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“It’s healthier if we have a competitor,” said Korean specialist Heakyum Kim, “[But] we didn’t lose and we didn’t gain.” Sotheby’s, New York, decision to cease holding regular biannual Japanese and Korean auctions does not preclude future sales being held there, but for the time being any Japanese and Korean consignments are being channelled through Sotheby’s Olympia and Bond Street rooms.

While there was little decrease in auction attendance, there was little increase in the numbers of Japanese buyers securing entries.

The weakness of the yen meant “they were not able to bid plus one”, said Christie’s Japanese specialist Katsura Yamaguchi. Japanese dealers and collectors secured around 21 per cent of the sale compared to the 50 per cent they were taking home to Japan a few years ago. The majority of the sale was knocked down to US and European buyers.

The strength of the sale lay with the small, selective 38-lot Korean section (80 per cent sold by lot) rather than the 184-lot Japanese section. Heakyum Kim also felt that there was a sea-change with the Korean trade who were not just watching but buying.

Korean works produced the top two prices, with a contemporary painting by Park Sookeun the highlight. Bought by the private US vendor in 1960s Seoul for US$200 – well before the market for Park Sookeun took off in the 1980s – it was consigned at $150,000-200,000. Pursued by around 10 interested parties, it sold for a new artist auction record, $520,000 (£376,810).

Next up was an unusual ten-panel Korean screen, ink and colour on silk, late 18-19th century, by Kunsundo. Its unusual subject matter depicted the Immortals and this coupled with the fact it was by a known artist saw it contested to $200,000 (£144,930).

The 23 ceramic entries included a number of works from a prestigious collection, although the collection was not named nor the ceramics specifically identified in the catalogue. The biggest money was reserved for a blue and white porcelain bottle, Choson period, second half of the 18th century.
Painted with four landscape medallions, it had two chips to the rim, a long crack to the body and a stain to one side. Undeterred by its condition, Korean and Japanese trade pursued the entry to $180,000 (£130,435).

Elsewhere, a large white porcelain Korean jar, 18th century,
went for $120,000 (£86,956) and Japanese interest in a rustic Punch’ong stoneware bowl, 15/16th century – known as The voice of a pine tree and ideal for the tea ceremony – with its original wooden box leapfrogged its guideline to sell on the telephone for $30,000 (£21,740).

Bidding was more selective for the Japanese porcelain, but buyers were found for the Japanese tea ceremony wares. An early 20th century set of 12 earthenware chawan with paper boxes and impressed with the seal Ohi, and by Ohi Chozaemon (1912-86) brought $14,000 (£10,145), from a Japanese buyer.

However, there were no takers for a pair of Kakiemon-style ‘Hampton Court’ jars, Arita ware, Edo Period (1670-90), aggressively pitched at $120,000-180,000. A skilfully concealed crack on an Arita ware Ko-Kutani style Edo period dish (1650-60) also dampened interest for this unsold entry.

The biggest money was reserved for two hanging scrolls by Geiai (active c.1489), 191/4 by 125/8in (49cm x 32cm), with Geiai seals. One depicted cotton roses and birds, the other hollyhocks with one small bird.
Geiai was an enigmatic but highly prized painter who worked in Kyoto in the 15th century. Kyoto National Museum has a pair of his screens with bird and flower paintings.

Consigned by a private US vendor at a conservative $40,000-60,000, this pair was secured by a US dealer for $180,000 (£130,435) underbid by a US collector.