore keenly aware that our world has grown smaller, and more homogeneous. Hugo Weihe highlighted the emphasis on contemporary art this season in a gallery glowing with present-generation artist's works, as well as masterpieces of the Progressive Artists Group. Contemporary South Asian Art is now sought after in collections and museums across the world. The focus of these artists is universal and timeless, enabling people of all nations and ages to relate to them, regardless of hemisphere. It is even more exciting when the "new" is set against the backdrop of the past, which is one of the sublime joys of Asian Art Week.
This reviewer has long been a fan of Subodh Gupta's stainless steel utensils. Widely exhibited in museums and gallery shows across the world, - with three more museum shows in 2012 - and a favorite of global contemporary art connoiseurs, Gupta has now elevated these utilitarian cooking pots and pans to iconic star status. Lot 553, "Untitled" is a masterpiece, (illustrated above), and has an estimate of $180,000 to 250,000. It sold for $218,500. With characteristic mischieviousness, the artist subversively comments on the double standard posed by these impossibly shiny objects that can be found in most homes in India, where, unlike in the West, there is no culture of "designer" pots and pans - for the present! Almost every one has them. However, this work "is a commentary on contemporary India, transitions, and the inherent contradictions of globalization. Stainless steel utensils are symbols of traditional Indian family life that transcend class, religion and ethnicity, being one of the first truly aspirational objects of modern India" (Christie's catalogue for this sale).
Deepanjana Klein, Head of Sale, South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art, said that several present-generation artists whose pieces are included in the South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art sale are New York based - Zarina, for example, has lived and worked in New York for decades - and many South Asian artists have studied art in Europe and America. While this has influenced their work, it has not extinguished their awesome cultural heritage. For many, it seems only to have enhanced their appreciation of it. This blurring of boundaries creates an exciting edge, because it reflects the world we live in.
The dizzying array of art and artifacts in Christie's galleries offer thought-provoking contrasts: the contemporary - Zarina's delicate "pin" drawings, Lot 502, detail illustrated at the top of this review - and ancient Chinese mirrors, for example. The sheen on the surface of Lot 1779, a luxurious monumental gilt bronze Vairocana from the Ming Dynasty (Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art sale) and Lot 552, "Crawling House," with its tiny, meticulously cut and, humble molded tin rooftops, also by Zarina, one of a group of artist's who represented India at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011. Lot 552 has an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. Both are illustrated above. Lot 1779, 'A Very Rare and Importan Gilt-Bronze Figure of Vairocana," has an estimate of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000, and was originally in the Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge Collection. The ultimate shine award goes to Lot 92, the magnificent 13th century Nepalese "An Important Gilt Bronze Figure of Padmapani," illustrated below, from The Doris Weiner Collection. Lot 92 has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It sold for $2,490,500.
Several pieces by Zarina did very well in this sale: Lot 502, "Untitled,"one of a pair of "pin drawings," sold for $32,500 (with an estimate of $12,000 to 15,000). Lot 501, another "pin drawing" sold for $16,250. Lot 552, "Crawling House," illustrated above, sold for $22,500.
Several works of art literally "shine" this season, such as the fantastic gilt bronzes in The Doris Weiner Collection and Indian and Southeast Asian Art sales, the silvery mirrors of China's ancient past, Raqib Shaw's exquisitely naughty fantastical creatures embellished with gold and rhinestones, and Subodh Gupta's glittering stainless steel utensils, to name only some. "Shine" has a special significance in Asia, often alluding to the divine, or to kings and emperors, who were also thought to be "gods" by their subjects. The halos and gold leaf deployed in the most heavenly Renaissance art and Mughal miniatures, Russian icons, and Byzantine mosaics depicting religious subjects have a lot of "shine" too. It is a universal artistic language that references the divine, monarchs and movers and shakers that were important to their civilization.
