As Asia Week New York 2016 (AWNY) begins, dealers, buyers, and Asian art lovers have started converging on New York, where Asian works of art spanning millennia will be shown and bought.
Last year, during the seventh AWNY, sales reached an unprecedented total of $360 million.
This year, from March 10 to 19, four auction houses are holding numerous sales that continue to attract an international audience in terms of both consignment and buyers.
Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Bonhams, and Doyle are holding their sales during Asia Week, while iGavel is holding a viewing of its exhibition Asian, Ancient, and Ethnographic Works of Art with the online auction to follow— March 29–April 19.
Over 700 works are coming on the market via Christie’s like imperial Ming and Qing Dynasty porcelain, gilt-bronze Buddhist sculpture, Chinese furniture and scholar’s objects, and Chinese and Bengal School paintings. The pieces include archaic ritual bronze vessels, jade and hardstone carvings, lacquerware, thangkas, snuff bottles, and more.
The lineup from Christie’s during Asia Week comprises eight sales, and features the Dongxi Studio, the Collection of Guy and Marie-Hélène Weill, the Ian and Susan Wilson Collection, the Lahiri Collection, and Part II of the Ruth and Carl Barron Collection.
The Dongxi Studio collection is a highlight if you are interested in Chinese works. It is a private collection of approximately 69 jade and hardstone carvings, ranging from the Neolithic period to the late Qing Dynasty.
According to Sandhya Jain Patel, Christie’s VP/head of department, Indian, Himalayan, and Southeast Asian art, AWNY attracts a truly international audience in terms of both consignment as well as buyers, both in March and Septmenber.
A good percentage of buyers come from Europe and there are some significant buyers in America. She added, “We are especially starting to see more activity from people who want to eventually bequeath their collections to institutions.”
Patel also noticed that in recent years Chinese buyers have expanded their scope beyond Chinese art to buy Buddhist works.
“We do find them buying art from the Himalayas and even from India that pertains to Buddhism,” she said.
In the Indian, Himalayan, and Southeast Asian art markets, Patel has seen a greater emphasis on Buddhist art masterpieces in the last five years.
Buddhist religious art far outweighs other types of religious art in its global appeal. Patel explained some of the reasons for this, “Buddhism, more than a religion, is a philosophy—this idea of doing no harm to others and living your life as best you can, all of these tenets are pan-religious. At the very heart of the matter, the message of Buddhism is a constant throughout the world.”
“Buddhism spread so quickly throughout Asia along the Silk Route, and it has that connection especially in Gandara—it’s the Buddhist philosophy in a Greco-Roman form. And so the propagation of those simple messages is timeless and easy to translate.”
The narratives in Buddhist art are easy to read even if the one is not familiar with the exact religious story behind a work, she added.
Dessa Goddard, head of Asian art, Bonhams North America, points out in the press release that Asia Week serves as the pivotal North American hub for the global collecting community in the field of Asian art.
As a partner in the eighth annual AWNY, the Bonhams lineup is comprised of four sales at its Asian art auctions: Chinese Snuff Bottles from Two Private American Collections, Chinese Works of Art and Indian, and Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art on March 14; and Fine Japanese Works of Art on March 16.
The sales of Chinese snuff bottles will feature more than 100 significant bottles from the collections of Joanna Lau Sullivan and Marcia Howard.
The second sale, Chinese Works of Art, offers more than 150 lots drawing on old private collections. It is a thematically focused sale, concentrated on bronzes, Buddhist art, porcelain, scholar’s rocks and jade, boasting outstanding examples in each category.
One of the highlights is a monumental cast bronze figure of Mahakasyapa, one of the disciples of the Buddha (estimated $300,000–$600,000). Standing at 5 feet 6 inches tall on a double lotus-form base, the imposing size is a testament to the skill of Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) craftsmen who fashioned the sculpture.
Another highlight in the Chinese Works of Art sale is an imperial spinach-jade chime (estimated $50,000–$70,000), dated to the middle of the 18th century and likely used in musical accompaniment for official state rituals of the Qing Dynasty.
Jade chimes were used in important court and ritual contexts as early as the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770–221 B.C.). For thousands of years, subsequent regimes used stone chimes as symbolic references to virtuous rulers of the ancient past.
In the imperial Chinese context, stone chimes were not simply musical instruments but also contained important political symbolism, alluding to the legitimacy of the dynasty. Jade chimes were thought to possess a powerful moral essence that was transmitted through their music, and was considered vital to the health of the state.
Sotheby’s will be holding seven auctions and two selling exhibitions during AWNY bringing together 1,200 works of art that span over three milleniums of history and across a handful of collecting categories.
Among the highlights is the Property from Rosen House at Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts: Important Chinese Works of Art auction that features a rare, large yellow-ground “auspicious emblems” dish (Yongzheng mark and period) with a price estimate of $600,000–$800,000.
The Classical Chinese Furniture from the Collection of Richard Fabian auction features furniture made from huanghuali—a fragrant hardwood that was popular during the mid-Ming Dynasty (16th century). One such piece is a rare huanghuali bamboo-style horse-shoe armchair (“quanyi”) dated 17th/18th century estimated at $120,000–$150,000.
The Indian, Himalayan, and Southeast Asian Works of Art Including Property from the Estate of Dr. Claus Virch auction includes a rare Qianlong period bronze representing Avalokiteshvara seated in the posture of royal ease. The statue follows Indo-Tibetan stylistic conventions, rather than Chinese, and is estimated $250,000–$350,000.
Doyle will be holding one auction of Asian Works of Art on March 14 showcasing the Arts of China, Japan, and Southeast Asia from the Neolithic period through the 20th century.
Among the highlights is a pair of Chinese inlaid black lacquer cabinets elaborately decorated in gilt and finely inlaid with hardstones, Peking glass, mother-of-pearl, and bone (estimate $150,000–$250,000).
There is also a selection of Chinese snuff bottles in the auction that features an 18th century ruby red glass example, carved on both sides within rectangular panels depicting stylized chilong, (estimate $8,000-$10,000).
Another noteworthy piece is a Chinese bamboo brushpot from the Qing Dynasty that is intricately carved with scholars and attendants engaged in various pursuits amid a rural landscape, inscribed Gu Jue (estimate $30,000–$40,000).
The Asia Art Fair
In addition to the many sales and auctions during Asia Week, the National Bohemia Hall will be hosting The Asia Art Fair held March 11–15.
The fair will host 23 exhibitors this year, including several dealers specializing in Chinese art, for example, Lynda Willauer Antiques, which specializes in Chinese porcelain, or Dennis George Crow, a specialist in historic Chinese photography, and others.
The fair will also include works of art from Japan, including the Alexander Gallery presenting Japanese works from the Edo and Meiji periods; and Islamic works by the Anavian Gallery with ancient Near Eastern and Islamic works.