The major houses’ latest New York Asian series highlighted the dominance of the Chinese art market.
After the auctions from September 13 to 15, Christie's New York
reported a 40 per cent year-on-year growth in Chinese sales and
trounced their rivals with a trio of Chinese sales that fetched
Overall, Christie's (25/20/12% buyer's premium)
six Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian and South East Asian auctions
racked up a $62.55m (£40m) hammer total while Sotheby's
(25/20/12% buyer's premium) two Chinese sales contributed
$23.92m (£15.3m) to an overall three-auction Asian series hammer
tally of $25.76m (£16.47m).
But it was Freeman's (25/20/12% buyer's
premium) Fine and Decorative Asian Art auction in
Philadephia on September 9 that boasted the month's most expensive
Asian work of art: the $3.1m (£1.98m) Imperial Qianlong (1736-95)
double dragon jade seal pictured here - an in-house record.
Freeman's specialist Richard Cervantes said the Philadelphia
vendor probably paid around $1000 for it when he purchased it back
in the 1970s in Palm Beach.
The 2¼in by 22/3in (6cm x 7cm) seal translates Treasure of
concern over phenomena at eighty and is the latest in a string
of multi-million dollar seals made for the emperor's 80th birthday
to appear on the market in the last few years.
Mr Cervantes cautiously catalogued the late consignment as
'Imperial style', dating it to the Qing dynasty and gave it an
attractive $30,000-50,000 estimate.
On the day, ten telephone buyers and several room bidders
competed for it, with a Chinese man on a mobile phone placing the
winning bid. The 845-lot sale grossed $6.8m (£4.35m) excluding
Back in New York, although Christie's and Sotheby's offered
fewer high calibre Chinese works of art than at their
record-breaking March series, Asian and Western competition ensured
the auctions fielded countless punchy prices for reasonably
estimated jade, huanghuali and zitan furniture and scholars' works
of art with provenance.
For example, in Christie's $10.86m (£6.95m) sale on September
15, A Connoisseur's Vision: Property from the Xu Hanqing
Collection, an 18th century jade melon measuring 33/8in (9cm)
trumped its $150,000 upper estimate, selling to a private Asian
buyer at $1.2m (£767,000).
And at Sotheby's various-owner outing on September 14, a 17th
century huanghuali table from the estate of Hope and Lewis Andrews
sailed past its $120,000 upper guide, selling to an Asian dealer at
London dealers Eskenazi secured Sotheby's highlight: an $850,000
(£544,000) gilt-bronze stele of Buddha dated 471AD. Eskenazi,
Littleton and Hennessy Asian Art, Knapton and Rasti Asian Art were
among the few London dealers in attendance.
Asian buying dominated, with around 80 per cent of lots at
Christie's and Sotheby's selling to buyers from Greater China. Far
and away the series' highest grossing auction was Christie's
$31.933m (£20.42m) Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art on
September 15-16, topped by a $2.3m (£1.47m) Imperial Qianlong
moonflask bought by an Asian dealer.
In the same sale, the ten-times-estimate price needed to secure
a $500,000 (£320,000) pair of blue and white cong vases with an
apocryphal Hongxian (1915/16) mark underscored the trend that
prices are on the rise for quality or signed Republican
Sotheby's $5.31m (£3.4m) Fine Classical Chinese Paintings
auction on September 13 was the first in this category for the firm
in New York for a decade. It was also the week's most
enthusiastically received catalogue in terms of take-up, with an 88
per cent selling rate for its 81 lots.
New York used to be a centre for Chinese painting and one fifth
of entries sold to US buyers. The remainder were largely secured by
Asian dealers and collectors. A $650,000 (£426,000) signed
calligraphic album by Dong Qichang (1556-1636) bought by an Asian
buyer topped proceedings.
Bonhams' (25/20/12% buyer's premium) had less
in the way of Chinese art, with two Asian sales that fetched a
combined hammer total of $1.82m (£1.16m).
<bbbbbbbbbbbbbbb>Doyle's (25/20/12% buyer's premium) Asian
sale on September 12 posted a $2.26m (£1.45m) hammer total.
Christie's $3.08m (£1.97m) Japanese and Korean Art sale on
September 14 reported a selective 59 per cent selling rate by lot
with the Korean ceramic section fielding many casualties. An oil on
canvas, Returning from the market, by Korea's celebrated
Park Sookeun (1914-65) was the star turn at $600,000
High-profile Japanese failures included four of the five Sharaku
(act.1794/95) prints, but a 108-lot collection of inro and lacquer
from the estate of Catherine Halff Edson was well received.
It was headlined by a $135,000 (£86,300) two-case lacquer inro
from the Edo period signed by the early 19th century master Koma
Kansai. It had passed through the celebrated collections of W.L.
Behrens and Charles A. Greenfield among others.
At the heart of Christie's South Asian, Modern and Contemporary
art sale on September 13 were 13 paintings by the late Maqbool Fida
Husain (1915-2011) that made up over half of the overall $6.06m
(£3.87m) hammer total.
By Kate Hunt
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