Contemporary artists are formidably adept in their chosen medium, and it is clear that the virtuoso techniques of their creative ancestors are alive and well in them. Painstaking attention to detail, like that of the Mughal miniaturists, are celebrated in the work of Raquib Shaw, Nalini Malani, Shazia Sikander and Rashid Rana, among others. The glittering butterfly illustrated above is a detail from Lot 554, "Untitled," by Raqib Shaw, with an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. This totally contemporary mixed media work evokes Mughal jewelry and painting, and incorporates oil, metallic paint, glitter, sequins and graphite on paper. Shaw's naughty subject matter would undoubtedly have shocked Shah Jehan's court painters, however!
The artists, sculptors and artisans of Asia have immortalized nature through the centuries, and this week of sales in New York is a feast of flora and fauna, wildlife and landscapes. Lot 1932, "A Rare Finely Carved Mottled Green Jadeite Mountain" - the utterly fantastical jade illustrated above - will be offered in the Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art sale (Part II), and there are many other superb carved objets d'art in bamboo, exotic wood, rhinoceros horn and lacquer in this sale. Lot 1932 has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000.
The lustrous beauty - and mouth-watering colours - of fine Chinese ceramics have lured collectors since they were first created, including many emperors. Lot 2090, "A Very Rare Large Ru-Type Hexagonal Vase" is a masterpiece created between 1736-1795, and has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. Chinese artisans and carvers celebrated the earths finest resources and created exquisite vases and jades like this without the sophisticated tools and machines available today. Another spectacular object with a purpose - it is an ink palette - incorporates a delectable bunny nestling in bamboo. The cover of Lot 1274 is illustrated above and is one of the highlights of Christie's sale that will be offered in "Auspicious Treasures for Scholars and Emperors: Selections from The Robert H. Blumenfield Collection." Lot 1274, "An Extremely Rare Imperial Small Songhua Ink Palette, Box and Cover" has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. A choice object fit for a king - or queen - it did actually belong to an emperor. It sold for $362,500.
Modern South Asian artist's chronicle our increasingly crowded world and urban landscapes, like the superb monochromatic work by Akbar Padamsee, illustrated at the top of this review with Hugo Weihe, Christie's International Director, Asian Art, and International Specialist Head, Indian and Southeast Asian Art, who said that Akbar Padamsee painted Lot 547, "Cityscape," in one night in an empty badminton court outside his home in Juhu. This monumental work depicts the moonlit rooftops and architecture of Mumbai, where the artist lived and worked. The painting was executed in 1959, during the artist's Gray Period, for his first solo exhibition in Bombay after spending ten years working in Paris. The exhibition was a breakthrough event for the artist, and in the Indian art scene.
Lot 547 sold for $1,314,500.
Some Contemporary artists remind us of the less glamorous aspects of 21st century life - urban detritus - brilliantly camouflaged in another monumental work by Rashid Rana, this time a digital cibachrome print mounted on Diasec, shown above (right) with Deepanjana Klein, Head of Sale, South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art. Lot 603, "The World Is Not Enough," by Rashid Rana, (right), is an optical illusion. Upon close inspection the miniaturized, pixilated images become a gruesome commentary on urban decay, consumerism and disposable cluture. Thousands of photographs taken of a landfill outside Lahore - where Rana is based - have been digitally stitched together in this almost Abstract Expressionist composition:
"By using a subject which is overlooked and considered to be worthless Rana presents the viewer with an unresolved problem: the very vision they find so beautiful and transcendent is actually made from the ever-growing waste of society" (M. Hilsman, commenting on The World Is Not Enough, text courtesy of the artist, included in Christie's catalogue for this sale). Rashid Rana highlights a global problem. Landfills are the price the earth pays for the things we throw away that do not perish. He is an extremely important contemporary artist whose work has received great acclaim internationally.
Lot 603, "The World Is Not Enough" sold for $80,500. The other paintings in this photograph will be described in the dedicated review of this sale.
Deepanjana Klein also focused on Zarina's cutting edge work - enigmatic "pin paintings" that recall India's ancient art of "shadow-work" stitchery - that she has been doing for decades in New York. A detail of Zarina's exquisite "pin paintings" and her more recent "Crawling House," are illustrated at the top of this review. Zarina was born in 1937.
