Total of $117 million is highest Asia Week total for Christie's
By Michele Leight
Christie's Asian Art sale achieved a stunning $117 million, the highest total for Asian Art Week for a series of seven sales at Christie’s New York, Rockefeller Center, from March 22 to 25, 2011. Jonathan Stone, International Head, Asian Art, said:
¬“The resounding success of Christie's New York Asian Art Week at $117 million, almost $40 million more than our previous record, is a testament to the outstanding property Christie's presented and to the robust market. Record prices in every category validate Christie's global leadership in Asian art.”
Commenting on the incredible variety and range of Asian art and artifacts on offer at Christie's Asian Art Week this season before the sales, Hugo Weihe, Christie's International Director Asian Art, said:
"This is the largest sale we have ever put together for Asian Art Week, and it is also one of the best." Mr. Weihe said that the pre-sale estimate for the series of sales was in the region of $65 million, "but of course we hope to do better" he added with a smile. The rest, as they say, is art auction history.
Whether the prices achieved were stratospheric for blockbuster bestsellers, or more reasonable for humbler works of art, nothing compromized the beauty, or the quality of a formidable number of choice offerings in each sale. This reflects a welcome trend that gives buyers at all levels a chance to get into the wonderful game of collecting art. The outstanding results are proof that this is also a winning strategy.
Art is also - in the opinion of this reviewer - targuably he best investment one could make because it can be lived with and shared. Also illustrated here are some "quiet stars" in this extraordinary week of sales. There are many more, unfortunately it is not possible to show or mention them all. These artworks reflect the vision, technical dexterity and sophistication of Asian artists, sculptors and artisans that have created masterpieces spanning thousands of years, from ancient Gandharan civilizaations to the present. The sheer scale of offerings - thousands of lots - had to be tantalizing and probably at times bewildering to buyers in an exciting week that has now etched itself firmly on the New York City calendar as "Asia Week." It was encouraging for buyers to be able to participate in sales that offered a wide variety of reasonable-to- high estimates, even if many lots did fly past their high estimates, there were still some really good deals to be had. Waiting patiently in the wings to bid on a $1,000 lot while the big guns shoot it out over the big ticket items can really pay off.
And there was more beauty on offer, this time without estimates or evaluations: an exeptional exhibition, "The Beauty of Art: Paintings and Calligraphy of Shi Lu," from the Private Collection of Robert Hatfield Ellsorth." This enlightened addition to Christie's Asian Art Week featured a collection of outstanding ink paintings created by a formidably talented Chinese artist who had his share of adversity during the Cultural Revolution in China, but whose art weathered the storm. Shi Lu endured personal and political trials few of us could imagine, let alone live through, but he has left us a great legacy, his art. It was a rare treat to view the paintings in a peaceful gallery designated specially for them. Their "freshness" was astonishing, given when they were created, not to mention the circumstances. It is miraculous they have survived. The catalogue for the exhibition is a collectible that includes moving poetry, and valuable information about the work, notably that most of the paintings have not been shown or published before. Hopefully this collection will remain together for as long as possible. In a perfect world they would never be separated, because they were created by a very brave man, and they represent an important and rare period in Chinese art history. A collection of this quality and "immediacy" will have the greatest impact "en famille," as a group.
The results for Christie's series of sales in chronological order are included below, together with top selling lots.
The James and Marilynn Alsdorf Collection was a standout in a week packed with stars, and achieved $4,486,438. It was 73% sold by lot / 91% sold by $. The top selling lot of this sale was Lot 118, "A Rare Conch Shell with Gilt Copper and Enamel Champleve mount, Tibeto-Chinese, and illustrated above. It had a pre-sale estimate of $200,000-300,000, and sold for $1,202,500.
Hugo Weihe, International Director of Asian Art and Specialist Head of Indian and Southeast Asian Art, New York, said: ¬“We saw clients from all over the world and new clients from various other categories come together to embrace the legacy built by James and Marilynn Alsdorf. Museum quality works with an illustrious history were much sought after, and the 10th century Sandstone Figure of Ganesha set a new record for a sculpture of this much-beloved deity achieving $932,500. We are delighted to have introduced the Alsdorfs¬’ vision to both new and seasoned collectors.”
