Asia Week New York (AWNY) will be held in extraordinary circumstances from March 11-19. A handful of galleries will be open by appoimtment only while others stage ‘virtual’ dealing exhibitions. For the auction houses it is something closer to business as usual.
The three main international firms hold a full programme of sales (a total of 13 catalogues from Shang bronzes to Hokusai prints and the art of the Bombay Progressives) supplemented by specialist events at Doyle New York, Heritage in Dallas and Massachusetts firms Skinner and Eldreds.
Given the import tax that now applies on Chinese works of art going into the US, most consignments appear to have come from North American vendors. The private Japanese collection of Gandharan sculpture to be sold at Christie’s on March 17 is the second tranche of a consignment imported into the US last year before the 7.5% tax applied.
However, catalogues now include a symbol next to affected lots directing readers to a clause in the terms and conditions. Importantly, the tax will be charged against the value of the lot as declared on its entry into the US – not on the actual sale price. This customs figure (potentially quite different from the auction house’s estimate) will not be made public but potential buyers of imported lots are asked to get in touch prior to the sale for more information.
If the buyer arranges shipping to a foreign address, they will not be required to pay the import tariff.
Pictured here are some of the forthcoming highlights.
Shang: Early Chinese Ritual Bronzes from the Daniel Shapiro Collection is the title of Christie’s showpiece sale on March 18.
Leading the auction is the Luboshez Gong (estimate $4m-6m), a remarkable ritual wine vessel dating to the 13th-12th century BC modelled as a fantastic creature that is half owl and half pouncing tiger (pictured top).
Acquired by Captain SN Ferris Luboshez (1896-1984) in China prior to 1949 – and sold from his collection by Sotheby’s in 1982 – it is one of only six similar 12in (30cm) vessels known. Shapiro bought it from JJ Lally & Co, New York, in 1996.
Heritage holds an auction of Asian art in Dallas on March 16.
Estimated at $20,000-30,000 is this 12in (30cm) Wanli (1563-1620) wucai dish painted with a scene of the Eight Immortals accompanied by Shoulao. It comes for sale from a private New York collection.
Jades in detail
The sale at Skinner in Marlborough, Massachusetts, on March 16 includes this copy of the massive two-volume work The Bishop Collection: Investigations and Studies in Jade edited by George Kunz (1906).
The books documenting the entirety of Heber Reginald Bishop’s (1840-1902) collection were privately printed on hand-made paper by the De Vinne Press in a run of just 100 copies. As well as an array of coloured lithographs, copper engravings and woodcuts, each included 13 of the original watercolour illustrations by Li Shih-Chuan.
Catalogues were presented to the heads of states in Europe and Asia, including the emperor of China, and to important public institutions and libraries.
Bishop’s collection of more than 1000 pieces of jade was bequeathed to the Metropolitan Museum in 1910.
Leading Bonhams’ sale series is a bronze figure of Vajravarahi from north-east India, dating from the Pala period (estimate $400,000-600,000). Considered among the earliest-known bronze sculptures of Vajravarahi, this figure from the Nyingjei Lam Collection has been on loan to the Rubin Museum for 15 years.
The earth goddess Vajravarahi has been the most important female meditational deity (yidam) in Tantric Buddhism since the 11th century, when this 7½ in (19cm) high figure was created. She is shown dancing on a corpse representing the human ego.
Bronzes of this date that have remained in India are typically found as burial goods. However, the ‘buttery’ patina on this figure suggests that it had been taken to – and preserved in – Tibet in the 11th or 12th century.
This 8½in (22cm) Song dynasty ingot-shaped pillow (above) has been later inscribed in the glaze with a Qianlong imperial poem, a yuzhi mark and the cyclical date of 1746. At Bonhams’ March 15 sale the estimate is $50,000-80,000.
It comes for sale from the Rosalind Ching Pastor Collection, Chicago, but previously formed part of the Yamanaka & Company sale dispersed by Parke-Bernet Galleries in 1943.