Drawing inspiration from ancient texts, modern artists like Tyeb Mehta re-interpret Durga, the warrior goddess of India's ancient Hindu epic, with the minimalist's economy of line. Lot 529, "Untitled (Figures with Bull Head)," illustrated above, is a timeless masterpiece that invokes Ingres, Matisse and Picasso, and is from Garden Silk Mills Ltd: The Chairman’s Collection. Paintings like this have the power to re-vitalize ancient texts for a new generation of art and history lovers - and anyone that loves a great story - no matter how old they are. Lot 529 has an estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000. It sold for $1,762,500.
Among a wealth of treasures, The Indian and Southeast Asian Art Auction includes ancient sandstone carvings, and several collectible buddhas from different parts of Asia. One, illustrated above, is an especially beautiful, pensive bodhisattva, with a reasonable estimate of $80,000 to $100,000, that originates from the Gandharan region, during the Kushan period of the 2nd/3rd century. The patina of centuries on these ancient artworks is moving. It seems miraculous that they have survived for so long. Lot 707 sold for $158,500.
Katsura Yamaguchi, Senior Director and International Specialist Head, Japanese Art, Christie's, drew attention to Lot 974, a striking monochromatic "Iron Oxide and Slip-Decorated Earthenware Incense Burner" by Ogata Kenzan (1663-1743), from the Edo period, circa 1715, which, he said made it a precious document of the early years of the artist's Chojiyamachi period, because few pieces by the artist can be dated. Mr. Yamaguchi said the incense burner was once in the collection of Mrs. Leland Stanford (1828-1905), who founded Stanford University, and subsequently in The Art Gallery and Museum of Stanford University. In Christie's catalogue for this sale there is a wonderful photograph of Mrs. Stanford in Egypt - on horseback in front of the Pyramids - taken on her round the world tour. Lot 974 has an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. It is illustrated in greater detail below. Lot 974 sold for $194,500.
Korean ceramics are world famous for their luminous beauty, and this sale includes an important blue and white porcelain jar with dragons and tigers created during the Joseon Dynasty of the 18th century. The catalogue for this sale states that "the jar is a true masterpiece, decorated with a rare confrontation between dragons and tigers, which are both prevalent in Korean mythology." Heakyum Kim, Specialist, Korean Art, Christie's, said they were honored to be able to offer this vase, which is illustrated here.
Comprising 650 lots, "Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art," is the largest of the sales and offers several exceptional and awe-inspiring ancient bronzes, spectacular luminious jades, fine paintings, exquisite ceramics, and highly desireable furniture and objet d'art in a dazzling range of materials and techniques. The superhuman task of organizing this sale is undertaken by Co-Heads of Department, Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, Michael Bass, (left) and Christopher Engle (center), shown above surrounded by gorgeous Chinese furniture and ceramics. On the left, (foreground), on an important table, is Lot 1501, "A Finely Cast Bronze Ritual Wine Vessel, GU," from the Shang Dynasty, created in the 12th century B.C., a mind-blowing date for anything to have survived that long, and part of what makes Asia Week so amazing. What, one must ask, were the people of other civilizations drinking wine out of at that time? Gourds, perhaps, or coconuts? This wine goblet was created twelve centuries before the birth of Christ! It is doubtful if any other civilization offered their top brass wine vessels as sophisticated as this at important dinners. Lot 1501 sold for $578,500 and had an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000, which is not a lot to ask for an artifact that has survived that many centuries.
The gorgeous table is Lot 1746, "A Fine and Rare Large Huanghuali Painting Table, Hua'An," from the 17th century, with an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It sold for $1,202,500. Chinese furniture does consistently well at auction, and this table should be no exception. Other Chinese works of art from this sale have been highlighted earlier in this review.
More highlights from each sale are illustrated below and individual sales will be reviewed separately on this site.
Christie's Asian Art auctions begin with 400 lots from the highly anticipated and important single-owner sale, The Doris Weiner Collection, featuring exquisite paintings and sculpture from Gandhara, the Himalayas, India and Southeast Asia. Established in 1961, Ms. Weiner's gallery was located across the road from The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the collector and connoiseur was instrumental in placing top works of great beauty in fine institutions and museums across the world.