Illustrated above is one of the most winsome offerings of Asia Week, Lot 42, "A Sandstone Figure of Ganesha," India, Uttar Pradesh, 10th Century, standing 32 inches tall. Probably the most popular deity in India - the bestower of good-fortune, and remover of obstacles - is widely percieved as an all-in-one deity: "Ganesha is good for everything" said an Indian friend. Praying to this Ganesha would bestow even more "luck" if his impressive size was factored in. One of the greatest joys of auctions is offerings like this. With his fantastical elephant head, and contentendly overweight human body, Ganesha is also embraced by other religions as noted in Christie's catalogue for this sale: "Although primarily a Hindu diety, Ganesha is also part of Buddhism and Jainism. In India Jains place Ganesha in doorways of temples and propitiate him at the beginning of ceremonies to remove obstacles."
Lot 42 had an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It sold for $932,500, far exceeding its high estimate.
Exquisite Lot 80, "A Gilt Bronze Figure of Indra," Nepal, 15th-16th Century, 12 1/8 inches, from The James and Marilynn Alsdorf Collection is illustrated at the top of this story, and was the cover lot of Christie's catalogue for this sale. The patina on this sculpture had to be seen to appreciate it fully. Lot 80 had an estimate of $250,000-350,000. It sold for $602,500.
The James and Marilynn Alsdorf Collection is the jewel in the crown of Christie's Indian and Southeast Asian Art sale this spring. This vibrant collection radiates with the enthusiasm of its owners, who clearly have a strong affinity for the ancient cultures and traditions of India, Southeast Asia and the Himalayan region, that was reflected in this sale which included choice works of art in all price ranges.
The auction offered 120 museum-quality works from the distinguished collection of long-time patrons of the Art Institute of Chicago including iconic pieces that were also exhibited at the Art Institute, where James Alsdorf served as Chairman from 1975 to 1978, and where Marilynn Alsdorf contniues to serve on various committees. Over some years, part of their collection was donated to the Art Institute and part given on long-term loan. The superb "A Gilt Bronze Figure of Indra," from Nepal, (Lot 80, estimate $250,000 to $350,000), illustrated with Ganesha at the top of this story, and other works from the collection were the subject of a special exhibition and publication in 1997, and were reinstalled in 2008 in gallery space designed by Renzo Piano. The catalog is packed with fascinating insights about the art, and the exceptional couple that collected it.
The Indian and Southeast Asian Art sale achieved $11,211,938, the highest total for this sale to date, and was 72% sold by lot / 77% sold by dollars. Perhaps the most memorable lot of this sale, Lot 240, "The Emaciated Siddharta" Or "Fasting Buddha," had an "estimate on request" and sold for $4,450,500.
Sandhya Jain Patel, Specialist of Indian and Southeast Asian Art, New York, said: “Today’s sale, ‘a collection of collections,’ was recognized for exceptional works with unusual histories, each reflecting the distinguished eye of the connoisseur. Many works went well above its estimate, with the Emaciated Siddhartha selling for the second highest price for a classical South Asian sculpture. In addition, the total for this sale is the highest achieved for Indian and Southeast Asian Art to date.”
Christie's catalogue for this sale notes: "A lover of art from a young age, connoisseur-collector Isao Kurita had a hobby of collecting antique Tanba ware when he was just twelve years old, growing up in a small vilage outside of Kyoto, Japan. This early interest developed into a serious passion in the mid-1970's, as he began stopping regularly in Pakistan to explore Gandharan sculpture when returning from business trips to France. He then turned his attention to the stoires of Buddha's life, and how these stories from the scriptures were expressed in the sculptural medium. Today, Mr. Kurita has become widely recognized in the field ofr his scholarly contributions, including the publication of several seminal books, 'Gandharan Art 1,11 (1988), 'Buddha's Life Story (2006) and 'Beautiful Gandharan Buddhist Sculptures (2007)"
Lot 203, (estimate $1,500 to $2,500), "A Group of Five Stucco Heads," Gandhara, 3rd/4th Century are beautiful, (illustrated in the cabinet), had a reasonable estimate, and offered a great opportunity for a budding collector. They are from the Isao Kurita Collection, an affirmation that exquisite collections include high priced and reasonably priced works of art. Lot 203 sold for $4,000.
