Subscribe to our RSS feed:

RSS Feed Button

Art Market Watch
Apr. 4, 2006 


New York's coolest new exhibition space is the 20th floor of the Simon & Schuster Building at 1230 Avenue of the Americas in Rockefeller Center, where Christie's New York has put on view 36 Donald Judd works that go on the block on May 9-10, 2006. Installed in a raw, cement-floored office space flooded with natural light (and with striking vistas of midtown Manhattan), the works range from rare early pieces from 1962-63, fabricated in 1988 for Judd's Whitney Museum retrospective, to a large Plexi and plywood stack piece made a year before the artist's death in 1994. The exhibition dates are Apr. 3-May 9, 2006; visitors must show i.d. and get a special pass to enter the building.

Proceeds from the sale, which is part of Christie's spring post-war and contemporary auctions, are expected to exceed $20 million, and go to the Judd Foundation, which has earmarked the funds for an endowment. The foundation has many uses for the money, according to its newly appointed director, Barbara Hunt McLanahan, including assembling a catalog raisonné, undertaking an oral history project and renovating and restoring the Judd home and studio at 101 Spring Street in SoHo as a public museum (the building is, as it happens, the last single-use cast-iron building in the district).

Some observers have suggested that the foundation might have done better by placing the works privately with museums and collectors [see Art Market Watch, Feb. 27, 2006], but the foundation's board (which includes Judd's son and daughter, Flavin Judd and Rainer Judd) has decided that an auction sale is a more expeditious way to launch an endowment. The market seems to be ready; according to one insider, Christie's already has interested bidders for most of the works.

And, for the technologically up-to-date, several special digital presentations on Judd's work are available as iPod podcasts from iTunes.

The healthy art market clearly extends far east, as was amply demonstrated by the auctions during Asia Week in late March and early April 2006. Sotheby's New York announced a total of $51,653,140 (including premium) for its series of four Asian art auctions, a record for the house. Top lot of the week was a blue and white Yuan Dynasty jar (1279-1368), decorated with bands of painted peonies, scrolling lotus and waves and notable for its flawless condition, which brought $4,720,000 from an unnamed private Asian collector in the Mar. 30 sale of Chinese ceramics and works of art, which totaled $15,739,760, another record for the house.  

In the Mar. 28 sale of the Jucker Collection of Himalayan Paintings, an oversized, early Tibetan thanka showing the Nyö master Drupapal surrounded by antecedent monks and religious masters, painted ca. 1200, was purchased for $1,136,600, nearly twice its presale high estimate of $600,000 and a record for a Tibetan artwork at auction. The Junker Collection of 120 paintings sold for a total of $9,050,600, more than double the presale high estimate.

Sotheby's Mar. 29 sale of Indian and Southeast Asian art totaled $13,633,820, and was dominated by modern Indian artworks, which comprised the ten highest priced lots. The top lot was Tapovan, an expressionist abstract painting from 1972 by Syed Haider Raza (b. 1922), which sold for $1,472,000 (est. $800,000-$1,000,000) to a telephone bidder. New records were also set for Jagdish Swaminathan ($800,000), Akbar Padamsee ($716,000) and Ram Kumar ($542,400). The catalogue cover lot, "arch modernist" Tyeb Mehta's Falling Figure with Bird (1988), sold for $1,248,000 (est. $800,000-$1,000,000) to New York hedge fund manager Rajiv Chaudri.

Mehta and Raza are members of the Progressive Artists Group, formed in 1947, the same year that India celebrated its independence from Britain; other members are Francis Newton Souza and Maqbool Fida Husain. Clearly, as one collector noted, the market for Indian modernism is benefiting from the many wealthy Indians resident in the West as well as rising wealth at home. 

Sotheby's "Contemporary Art Asia" auction on Mar. 31 totaled $13,228,960 for a sizeable sale of some 240 lots, a total that was well above the presale high estimate of $8,000,000 and a new high for a Sotheby's sale of Chinese contemporary art. Auctioneer Tobias Meyer oversaw a salesroom that was filled with both Asian and Caucasian bidders, many of them unfamiliar to the veteran art-auction journalists on hand (as Carol Vogel reported in the New York Times). According to Sotheby's, at least 12 bidders competed for the top lot, Bloodline Series: Comrade No. 120 (1998), a soft-focus portrait of an impassive young Asian man by Zhang Xiaogang (b. 1958), which sold for $979,200 to a bidder in the room who declined to reveal his identity to reporters; later, the auction house identified the buyer as a private collector from Singapore.

Works from Zhang's "Bloodline Series" feature a small stain on part of the portrait, indicative of a notion that "the future is contaminated by the past." Two other works by Zhang also soared above their presale estimates and above the previous auction record, selling for $486,400 and $419,200.

(Max Protetch Gallery in New York has showed Zhang since the mid-1990s, when large works by the artist would go for upwards of $30,000. The gallery plans a new exhibition of his work at its Beijing branch, Beijing Commune, a partnership with Chinese critic and curator Leng Lin, opening Apr. 18, 2006. The current show at the New York gallery includes Zhang's mixed-media photoworks, which he considers preparations for paintings; they were priced at $9,500, but quickly sold out after Friday's auction.)

