By Michele Leight
Amidst a blaze of glorious
Himalayan art and
bronzes from Tibet, Nepal and Kashmir that will launch Christie's
Asian Art Week in New York, Christie's Senior Specialist and
Head of Asian Art Dr. Hugo Weihe stressed the extremely high quality
of works offered at this sale, which is expected to reach in excess
of $60 million. Christie's Asia Week sale in March was hugely
successful, far exceeding its pre-sale estimate.
The auctions achieved
a total of $51.1 million,
including the buyer's premiums, the second highest total ever
for Asian Art Week at Christie's New York, "a testament,"
according to Theow H. Tow, deputy chairman, Christie's Americas
and Asia, "to the underlying strength of the Asian art market
and the sales put together by Christie's specialists. Asian art
is truly an international collecting area. This season saw Asians
in particular participating strongly in all collecting categories,
both classical and contemporary. That supreme quality, exceptional
provenance and excellent condiion is much sought after was exemplified
by the results of he superb early Ming white glazed vase, meiping,
from the Property of the Ping Y. Tai Foundation, which achieved
a world auction record for a Ming Dynasty monochrome porcelain
at $2,770,500." The vase had an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000
and was Lot 245 in the Chinese snuff bottle auction in which 354
of 560 offered lots sold for $19,342,550.
The auctions in
general did not fare too
well with high percentages of unsold items. The Zimmerman Family
Collection, Himalayan Bronzes and Indian and Southeast Asian Art
auctions September 15 and 16 sold only 54 percent of the offered
lots for a total of $14,146,688. The South Asian Modern + Contemporary
Art auction September 16 sold 67 percent by lot for $12,634,375.
The Japanese and Korean Art auction September 18 sold 59 percent
by lot for $5,018,925.
"These masterpieces from the
Family Collection are of the highest quality. The collection began
in the 60s when Jack and Muriel Zimmerman saw Stella Kamrishs'
exhibition The Art of Nepal at The Asia House Gallery, featuring
Nepalese bronzes and thankas. This was the hippie generation,
and a time when people traveled to India frequently; the Dalai
Lama also settled there. These are iconic works that have been
widely exhibited," said Dr. Weihe.
Amongst the beautiful artworks
this collection is Lot 1, a 14th century gilt copper figure of
Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara from Nepal. It has an estimate of
$250,000 to $350,000. It sold for $242,500 including the
premium as do all results mentioned in this article. Lot 5,
"A Highly Important Thangka With Scenes From The Life of
The Buddha Shakyamuni," from Central Tibet, superbly rendered
in opaque pigments and gold on textile in the 12th century. It
has an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It sold for $662,500.
The winsome and energized "An
Paubha of Chanda Maharoshana and Marnaki," circa 1525-50,
from Nepal, Lot 3, has an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. Lot
6, an "Important Thangka of the Akshobya Vajra Guhyasamaja
Mandala, a 36-by 32 3/4-inch textilefrom Central Tibet in the
late 14th Century, had an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It
sold for $242,500.
In a statement included in the
this sale, the Zimmerman family wrote:
"Since we began collecting in
have had the pleasure of finding many wonderful pieces and of
making new friends around the world. We are happy to have been
able to play a small part in preserving this great art, some of
which is representative of a Tibetan culture whose survival is
increasingly threatened. We hope that these objects continue to
be shared, through exhibitions, scholarly study and loans, with
as many people as possible." Lot 3 has an estimate of $1,250,000
to $1,750,000. It sold for $1,538,500.
That these rare works of art
so many centuries, and remain in such pristine condition - and
despite the circumstances in Tibet - is nothing short of miraculous.
In the Masterpieces of
Himalayan Bronzes sale
featuring eight sculptures from Nepal, Tibet and Kashmir (in the
context of Western Tibet) is Lot 13, "A Large and Important
Figure of Avalokiteshvara," created in the 9th-10th century,
an exquisitely cast gilt bronze showing fine detailing of jewelry
and drapery from the Kashmir School in Western Tibet, with an
estimate of $1,200,000-1,800,000.