Lot 92, the magnificent 13th century Nepalese "An Important Gilt Bronze Figure of Padmapani," illustrated at the top of this review, is one of the highlights of this sale, said Hugo Weihe, and has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It sold for $2,490,500. Mr. Weihe explained that "Padmapani" means "holder of the lotus," one of the many guises of the bodhisattva of compassion, one of the princple deities in Mahayana Buddism. Although he has attainted enlightment like the Buddha, this bodhisattva forgoes his longed-for escape from the suffering of rebirth to act as a guide to all living beings until they have achieved nirvana.
Hugo Weihe said Lot 60, "An Important Bronze Group of Somaskanda," from South India, Chola period (circa 11th century) was one of Doris Weiner's favorite pieces. It is easy to see why. It was exhibited at "The Sensuous and the Sacred: Chola Bronzes from South India," at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington D.C., The Dallas Museum of Art and The Cleveland Museum of Art, between November 2002 and September 2003. Centuries ago, and centuries ago this beautiful sculpture would have been carried out in a procession, bedecked in garlands, for the benefit of devotees. There are wonderful photographs in the catalogue for this sale of Ms. Weiner with this magnificent sculpture, and many others, and also with her husband who supported her passion for collecting. Lot 60 has an estimate of $800,000 to $1,200,000. It sold for $1,818,500.
Lot 131,"A Thangka of Four Mandalas of Hevajra" from Tibet, 16th century, is illustrated at the top of this review and is a masterpiece. Seated at the center of the painting next to a female deity - Jnana Dakini - is Abhayakaragupta, author of the Vajravali text upon which this painting is based. For a painted work of this antiquity, it is in remarkable condition. Lot 131 has an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. It sold for $866,500.
Doris Weiner was born in 1922 and died in 2011. In a moving tribute to his friend, Pratapaditya Pal writes this in his essay entitled "Remembering Doris Weiner" in Christie's catalogue for this sale:
"I first met Doris and her husband Ed (1918-1991) in New York in the summer of 1964 when I visited the city while still a research scholar at Cambridge, U.K. If I remember correctly, I was introduced to them by Nasli Heeramaneck (1900-1970) who was the first dealer of Indian art I met in America. Doris was the second. Shortly after joining Boston (Museum of Fine Arts) I met all theother major dealers in the field. And what a bunch they were: Robert H. Ellsworth, J.J. Klejman, Peter Marks, William Wolff, Ben Heller, Isidor Kahane, to name just a few of the pre-eminent ones. It was a new world and experience for me. Until then I thought that art belonged only to in situ archaeological monuments and museums...." and "Let us not forget, it should be evident from the names of the colossi dealers given above, who bestrode the golden age of collecting Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art, it was essentially a male dominated world. Doris was the first woman in our field to breach that gendered fence and have her own gallery on Madison Avenue. Let us also remember that behind every successful entrepreneur woman there is a man who encourages her..."
It is a testament to Doris Weiner's reputation that the main floor galleries displaying her collection were literally "standing room only" during previews! There are great stories attached to many of the purchases that Doris Weiner made, which show how much she loved what she collected, even though it was her "work." The lots illustrated in the photograph with Sandhya Jain Patel, Specialist, Southeast Asian Art, Christie's, will be described in the dedicated review of this sale, with further insights by Pratapaditya Pal.
The Doris Weiner Collection achieved $12,796,438.
Hugo Weihe, International Director, International Specialist, Head of Indian and Southeast Asian Art said:
"The sale of The Doris Weiner Collection marked a milestone for the field. Realizing nearly $12.8 million, this is the highest total ever achieved for a single owner collection of classicl Indian and Southeast Asian Art at Christie's. The Collection included an outstanding group of exceptionally rare and beautiful works - a testament to Ms. Wiener's discerning eye as a doyenne in the field. Many star lots of the sale performed significantly above their pre-sale estimates, especially the important gilt bronze figure of Padmapani and the important bronze group of Somaskanda, reflecting a market that honors quality and provenence. We were delighted to see wide international participation by buyers in th room, on the phone, and on Christie's LIVE."
