Asia Week is again approaching -- one year after. Because of the 9/11 tragedy, last year’s auctions were postponed to later that fall. European participation then was sparse. As a group European collectors were hesitant about flying. The auction results were less than promising.
What is the sentiment now, a year later? Both prime auction houses indicated that while year-end Wall Street bonuses would probably again be slim, they are looking at rising interest in contemporary Asian art, Indian paintings in particular. Recently, a number of local exhibitions have focused on this art segment and some important books have been published to help to educate collectors. Among its September auction offerings, Christie’s presents some 70 Indian paintings, while Sotheby’s offers about half that many.
New money is coming into the markets from successful real estate investors and law and Wall Street people, who although not expecting tremendous appreciation for pending acquisitions do not foresee value declines on a scale of the stock and money market slides.
"Watchful waiting" is the password for this September’s Asia Week, which gets under way in earnest around the middle of the month..
Korean art at Christie’s, Sept. 18
The highlight of Christie’s Korean art auction will be an inlaid celadon Maebyong (vase) dating to the Koryo Dynasty (13th century AD). The 12-inch-high vase with a pattern featuring three cranes, trees and flowering plants is estimated at $800,000.
More modestly priced objects include a bulbous blue and white 19th-century porcelain bottle slated to bring $12,000.
The final item in the sale is a Park Sookeun (1914-1965) painting of a woman pounding rice, which is tagged at $100,000. If the past is any guide, it will be hotly contested by dealers and collectors alike.
Japanese art at Christie’s, Sept. 18
More than 390 objects will be offered in this sale, which opens with approximately 170 prints, hanging scrolls and multiple panel screens. These will include landscapes by Hokusai, Kuniyoshi and Hiroshige. A 15th-century Landscape of the Four Seasons by Kantei is estimated to bring $120,000.
A series of superb writing boxes with incredibly intricate decorations dating over the last century are offered at between $2,500 and $15,000. Many animal netsukes (toggles) in wood or ivory are slotted to bring $1,000-$3,000.
All in all, the items in this sale appear to be reasonably priced.
Indian and Southeast Asian art at Christie’s, Sept. 19
This incredibly rich Southeast Asia sale features Tibetan thangkas (temple hangings), Ghandaran Buddhas, valuable manuscripts and a group of Indian miniatures. A large Sri Lankan cast gilt bronze figure of Buddha dating to the 18th century is a prime item here. It is expected to bring as much as $90,000-$120,000.
A seated Tibetan Buddha with his left hand in the abhaya mudra, or fear-abiding gesture (palm facing forward with fingers pointing up), clad in monk’s robes with inset silver beaded rims in a great patina is offered at $150,000-$200,000.
Dr. Yip Sells at Christie’s, Sept. 20
It is heart-wrenching to sell a carefully honed collection at any time, but the world-renowned dermatologist Dr. Yip is fortunate in having duplicates of his offerings. Yip’s passion for Chinese hardwood furniture of the Ming (1368-l644) and early Qing (1644- ca. 1794) dynasties first took hold during his days as a medical student in London in the l950s.
Then as now he was guided by three principles in making his selections -- authenticity, excellence, and superb condition. Unless all three are met, he would not purchase a Chinese hardwood.
While Asians look upon Chinese Classical furniture in terms of functional form, Westerners see it as an art related to sculpture. All in all some 60 examples -- tables, boxes, beds, stands, chairs, desks -- are offered.
A waistless corner leg lute table dating to the Qinzhuo period (17th century) is among the outstanding offerings, with a presale estimate of $100,00-$120,000. An early everted ends (the feet turn in) side-table of the late 17th century with exquisite open-worked panels, which either held offerings or art, is yet another rarely seen object. Only two beds are being offered, including a late 16th century rectangular set construction with back panels in the form of confronted dragons. It is estimated to bring $200,000-$250,000.
Chinese art at Christie’s, Sept. 20
In this sale a bronze wine vessel (Zu) with cover and exceptionally fine details, dating from the 11th-12th century B.C. (late Shang/early Western Zhou), is expected to establish a new auction record.
A number of jade objects dating to the 17th and 18th centuries, with animal and geometric shapes, carry presale estimates ranging under $10,000 to around $100,000 for an important dark green brush pot dating to the Qianlong period (1736-1795).
Tang horses, guards and court ladies take their customary bow in this sale.
Chinese art at Sotheby’s, Sept. 19
An important Northern Qi dynasty figure, in a superbly elegant pose sets the tone for a set of limestone and marble figures. It is slotted at $250,000-$300,000. Among other items is a Yingoing "peony" ewer, a delicate pear-shaped vessel with a bamboo-incised handle estimated at $20,000-$25,000. A black oil spot ewer dated to the 12th century XiXia kingdom is thought to be worth $100,000-$120,000.
A Chinese classical furniture offering concludes the sale.
Indian and Southeast Asian art at Sotheby’s, Sept. 20
A second century seated Ghandaran Buddha with a superb provenance sparks this sale with an estimate of $100,000-$150,000. Also featured is a 58-inch tall standing gray schist Buddha with similar dating tagged at $120,000-$150,000. Tibetan gilt copper alloy figures range from a few thousand dollars to a Mahakala figure studded with gems in the $100,000-$150,000 range, an arresting image in a sea of offerings.
Jewels are not neglected in this highly focused auction.
Collectors are looking forward with great anticipation to the November 14th sale at Sotheby’s of one of the largest Indian miniature collections still in private hands, that of Paul E. Walter.
FRED STERN writes on art and antiques.
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