Detail of Lot 323, "An Important Thangka With The Footprints of The Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje," Tibet, circa 1339
Lot 323, "An Important Thangka With The Footprints of The Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje," Tibet, Circa 1339, illustrated above, is a rare masterpiece created circa 1339, depicting two golden soles of a teacher's feet: "a tradition of commissioning drawings of a teacher's feet appears to be an oral instruction coming down from Gampopa Sonam Rinchen, the teacher of the First Karmapa, Dusum Kyenpa, and also of Pagmodrupa Dorje Gyalpo, who wrote a famous early text descriving this practice. Currently there are only four paintings know - in the East or the West - depicting a Karmapa and footprints, this is one of them" (Christie's catalog for this sale).
It is incredible to think that this painting has survived so many centuries in such beautiful condition. Lot 323 has an estimate of $280,000-350,000. It sold for $458,500.
this sale and illustrated
at the top of this story is Lot 324, "A Thangka of Manjushri,"
Tibet, 13th Century. It had an estimate of $180,000-250,000 and
Fom the Dani Ghigo Collection, Lot 255, "A Pair of Sandstone Figures of Vishnu and Lakshmi," are a divine couple from Angkor Wat, created in the 12th century, with an estimate of $150,000-200,000. Lot 255 sold for $182,500.
The South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art Sale achieved $9,832,600, and was 83% sold by lot / 74% sold by dollars. Lot 550 - Tyeb Mehta (1925-2009), "Bulls," an acrylic on canvas diptych painted in 2005-2007, illustrated above, had an estimate on request and sold for $2,826,500, setting a world auction record for the artist.
Hugo Weihe, International Director of Asian Art and International Specialist Head, South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art Department, New York, said: ¬“We were honored to have offered Tyeb Mehta¬’s final masterpiece and gratified to see it set a well-deserved world auction record for the artist. In addition, the auction saw solid results for Progressive Artists¬’ Group artists such as Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Syed Haider Raza, Francis Newton Souza and contemporary Indian artists also performed strongly. Deepanjana Klein, Head of Sale, Specialist, South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art Department, added: “This sale reflected the continued strength and breadth of this collecting field and witnessed lively bidding by international buyers on the telephone and on Christie’s LIVE¬™. This is a great start of the new season."
Going back in time to 1949, this wonderful early work by Raza is a gouache on oil on board that has an interesting inscription that includes "S.H. Raza/'Street'/Rs. 150/-'." Lot 518, "Street," has an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. It sold for $74,500. Rupees 150 is approximately 4 dollars! What a jewel this painting is, one of the highlights of the week of sales.
Incredibly contemporary, yet depicting one of the most "painted" duos in art history, Lot 635 "Untitled (Mother and Child)" by Jamini Roy (1887-1972) had a reasonable estimate of $8,000 to $10,000. It sold for $20,000, doubling its high estimate. Jamini Roy was one of the "quiet" stars of this sale. Of the 21 paintings on offer by him, most exceeded their high estimates, some significantly. His sparely rendered "women" do especially well, as do the deities. Not illustrated, Lot 501, "Untitled (Mother and Child)," with an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000 sold for $32,500. Lot 503, "Untitled (Three Women)," with an estimate of $$15,000 to $20,000, it sold for $35,000.
One of the finest paintings of Asia Week was Lot 524, "Untitled," a mystical work by V. S. Gaitonde, illustrated at the top of this story. Christie's catalogue for this sale notes: "The breakdown of representation seen in Gaitonde's use of symbols, calligraphic elements and hieroglyphs, as depicted here, serves as a bridge into his later fully abstracted paintings, while his concurrent study of Zen Buddhism further influence his thoughts towards process-oriented art." Lot 524, "Untitled," has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for $722,500, the second highest price achieved in this sale.
The Japanese and Korean Art sale achieved $14,840,350, and was 74% sold by lot / 87% sold by dollars. The top lot of the sale was Lot 854 - attributed to Kano Naizen (1570-1616), "Southern Barbarians Come to Trade," a pair of six-panel screens, that had an "estimate on request" and sold for $4,786,500, a world auction record for a Japanese panting.
Katsura Yamaguchi, International Director, Japanese and Korean Art said: "This sale was the 2nd highest sale total for the category and the Japanese screens attributed to Kano Naizen set a world auction record for a Japanese painting. In addition, the consignor of the screens will donate part of the proceeds to Japan in response to the on-going impact of the earthquake and tsunami."
