NEW YORK—Asia Week auctions this March earned record-breaking prices. Auction houses reported a spike in interest and spending this year, with a total of $140 million in purchases made.
Combined with the $30 million spent with the 40 dealers and galleries participating in Asia Week, and the parallel organization of dealers in Asia Week New York, $170 million was spent on Asian art.
“This was the busiest New York Asia Week we’ve seen in many years,” James Lally of J.J. Lally & Co. said in an Asia Week New York press release. Lally sold 75 percent of the items in his catalog.
“This year’s Asia Week was tremendous and far exceeded those in recent memory,” said Joan Mirviss, who sold nearly 60 percent of Approaching the Horizon: Important Japanese Prints from the Collection of Brewster Hanson during Asia Week’s open house weekend.
The success of Christie’s Auction House surpassed all others.
Christie’s sold $69 million worth of Asian art and artifacts over four days during Asia Week showings this spring. Christie’s Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art collection earned the lion’s share of $31,356,875.
Asian traders were Christie’s main customers at auction, buying large portions of the featured collections except for the Indian and Southeast Asian Art collection, which was largely sold to anonymous buyers.
Several items sold for well over the estimated price.
A 13th century gilt bronze figure of Padmapani, a form of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, from Nepal fetched approximately $2.5 million though the estimated price was only $250,000 to $350,000. The figure was part of The Doris Wiener Collection.
“The sale of The Doris Wiener Collection marked a milestone for the field,” Hugo Weihe, Christie’s international director of Indian and Southeast Asian Art, said in a press release. “Realizing nearly $12.8 million, this is the highest total ever achieved for a single-owner collection of classical Indian and Southeast Asian Art at Christie’s,” he said.
Another Indian and Southeast Asian Art piece, a buff sandstone torso of Uma Khmer from the 10th century, more than doubled its price, selling for $1,142,500 after an estimate of $350,000 to $450,000.
Although some of Christie’s pieces in this category fared well, the overall trend was a premium on Chinese works and less interest in non-Chinese works, according to Blouin Art Info.
Chinese Painting Doubles Expected Price
Sotheby’s classical Chinese paintings sold for a combined total of $35.2 million, doubling its high-end estimated price. This accounted for a significant portion of its total $61.8 million in Asia Week sales.
Leading the auction was the 12th to 13th century “Emperors of the Southern Song,” calligraphy in various script forms, which sold for $5,682,500, and was estimated at only $750,000 to $1 million.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art also set a record with its bid on the painting “Eight Views of Huangshan,” by Zheng Min, which it purchased for $2,322,500, far surpassing the $200,000 to $250,000 estimate.
Sotheby’s expected $16.8 million for its other Chinese art works but brought in $20.7 million.
Its star pieces were two very rare famille rose “Heaven and Earth” revolving brush pots with Qianlong seal marks. Emperor Qianlong was the sixth emperor of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911). The pots were estimated at $120,000 to $150,000 and $80,000 to $120,000 respectively. However, they brought in a combined total of $3.5 million.
The pots, 3.75 inches high, inspired a lively auction. One bidder trumped a $100,000 bid by jumping right up to $1 million.
Another Sotheby’s Qianlong-period brush pot, this one carved of solid jade, sold for $1,426,500—more than six times its low estimate of $200,000 to $300,000.
Prized Pieces From Bonhams
The star piece for Bonhams was a gilt copper-alloy 14th century Tibetan statue of Green Tara, 18 inches high. Her red lips and the turquoise and glass beads of her crown add color to her serene face. Estimated to sell for $100,000 to $150,000, the piece fetched $482,500.
A 19th century Indian watercolor on gold paper sold for a world record of $302,500 from an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000.
Other Chinese artifacts, such as some fine snuff bottles, a late-19th century vase, and a late-19th century bowl, all sold for several times their estimated prices.
Japanese art also found a growing audience. Attendance was up ten percent from last year in a five-day show that brought together the collections of five members of the Japanese Art Dealers Association.
“It was very gratifying to see over two dozen curators of Japanese art, numerous art historians, and scores of collectors come to New York for Asia Week and take part in the wealth of offerings – curatorial, scholarly, and commercial – that were available,” Leighton R. Longhi, president of the JADA, stated in a press release. “JADA once again had sales to major museums, and this year we were especially pleased to end Asia Week working with collectors previously unknown to us.”