The Sotheby's Contemporary Asia sale also set new auction records for 21 artists, including Xu Bing ($408,000), Zhang Huan ($408,000), Liu Xiaodong ($301,600), Fang Lijun ($273,600), Chen Yifei ($262,000), Wang Guangyi ($240,000), Yang Shaobin ($138,000), Liu Guosong ($144,000), Liu Dan ($114,000) and Wang Keping ($72,000).

The action continues halfway around the world, as Sotheby's Hong Kong holds a series of seven sales over four days, Apr. 7-10, 2006. Among the lots in the Apr. 8 contemporary art sale -- Sotheby's fourth in Hong Kong -- are 133 works by 87 artists, including Red Flags, a dramatic scene of Tian'anmen Square done in red monochrome by the Beijing-based artist Yin Zhaoyang (b. 1970) (est. HK $1,000,000-$1,500,000; about $129,000-$193,000), and Smoke, an anime-style painting of a young girl in front of a red sun by Liu Ye (b. 1964) (est. HK $800,000-$1,200,000; about $103,000-$155,000).

In the wake of the New York sales, Sotheby's announced some personnel changes, hiring Zara Porter Hill to oversee its Indian and Southeast Asian art department. Porter Hill, who had worked as an Asian art specialist at Christie's South Kensington since 2000, is based in London. Robin Dean, who had headed Sotheby's Indian and Southeast Asian sales, is now senior consultant and part of the team securing modern and contemporary art for the firm's auctions. Sotheby's also noted that it continues to work with Dadiba Pundole, a Mumbai-based dealer in modern and contemporary Indian art, who also helps secure property for Sotheby's sales.

Christie's Asia Week results were also a record for the house, totaling $46,218,400 for all seven sales. The Mar. 28 sale of Japanese art, including property from the Metropolitan Museum, totaled $4,568,540, with the top lot, an early 17th-century Hasegawa School pair of six-panel screens, selling for $968,000. The Met sold 58 lots in all, for a total of $309,300. The top Met lot, a suit of armor, was bought for $18,000.

The Mar. 28 sale of Korean art, including the Robert Moore collection, totaled $2,171,820, while the Mar. 29 sale of Chinese snuff bottles from the J&J Collection sold for $3,719,840. Also on Mar. 29, the Evelyn Annenberg Hall collection of Chinese art was 100 percent sold for a total of $5,496,360, and the general-owner sale of Chinese ceramics and works of art totaled $10,863,460. The top lot in this group was a mid-14th-century Yuan Dynasty blue-and-white double gourd vase, which went for $2,032,000. Christie's Mar. 30 sale of Indian and Southeast Asian art was 79 percent sold, for a total of $3,771,300.  

The much-watched sale at Christie's on Mar. 30 of modern and contemporary art totaled $15,627,080, with 99 percent of the 168 lots finding buyers. The room was filled, largely with Indian dealers, collectors and onlookers. Among the bidders was New Age guru Deepak Chopra, who won a painting by the 90-year-old Muslim artist M.F. Husain, who has recently had to relocate to Dubai after complaints from activists that his painting of a nude Mother India offended Hindu sentiments. Husain's top lot at the sale was a 1979 neo-Cubist acrylic-on-canvas painting of a battling charioteer, Sita Hanuman, which sold for $576,000 (est. $300,000-$500,000), a new auction record for the artist.

The top lot was an untitled painting from 1975 by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde (1924-2001), illustrated on the cover of the catalogue, which was purchased for $1,472,000 (est. $600,000-$800,000) by an unidentified New York-based Indian hedge fund manager (sounds like Chaudri again). The price was a new auction record for the artist, but was nevertheless a disappointment to some, as salesroom chatter had the work going for double its presale estimate.  

An untitled work from 1962 by F.N. Souza (1924-2002) sold for $800,000, double its presale high estimate, to an unnamed Hong Kong private collector. The work illustrated on the back cover of the catalogue, a hanging tower sculpture of stainless steel cooking pots by the rising star Subodh Gupta -- one of his works was included in Rosa Martinez' "Always a Little Further" exhibition in the Arsenale at the 2005 Venice Biennale -- sold for $144,000, well above the estimate of $20,000-$30,000. The buyer was New York collector Ranbir Singh.

Other impressive prices in the contemporary "Readymades in India" section of the sale included $168,000 for Ravinder Reddy's seven-foot-tall, red-painted fiberglass sculpture of Woman of Kapulapadu II (2000). The artist had a show in New York at Deitch Projects in 2001.

Christie's Hong Kong spring sales of Asian art are coming up in May.


As part of its Old Master painting sale in New York on Apr. 6, Christie's New York is putting on the block J.M.W. Turner's Giudecca, La Donna della Salute and San Giorgio (ca. early 1840s), a Venetian scene that is expected to sell for more than $20 million. The Turner, which was on loan to the Art Institute of Chicago during the 1980s, is being sold by the St. Francis of Assisi Foundation in New York State. No sales taxes are due on the sale, which may well boost the painting's price past the current auction record for a work of British art, which is $21 million. The auction, which commences at 10 am, includes 250 lots that are estimated to sell for a total of more than $50 million.

As always, illustrated auction results are available on Artnet's signature Fine Art Auctions Report.

contact wrobinson @