The arts of Japan have been exquisite through the centuries, with no lapses, evident in the gorgeous art and artifacts on offer in this sale. The arts of Japan were also a huge influence on European Impressionist and Modern artists. That is a story on its own, and well-documented in art history books. Hiroshige and Utamaro prints were offered at this sale, and two were in the top ten selling lots, together with outstanding Japanese screens - there were so many of superb quality it was hard to choose only one to write about. The vases were as delectable, the armor and of course the palanquin, which greeted visitors in the lobby of Christie's, fully equipped with a finely appointed interior. The palanquin, and other art and artifacts of supreme quality, are reviewed separately on this site.
The blockbuster of this sale was the fantastic screen illustrated here, Lot 854, "Southern Barbarians Come to Trade," a six-paneled screen painted far back in time - 1570-1616 - depicting Christians, among other attractions, arriving in Japan. Till then the Japanese had not seen Western people, and Christie's International Director Katsura Yamaguchi humorously suggested that this must have seemed like the aliens landing in Stephen Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind!" Mr. Yamaguchi also remarked that this was the first time an elephant had appeared in a Japanese painting - an Asian elephant he added, which is smaller in size, shown on the far left of the screen. The Elizabethan gentleman depicted in the photograph (detail) above cut quite a dash on the beach in their ballooning pantaloons and round topped hats. What a fashion statement! A screen like this is both a work of art and a historical marvel. Who would have known about this expedition of Westerners to Japan - with their Asian elephant in tow - if the artist had not immortalized it?
Lot 1004, "A Rare and Important Blue and White Porcelain Dragon Jar for The Korean Royal Court, Joseong Dynasty (18th Century)" was so beautiful "in person" the photograph above does not come close to revealing its perfection. It literally glowed in its beautifully lit designated space - its only rival for the limelight was a sinuous and strategically placed orchid. Lot 1004 sold for $3,890,500.
Heakyum Kim, Specialist, Korean Art added: “Modern paintings from private collections realized solid results, especially works by Kim Whanki and Kim Tchah-Sup. I am also delighted the rare and important blue and white dragon jar (18th century) was so well received and became the top lot for the Korean section. Bidding was very active and buyers came from all over the globe.”
This sale achieved a staggering $23,012,225 and was 95% sold by lot and 99% sold by dollars. The top lot of the sale was Lot 1112, "A Magnificent Celadon-Glazed Carved Baluster Vase," Qianlong Seal Mark in Underglaze Blue and of the period (1736-1795), illustrated above. It had an estimate of $2,000,000 to $4,000,000, and sold for $7,922,500, a world auction record for Qing monochrome porcelain.
Tina Zonars, International Director of Chinese Works of Art said: “We were honored to be given the opportunity to offer this collection formed with such passionate connoisseurship. We were delighted that this material, which had not been seen on the market for some thirty years, was received with such enthusiasm by buyers in the room, on the phone and on Christie's LIVE¬™. In particular, spectacular results were achieved for the three top Imperial Qing monochrome porcelains, including a world record price for the superb archaistic celadon-glazed vase. "
Illustrated at the top of this review, (including a detail of its unique 'bird' handles), the incredibly beautiful blue (second) top-selling Lot 1147, "A Very Rare Blue-Glazed Flask-form Vase, Quianglong Seal Mark in Underglaze Blue and of the Period (1736-1795), sold for $5,458,500. Michael Bass, Co-Head of Sale, shows the Imperial seal on the base of this magnificent vase, one of the treasures of Asia Week. Another fine vase of the most exquisite pale celadon color, Lot 1135, "A Celadon-Glazed Double Gourd Vase, Quianlong Seal Mark In Underglaze Blue," and of the period (1735-1796), had an estimate of $150,000-250,000 and sold for $602,500.
This sale included many reasonably priced lots as well as the illustrated big ticket items. Shown below, Lot 1103, "A Large Bronze Drum," Chunyu, Late Eastern Zhou Dynasty," dates back to the 4th-3rd Century BC. This magnificent piece had an estimate of $10,000-15,000, and sold for $60,000. It is no wonder it is so lyrically described in Christie's catalogue for this sale: "Of rounded elliptical section, the sides rising straight up before swelling below a short waisted neck and flared rim that surrounds a standing tiger, the head detailed with facial features, and the body with spirals on the haunches, herringbone pattern on the legs, striations on the sides and a collar around the neck, with outstretched tail, with mottled pale green and blue-green patina..."