From the same sale and illustrated above is Lot 18, "An Important
and Monumental Gilt Bronze Figure of Buddha," Tibet, 14th
century, an imposing presence with a compelling smile, which has
an estimate upon request.After the same, Dr. Weihe said that the
afternoon sesion of Indian and Southeast Asian art and yesterday's
Masterpieces sale inspired bidding from an international audience.
We were gratified to see quality works performing well and delighted
to find classical Indian Art as a continuing trend for collectors
worldwide. Highlights spanned a broad range of interest, including
Himalayan bronzes, minatures and picchavias including the gilt
bronze Tibetan figure of Buddha which realized $3,666,500,
achieving a world auction record."
The quality continues in the
Indian and Southeast
Asian Art sale from The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul E. Manheim,
which leads the sale together with artworks from other private
collections. Paul Manheim was a former partner at Lehman Brothers
and trustee of The Brooklyn Museum, and he shared a passion for
Asian art with his sister, Alice Kaplan, from whose own collection
two sculptures and one thanka achieved world auction records at
Christie's record breaking Asian Art sale in March. Lot 321, a
large gray schist figure of a standing buddha from the 2nd to
3rd Century had an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It sold
Leading us to a another serene
30 from The Manheim Collection, a large "Gray Schist Figure
of a Standing Buddha," from Gandhara, 2nd-3rd century, (estimate
$400,000 to $600,000), Dr. Weihe pointed out remnants of gilt
still visible on the head (originally it would have been entirely
gilded), and the strong Greco-Roman influence in the draping
"This is one of the finest examples ever to come to market.
Even though there are works of exceptionally high quality at auction
today, never have I come across this level," said Dr. Weihe.
Tyeb Mehta (b. 1925) has
achieved the highest
price for a work by an Indian artist at auction, while Maqbool
Hida Husseinb (b. 1915) is the most famous and recognized artist
in India, a man of the people, and entirely self-taught. I found
an early painting by him in a dhaba in Kolkata this summer, (the
equivalent of an American coffee shop), a Picasso-esque interpretation
of a traditional Indian woman that hung unobtrusively above the
cash register. A young man who is clearly used to scores of people
like myself enquiring after "the Hussein" told me it
had been there "since his father's time," when Hussein
used to eat there as a struggling artist "and he continued
to come here after he was famous' he said with evident pride.
It came to mind as I viewed an exquisite gem by Hussein in Christie's
galleries, Lot 125, "Village Woman," painted in 1954,
with an estimate of $100,000-150,000. It sold for $182,500.
Lot 121, "Untitled (Yellow
a strong oil on canvas by Mehta that measures 59 by 41 and a quarter
inches and was executged i 1979. It has an estimate of $600,000
to $800,000. It sold for $902,500.
Mehta lived in New York during
the late 1960s,
where he was exposed to minimalist art, especially Barnet Newman,
which had an enormous influence on his artistic career. Although
close in age, Mehta's canvasses could not be more different from
Hussein's organic fusion of Cubism, Expressionism and Abstraction
incorporating traditional Indian subject matter.
Lot 150 is a very good oil on
canvas by Hussein
that is entitled "Ritual" and measures 48 1/4 by 72
1/4 inches and was executed in 1968. It yhas an estimate of $600,000
to $800,000. It sold for $1,022,500.
Subodh Gupta (b. 1964), whose
every day subject-matter
- kitchen utensils, Indian idols, taxis, bicycles, or baggage
stacked on trolleys at airports and railway stations - are contemporary
icons, staples of modern Indian life, re-worked these utensils
in his painting "Steal 2," Lot 112. It has an estimate
of $800,000-1,000,000. It sold for $1,116,500. Mr. Weihe
that this auction totaled $12,634,375 with 84 of the offered 126
lots selling, adding that the sale "offered a selective group
of exceptional works that stimulated lively interest" and
"confirmed the strength of the growing Indian art market."