What a collection of Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art! Masterpieces by Tyeb Mehta, Akbar Padamsee, Syed Haider Raza, Francis Newton Souza and Maqbool Fida Husain share the limelight with contemporary giants Subodh Gupta, Rashid Rana, Atul Dodiya, Anju Dodiya, Jitish Kallat, Nalini Malani, Rina Bannerjee, Raqib Shaw and Zarina, among others. This is an exciting time for collectors of South Asian art, who come from all over the world: South Asian art has gone global, evidenced by the inclusion of their work in major museum and gallery shows across the world.
Property from two important collections will be offered in this sale: The Keehn Family Collection and Garden Silk Mills Ltd: The Chairman's Collection, which includes Tyeb Mehta's superb Lot 529, "Untitled "Figure with Bulls Head," (illustrated in this review), one of a suite of works painted created in Shantiniketan in 1984. Lots 529-542 of this sale are from The Garden Silk Mills Ltd. Collection, and reflect the vision of Mr. Praful Shah, Chairman of Garden Silk Mills, that bridges tradition and modernity, and demonstrates his obvious love for the arts of India. It sold for $1,762,500.
John D. Rockefeller III founded the legendary Asia Society in New York, and the Indian Cooperative Union and the American Association for Economic and Social Development (AAESD) in Delhi in 1952. He was devoted to the promotion of Asian American relations, and that far-sighted and noble legacy continues to this day, notably in the Asia Society. His brother, Nelson Rockefeller, hired Thomas Keehn to be the representative of the Rockefeller Foundation at AAESD in 1952. The Keehns lived in Delhi from 1953-1961, and both Tom and Martha Keehn befriended legendary Indian artists of the Progressive Artist's Group at a pivotal time in their careers - including Maqbool Fida Husain.
The memories of the eight years they spent in India are documented in "India Ink: Letters from India 1953-61 by Martha McKee Keehn and The Keehn Family Collection of Modern Art," by T.B. Keehn (New Delhi, 2000). Lot 514, "Untitled (Keehn Family Portrait)" by Maqbool Fida Husain is one of several from the collection offered in this sale, and was exhibited at "The Keehn Collection: Important Paintings of Post-Independence India," Bose Pacia, New York, September-October 1997. The Keehn Collection offered here concludes the selection presented in September 2011, which was a great success "and speaks not least of the works on offer but also of the recognition of the the contribution of Tom and Martha Keehn to the most formative stages of what we know today as Modern India art" (Christie's catalogue for this sale). Lot 514 has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $206,500.
Illustrated above is Lot 608, "Mother India (Courage) 1 (Red Babies)," by Nalini Malani, an acrylic and enamel reverse painting on acrylic sheet, a technique used for religious paintings on glass in India in the past. Here, the artist tells a poignant story:
"Unlike Sita and Medea and thousands of women, whose freedom and individualities have been preyed upon by deep-rooted traditions and claustrophobic social practices, 'Mother India (Courage)' does not give in - she is relentless in her quest for a life of respect and happiness. Clad in soiled dress, she has two new-born babies; she continues her journey with a whip in one hand and a nipple in the other," (S. Mitra, 'In Charge, Out There: Portrait of Alice,' Art India Mumbai, p.93 illustrated, included in Christie's catalog for this sale). Nalini Malani was born in 1946.
Lot 606, "She was Primitive and Childish but Escaped extinction by Playing into Public Curiosity," by Rina Bannerjee is a fantastical composition that harbors serious subject matter, which the artist describes:
"'Empires, when they grow rapidly, do so by accumulating and consuming, eating what was never theirs. Perpetually seizing land and amassing beautiful, bizarre foreign objects, these empires were also being eaten and possesed. Like fine continuous threads, we denizens of empires become entangled with each other's tastes in an infinite messy web of exchange, dominated by commerce by land, by sea and by air.' Bannerjee translates this visually into a dream-like world, an idealistic universe of strange creatures amongst an explosion of hybrid flora and fauna.'" (Christie's catalogue for this sale).