The sale of the entire stock from the three Yamanaka stores in the US (New York, Boston and Chicago) was offered under the supervision of the Alien Property Custodian of the United States of America, during the Second World War. The item was catalogued as a ‘porcellanous pillow of Yu-yao ware bearing on one side an ode composed by the Emperor Ch’ien-lung.’
The Qianlong emperor was inclined to writing odes to ancient works of art – more than 190 poems are known in praise of ceramics. Here he admires the beauty and fineness of the pillow, describing its whiteness, shiny surface, and its jade-like strength and firmness while imagining conversations with ancient sages as he sleeps on the pillow.
It would have required direct instructions from the emperor before an order to carve such an artefact was passed for engraving to the painting academy at Ruyiguan (The Palace of Fulfilled Wishes) or Maoqindian (The Hall of Great Diligence).
A pair of Qianlong marks and period ‘dragon’ bowls decorated in underglaze blue and coloured enamels with celestial dragons flying against a dark sky.
Estimated at $8000-12,000 at Doyle New York on March 15, they were previously part of the collection of Dr Henry Guinness de Laszlo (1901-67), the noted British-Hungarian collector.
'Bats and clouds' vase
Leading the Sotheby’s AWNY sale series in March 17 is a selection of Ming and Qing imperial jades and cloisonné enamels consigned by the Brooklyn Museum. The group is being sold to support the museum’s collections.
This 15½in (39cm) Qianlong period cloisonné ‘bats and clouds’ vase – a type full of auspicious messages better known in porcelain of the period – has a guide of $300,000-500,000.
It has a provenance to the collection of printer Robert Hoe III (1839-1909), whose extensive holdings of rare books, silver, miniatures and other works of art (including a copy of the Gutenberg Bible) were sold in 1911 and 1912 by the American Art Association in New York. Bought in 1911 by the art dealer and collector Samuel Avery Jr (1847-1920), it was gifted to the Brooklyn Museum the same year.
As it has been consigned to Sotheby’s from outside the US (it comes by descent from a Canadian diplomat who acquired it in Asia in the 1950s-70s) this early 15th century blue and white ‘fruit and flower’ bowl (above) is subject to an import tariff.
Bowls of this lobed form appear to be specific to the Xuande reign (1426-35) and became part of the classic repertoire of the official kilns. The 9in (23cm) conical shape with six delicate rim lobes is derived from the white-glazed bowls produced at Jingdezhen during the Song dynasty (960-1279).
It carries an estimate of $200,000-300,000 at Sotheby’s sale of Important Chinese art on March 17.
The firm’s offering this year includes a gallery exhibition of gilt bronzes and an online sale titled The Hundred Antiques that runs from March 12-24.
Along the Silk Road
Christie’s holds seven sales totalling more than 750 objects from March 16-19. The March 18 sale titled Important Chinese Art from the Junkunc Collection is topped at a $300,000-500,000 estimate by this diminutive 2½in (7cm) jade camel carved from a pale beige-white and yellow-brown stone. It dates from the Tang to the Yuan dynasty.
Camels in Chinese art are inexorably linked with the Silk Road of Tang China, although only one other jade figure of a standing camel of this miniature size appears to be recorded (more typically they are carved as recumbent beasts).
The sale comprises 86 pieces from the once massive collection of early Chinese art formed by the Budapest-born Chicago collector Stephen Junkunc III (d.1978). He bought the camel from dealer Tonying & Co, New York, in 1946.
The March 17-18 sale at Eldred’s of East Dennis, Massachusetts, includes a group of Japanese scroll paintings from the collection of Japanese works of art scholar Edwin C Symmes Jr.
The highlight is this set of three paintings on silk by Kano Tanyu (1602-74). Painted in his 64th year, they depict the poet Li Po riding a mule, a winter landscape with a pavilion and snow-covered mountains, and a river landscape with trees and towering cliffs. Each is signed and seal marked Seimei.
Offered together with documentation from the late 18th century and exhibition history, they have a guide of $20,000-30,000.