Some works of art just inspire poetry. Lot 1103 is 21ĺ inches hig
What can one say about this sale! The total achieved for Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Part I & Part II was $53,085,375, that was 84% sold by lot / 92% sold by dollars. The top selling lot was Lot 1294 - "A Rare and Finely Cast Gilt-Bronze Figure of Acuoye Guanyin," Dali Kingdom, Yunnan Province, 12th Century, with an estimate of Estimate: $500,000 to $ 800,000. It sold for $4,002,500, a WORLD AUCTION RECORD FOR A GILT BRONZE FIGURE FROM THE DALI KINGDOM. It was bought by Eskenazi Ltd.
Property from The Arthur M. Sackler Achieved $656,125. It was 97% sold by lot / 99% sold by dollars. The top selling lot was Lot 1208 - A Brownish-Olive Jade Ceremonial Blade, Yazhang, with an estimate: of $6,000 to $8,000. It sold for $206,500.
Michael Bass and Christopher Engle, Co-Heads of Sale, Chinese Works of Art, New York, said: “We are exceptionally pleased with the extraordinary results achieved on March 24 and 25. The strong prices in every category confirmed the strength of the market and the demand for high quality works of art, particularly from private collections. We were delighted by the world record price for the Dali Kingdom gilt bronze figure, which achieved $4,002,500. We were also very pleased to see remarkable prices for jades, ceramics, and archaic bronzes.”
The superb gentleman illustrated above was quite mesmerizing in Christie's galleries, garnering attention even though he was surrounded by fine bronzes of incredible beauty. Lot 1642, "A Magnificent Large Bronze Figure of Zhenwu," Ming Dynasty, 15th to 16th Century, is Property from the India House Club Collection, and originally from the Willard D. Straight collection, acquired prior to 1914 as stated in Christie's catalog for this sale. Lot 1642 had an estimate of $250,000-350,000. It sold for $2,210,500.
In beautiful condition, glowing on the wall behind Zhenwu was Lot 1341, "A Very Rare EmbroideredSilk Yellow-Ground Thangka," dateing from 1403-1435. It had an estimate of $80,000-120,000. It sold for $98,500.
Not illustrated is Lot 1747, "A Rare Robin's Egg Blue-Glazed Vase," with Quianglong impressed six-character seal mark and of the period (1736), and extraordinarly beautiful vase whose mottled blues fuse on the slick surface like fine capillaries and veins. It had an estimate of $50,000-70,000 and it sold for $92,500.
Lot 1297, "A Rare Large Carved and Painted Wood Figure of a Horse," Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220). It was a memorable sight in the galleries, evoking Trojan horses and ancient dramas. Lot 1297 had an estimate of $60,000-80,000. It sold for $98,500.
It was noticeable that The Big Apple was filled with many Asian visitors during Asia Week, who had an unprecedented opportuntity to visit exquisite shows at smaller galleries as well as famous museums featuring the arts of Asia - perfectly timed to coincide with the important Asian Art auctions. It is amazing how fast this market is growing.
Asia Week is also great fun, an opportunity to learn more about the arts of ancient cultures in Asia. Escaping the hurlyburly for a half-hour break, it was blissful to contemplate the winsome cats in Shi Lu's painting that had nothing better to do all day than play. This was only one of many gems in "The Beauty of Art: Paintings and Calligraphy by Shi Lu" from The Collection of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth.
Chinese ink is a famously challenging medium to control. A tiny slip here or there, and the work is ruined. Shi Lu, who created these beautiful ink paintings said: "I treasure the ink like my own life."
That, in a nutshell, is what art is really about, and why we love it. A photograph of the artist Shi Lu was included in the exhibition.
The "Asia Week" guide describes Asia Week New York 2011 as "an unprecedented collaboration among Asian art specialists, 5 auction houses, and 17 museums and cultural institutions in the metropolitan New York area from 18-26 March 2011. For more information please visit www.asiaweekny.com