Rina Bannerjee was born in 1963 and began her career as a polymer researcher - there is a touch of the alchemist and magician in her work - consulting for Dow Chemical and NASA. She left science and completed the MFA in painting at Yale University School of Art. Christie's catalogue for this sale notes that her most recent exhibitions in the last year include her solo exhibition at the Musee Guimet, Paris, and the Yokohama Triennial, "Our Magic Hour," Japan, curated by Akiko Miki, 2011. Lot 606 has an estimate of $12,000 to $18,000. It sold for $15,000.
Smart, beautiful, disturbing - caring about the world we live in - contemporary works of art by present-generation artists bring the cultural heritage of South Asia full circle. And what a fascinating culture it is, encompassing myths and legends, ancient epics, gods and goddesses, empires striking back, dark urban legends, visual chronicles of out-of-control consumer culture, and a searing but non-judgmental scrutiny of the practices and oversights of humanity.
A dedicated review of this sale will follow on this site.
This sale is a treasure trove for collectors, featuring a dazzling array of art and artifacts in all price ranges, with a multitude of buddhas in various degrees of "shine," and Indian sculpture and paintings, works of art from Gandhara, Tibet, Nepal, Thailand and Indonesia. Shown above is an absolutely exquisite gilt bronze, 11 inches high. Lot 825, "A Gilt Bronze Figure of Tara," that was created in Tibet in the 15th century, and is of superme quality. Shine on, is all one can say about his piece. It has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. This lot will be described in a dedicated review of this sale.
One of the top lots of this sale, an important buff sandstone figure of Salabhanjika, will be illustrated in a dedicated review of this sale. She, too, is an absolute beauty. Illustrated above is another superb top "A Large and Important Gilt Bronze Fifure of Buddha," from Nepal, created in the 14th century, with an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. It is flanked by two beautiful Tibeto-Chinese thangkas, circa 18th century, that are unusually rich in vegetation and clouds. Lot 775, "A Thangka of Vajramrita Mandala," and Lot 776, "A Thangka of Buddhakapala Mandala," have very reasonable estimates of $6,000 to $8,000. Christie's catalogue for this sale notes "The depiction of trees and landscape in this lot and the next demonstrate a Western influence in landscape paonting that is found in other 18th century Chinese paintings.
Lot 775 sold for $40,000. Lot 776 sold for $43,750.
Lot 836, "An Important Buff Sandstone Torso of Uma," Khmer, Angkor Period, 10th Century, sold for $ 1,142,500, and will be described in a dedicated review of this sale.
Hugo Weihe, International Specialist, Head of Indian and Southeast Asian Art, said:
Following on the tremendous success of the Doris Wiener Collection, we are pleased that this sale showed great strength in Himalayan, South Indian, and Khmer works of art.
Sandhya Jain-Patel, Specialist of Indian and Southeast Asian Art, New York, added: "In a saleroom packed with international buyers, we saw stronger interest from China and India and continued interest from Europe and the US, demonstrating the widespread appeal of this category."
Beautiful Japanese works of art include Lot 989,a late 16th-early 17th century screen of "Scenes in and Around the Capital," from the Momoyama Period, whose artist remains anonymous. He did take some artistic liberties in this wonderful celebration of the city of Kyoto, however, depicting the Kitano Shrine, erected in 1607, and the Great Buddha Hall, which was burned down in 1602. Christie's catalogue for this sale includes a fascinating story:
"On the left screen, singular details added by the anonymous town painter (machi-eshi) include the portrayal of the women's quarters within the imperial palace compound: two women are shown seated inside a room in the second storey of a structure labeled "Takakiya." Women's kabuki is performed on a stage at the center of the second panel. A woman performer named Okuni introduced Kabuki to Kyoto in 1604, when she was grated a stage near Kitano Shrine in the northwestern section of the capital. Women's kabuki was prohibited in 1629, to be replaced by performances by young boys. By mid-century the boys were replaced by older men, who were considered less promiscuous." Lot 989 has an estimate of $700,000 to $900,000.It is illustrated on the right behind the Samurai armor.
