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Art Market Watch

Villa Grisebach, the top German auction house for 19th- and 20th-century art, is dipping its toe into the New York market this spring. The Berlin-based auctioneer is holding a New York exhibition previewing its 125th auction, slated for Berlin during June 2-4, 2005, in gallery space at 980 Madison -- Sothebys former home -- on May 3-5, 2005. Among the properties are important paintings by Max Beckmann, Alexej Jawlensky, Emil Nolde, E.L. Kirchner -- and a landscape by Grandma Moses.

Villa Grisebach holds the world auction records for Adolf Menzel (1,209,000), Ernst Wilhelm Nay (850,000), Keith Haring (519,000), Christian Rohlfs (369,500), and Horst Antes (220,000 DM), among others. According to Philipp Gutbrod, chief of the New York office, 25 percent of the house's customers are U.S.-based. For more info, contact Villa Grisebach Auctions, 120 East 56th Street, Suite 635, New York, N.Y. 10022.

The two-day sale of Chinese ceramics and works of art at Sotheby's New York on Mar. 31 and Apr. 1 totaled $13,367,240, a bit above the presale high estimate of $12.7 million. Of the 532 lots, 341 or slightly more that 64 percent found buyers; over 23 lots sold for more than $100,000. Eskenazi Ltd. won the top two lots: a copper-red pear-shaped Ming Dynasty Vase for $2,032,000 (est. $300,000-$500,000) and a large carved "Ding" foliate dish from the Northern Song Dynasty for $1,528,000 (est. $400,000-$600,000).

Sothebys Apr. 1 sale of Indian and Southeast Asian sale totaled $4,413,040, just above the presale low estimate, with 73.3 percent of the 191 lots finding buyers. Top lot was a 16-inch-tall copper and silver sculpture of a goddess from ca. 650, perhaps Prajnaparamita or Saraswati, probably from the Palola Shahi of Gilgit, which brought $553,600 (est. $400,000-$600,000), a world auction record for a bronze from greater Kashmir. The buyer was identified as a "private European collector."

According to Robin Dean, Sothebys specialist in Indian and Southeast Asian art, the market for both Indian miniatures and modern Indian paintings continues to be strong. A colorful oil-on-canvas scene by Maqbool Fida Husain (b. 1915), inspired by Satyajit Ray's 1977 movie Chess Players, sold for $144,000 (est. $90,000-$120,000), and a 1962 landscape by Francis Newton Souza (1924-2002) sold for $132,000 (est. $60,000-$80,000).

Christie's New York held a series of five Asia Week sales over three days, Mar. 29-31, reaching a total of $26,283,700, the highest ever for such a series. The collection of 56 swords from the Museum of Japanese Sword Fittings totaled $5,636,460 and was 84 percent sold; top lot was a 14th-century Soshu Tanto sword, which brought $132,000. The single-owner sale of Chinese snuff bottles was 98.8 percent sold by lot, and totaled $3,931,120; a world auction record for a snuff bottle was set when a Qianlong Imperial famille rose enameled octagonal bottle sold for $665,600.

As at Sotheby's, Christie's saw good results for modern and contemporary Indian art; its $3.7 million total was a record for the field. New world auction records were established for Akbar Padamsee ($186,000), Chittrovanu Mazumdar ($54,000), A. Ramachandran ($50,400), Bikash Bhattacharjee ($48,000) and Prabhakar Barwe ($33,600).

Following its successful Los Angeles sale of California and Western art last November, Christie's has now planned a new auction of regional material in its Beverly Hills showroom on Apr. 27, 2005. The 100 lots in the sale, estimated to bring a total of more than $4 million, include California Impressionist (and Monet follower) Guy Rose's La Grosse Pierre, Giverny (est. $700,000-$900,000), Taos School painter Nicolai Fechin's Indian Girl with Sunflowers (est. $250,000-$350,000) and "Dean of California Impressionism" William Wendt's Spring (1916) (est. $300,000-$500,000).

Christie's New York is billing its Apr. 19 sale of 19th-century European art as "an intriguing mlange," boasting Victorian, Orientalist, Barbizon, Realist and assorted national-school works. Top lot is Gustave Moreau's impressive portrait of a neo-Byzantine princess on a lavish throne, Desdmone (1875-78) (est. $1,500,000-$2,500,000). Other top lots include Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot's portrait of a young woman, La Moissoneuse la faucille (est. $500,000-$800,000), Ludwig Deutsch's minutely detailed portrait of a Nubian palace guard from 1901 (est. $300,000-$500,000), Gustave Courbet's "sea-landscape" La Plage de Saint-Aubin (est. $300,000-$400,000) and Ignacio Zuloaga y Zabaleta's sensual Mercedes (est. $250,000-$350,000). The sale features several works by James-Jacques-Joseph Tissot, a Moroccan street scene by Edm-Alexis-Alfred Dehodencq and Conrad Kiesel's La Belle Epoque After the Ball (est. $150,000-$250,000).

A previously unrecorded Bird in Space sculpture by Constantin Brancusi goes on the block at Christie's Impressionist and modern art sale on the evening of May 4, 2005. The work, carved in white-veined marble in 1922-23, was originally in the collection of the Parisian collector and saloniste Lonie Ricou, who owned three other works by the artist. According to the auction house, the sculpture was shipped to Brussels in 1928 -- the original crate survives -- and sold in 1937 by Ricous husband, Alexandre Stoppelaere, to a predecessor of the present anonymous owner. The work carries a presale estimate of $8,000,000-$12,000,000.

Christie's has moved to strengthen its increasingly important contemporary art division with the appointment of Jennifer Vorbach, a partner at C&M Arts in Manhattan, as International Director, Post-War and Contemporary Art, based in Switzerland. A former head of Christie's contemporary art department in the late '80s, Vorbach worked at Citibank's art advisory for several years before joining C&M in 1993.

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