Illustrated on the left is Lot 1009, "Farming in the Four Seasons," four sliding doors mounted as four hanging scrolls. These exquisite ink on paper panels once graced Kenniji, one of the earliest and most important Zen temples in Kyoto. Lot 1009 has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.
Also illustrated above are formidable Samurai suits of armor, including Lot 908, (front), "A Shiwakawatsumi Nimai Do Gusoku (Leather-Clad Two-Piece Cuirass Armor) from the Edo period, 18th century - with a detachable nose. Unlike most military uniforms it is decorated with butterflies, a phoenix, and flora and fauna. These gorgeous suits of armor capture the honor and bravery of Japanese Samurai warriors. One can almost hear them thundering by on horseback. Lot 908 has an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000, and is accompanied by a certificate of registration as a Juyo bunka shiryo (Important Cultural Material) no. 520 issued by thh Japanese Armor Preservation Society.
In every auction there is a work of art one just loves, and here is one. Lot 961, "An Elaborate Gold, Silver and Shakido Model of a Court Carriage," was created in the early 20th century, and signed "made by Kozan, Kyoto goldsmith" on the underside of the lid. It has a matching "step-up stool." Now how elegant is that? A nobleman would never be caught scrambling into this contraption any old how! He needed a step-up stool. When no one was looking, it is very likely that the poor souls that pulled this carriage and the noblemen indulged in a nice nap inside it.
Lot 961 has an estimate of $120,000 to $180,000. It sold for $98,500. As previously mentioned, Lot 974, "An Iron Oxide And Slip Decorated Incense Burner" sold for $194,500.
The sale of Chinese works of art begins with 137 lots comprising absolutely delectable paintings, objects and artifacts from "Auspicious Treasures for Scholars and Emperors: Selections from the Robert H. Blumenfield Collection," a single-owner sale of highly collectible works of art that follows the successful 2010 sale "For the Enjoyment of Scholars," reviewed on this site. Acquired over the past forty years, the Robert H. Blumenfield Collection ranks among the most significant collections of Chinese scholar’s objects in the world. The winsome bunnies illustrated earlier in this review were carved at diminutive scale, and Lot "An Extremely Rare Imperial Small Songhua Ink Palette, Box and Cover" actually belonged to an emperor, who is referenced by the bamboo, and the dragon emerging from waves carved inside of the palette (not illustrated).
The three masterpieces illustrated above are all signed by the artists that created them. They are, left to right, Lot 1249, "An Extremely Rare Yixing Lotus Petal-Form Water Vessel," signed Chen Mingyuan, mid-17th to late 18th century, with an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $506,500; Lot 1253, "A Very Rare Beige Yixing Double Peach-Form Water Pot," signed Chen Mingyuan, and has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $386,500; Lot 1246, "A Very Rare Yixing Slip-Decorated Brush Pot," signed Yang Jichu, Quianglong Period (1736-1795), and has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $362,500.
This gnarly, eco-friendly brush pot would hold its own in any show of contemporary sculpture - how modern, sculptural and spectacular it is. Its creator was a genius. Lot 1309, A Large Huanghuali Tree Trunk-Form Scroll Pot," has an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000, and there are several more tree-trunk form scroll pots in this remarkable sale. It sold for $230,500. Stay tuned for a review of this sale.
Tina Zonars, International Director of Chinese Works of Art said"
"Superb scholars objects, such as the rare Yixing lotus petal-form vessel, and outstanding furniture and other furnishings, such as the large huanghuali tree trunk form scroll pot, were particularly sought after and enthusiastically pursued. This sale attracted a further increase in the number of Chinese buyers, as well as strong participation from western collectors and dealers. Solid prices across the board confirmed the vision and foresight of this unique collector, who amassed this wonderful group of objects over a period of more than 40 years."
A unique single-owner sale, "Luminous Perfection: Fine Chinese Mirrors from the Robert H. Ellsworth Collection," reveals a singular passion of the legendary collector, who was able to amass this superb collection of rare and important mirrors that span more than 2,000 years, beginning with the Warring States period (475-221 BC) through to the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). With all our technological savvy and scientific advances, it is doubtful if an artisan today could create anything as fantastic as the silvery bronze mirror with cranes from the Tang dynasty (618-907) that leads this portion of the sale (estimate of $100,000 to $150,000), illustrated at the top of this review. Glass was not invented back then, so these gorgeous mirrors fashioned from a high tin-content bronze that produced a bright silvery patina when they were buffed and polished, were the only way people could see reflections of themselves.
Lot 1450 "A Very Rare Silvery Bronze Octalobed Mirror With Rhinoceroses" was created in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The strangle and wonderful creatures depicted on it do not look much like rhinoceroses because the animals were already extinct in China. It is unlikely that the artists would have seen a real rhino, even though a real rhinoceros was sent to the capital city Chang'an in 796, notes Christie's catalogue for this sale. The reverse of this exquisite mirror was highlighted by Michael Bass, because it depicts a finely engraved Guanyin seated on a lotus throne. Lot 1450 has an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. It sold for $68,500.
More fascinating mirrors will be illustrated in a review of this sale. They really are exceptional.
Lot 1462, illustrated at the top of this review, "A Magnificent and Very Rare Silvery Bronze Octalobed Mirror With Cranes" sold for $482,500.
Michael Bass, Co-Head with Christopher Engle of Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, Christie's, talks about archaic Chinese bronzes, including the spectacular 12th Century B.C. wine vessel, illustrated above, that speaks volumes about Asia Week. How often does one get to see a vessel as old as this? Whoever is lucky enough to own it has won a real prize. Lot 1501,"A Finely Cast Bronze Ritual Wine Vessel, Gu," has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. Also illustrated at the rear is Lot 1508, "A Rare Bronze Ritual Rectangular Food Vessel," Fangding," Late Shang Dynasty, Anyang, 12th-11th century B.C. It has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000.
Illustrated above is the cover lot of Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Part I, Lot 1505, "A Rare Well-Cast Ritual Bronze Ritual Wine Vessel, Zun, Late Shang Dynasty, created in the 11th century B.C. It has a delicious milky green patina thanks to its immense age, a hooked beak, taloned feet and large oblong eyes. Lot 1505 has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $$578,500. Behind this extraordinary vessel is Lot 1717, "A Rare Cloisonne Enamel Archaistic Faceted Vase, Zun, 15th to 16th century, with an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000.
Michael Bass and Christopher Engle, Co-Heads of Department, Chinese Works of Art, New York, said:
"Highly aggressive bidding for rare furniture and bronzes featuring impressive provenance, such as the superb huanghuali painting table and an archaic bronze fangding, led a marathon sale spread over two days. Exceptional prices were also achieved in many of the other categories offered, including snuff bottles, jade carvings, early pottery and Ming and Quing porcelains."
These treasures give some idea of
range and materials of Chinese art and artifacts through the ages.
Sadly it is not possible to illustrate more within the confines
of this review.
Asia Week New York was a great success for Christie's, and for this wonderful city.
In addition to the auction houses - Christie's, Sotheby's, Bonhams, Doyles, iGavel - at least 34 galleries participate in Asia Week, each telling fascinating stories about Asian artists of the past and the present. All are open to the public - some by appointment only - which represents an unprecedented opportunity to learn about the arts of Asia. Stories abound of gods and kings, samurai and princeses, deities and buddhas. Some have inspired the contemporary heroes and she-roes children are familiar with today, who originated in these myths and legends.
There are lessons to be learned from the incredible patronage of the arts in civilizations now long departed, whose leaders understood that the only way to preserve their heritage beyond their tenure was to ensure that their artisans and artists could live and work in peace - so they supported them. The fruits of their labor and inspiration now educate and inspire us, and hopefully succeeding generations. It is an incredible legacy.
Many wonderful lectures are offered during Asia Week. For more information about them, and participating auction houses and galleries, visit www.asiaweekny.com.
New York City is a hot house of history, culture and the arts, which are passionately supported here. Asia Week offers a golden opportunity to enjoy a spectacular show. Don't miss it...