"Many prices," he continued, "exceeded pre-sale
estimates and established six new world auction records for
Jyothi Basu, Riyas Komu, Manjit Bawa, Chitra Ganesh, Mohammad
Zeeshan, and Zainul Abedin."
Lot 123, "Miter," by Gupta is a
work that is number three from an edition of three and consists
of shimmering assemblages of traditional stainless steel pots,
canisters and thalis used in millions of Indian homes and temples
today is far from mundane in Gupta's hands, just as his painterly
Pop and photo-realist versions of them morph into compelling
that are garnering the interest of serious collectors worldwide.
The "heart" shape is a nod to fellow artist Jeff Koons.
In the sale catalogue, the
"I am the idol thief. I steal
drama of Hindu life. And from the kitchen - these pots, they are
like stolen gods, smuggled out of the country. Hindu kitchens
are as important as prayer rooms. These pots are like something
sacred, part of important rituals, and I buy them in a market.
They think I have a shop, and I let them think it. I get them
wholesale." (C. Mooney, 'Subodh Gupta: Idol Thief,' Artreview,
17 December 2007, p.57.) The lot was an estimate of $600,000 to
$800,000. It sold for $1,022,500.
The gravity of Rameshwar
Brootha's (b. 1941)
"Man," Lot 122, is reflected in the younger artist Riyas
Komu's (b. 1972) anxious Afghan woman in the politically charged
"Designated March of a Petro-Angel (or Desert March). "Man
is an oil on canvas that measures 36 by 48 inches and was painted
in 1991. It has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It sold
Painted in 2006, Christie's
that "Komu's portraits are comprised of randomly chosen images
from the media and are intended to convey the angst and frustration
felt by the common man in regions experiencing strife and unrest.
Although his paintings are disquieting and draw the viewer into
a miasma of desolation, the final and underlying current is one
which celebrates the resilience of the common man."
Lot 101, "Two Dimensions," by
Rana (b. 1972) depicts a monolithic skyscraper and is also a composite
image made from "pixels" of Pakistani street scenes.
It has an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold for
Ashim Purkayastha, (b. 1967)
whose work is
often infused with images of Gandhi, takes an ironic jab at Indian
government policies. In "He Is Not My Enemy," Lot 181,
the artist juxtaposes his own self-portrait with Gandhi, the father
of the nation, without either engaging each other or the viewer.
It is a stalemate reflecting the tension between the individual
and the state. It has an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It
sold for $134,500.
Several wonderful paintings by
artist Jamini Roy, (1887-1972), are an inspired addition to this
sale. While his cats, horses and village scenes are traditionally
Indian and charmingly reminiscent of sophisticated folk art, his
women are strikingly modern, recalling Rashid Rana's gigantic
heads of goddesses. "Untitled (Three Women)," Lot 140,
packs a visual punch and was purchased in the 1940s by Mr. Lyon
who was living in India at the time. After India's Independence
from Britain, he brought the painting back to Dumfries, Scotland.
His niece was the last owner. A gouache on cardboard, it measures
25 and a half by 15 inches and has an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000.
It sold for $58,750.
Dr. Weihe remarked it was an
to be working in this field: "For Post War art clients across
the world, Indian art is coming into its own, and there is so
much more interest in it."
Chinese works of art from the
Ping Tai Foundation
include a delectable "goose" lamp from the 2nd century
B.C., Lot 558, and a pair of magnificent 18th century bronze vases
weighing eighty pounds each from the Imperial workshops, which
"also produced Imperial canons and weapons, and used lavish
amounts of metals as a tribute to the emperor, and were used in
specific palaces or Imperial temples," said Joe Hynn-Yang,
Head of Department.
Lot 558 dates from the Western
and is about 21 3/4 inches high and has an estimate of $400,000
to $600,000. "A Magnificent and Very Rare Painted Bronze
Goose-Form Lamp," the catalogue said it was "especially
prized because its pigment is still preserved, and it was
innovative in its day, offering 360-degree illumination. Its design
was also safety conscious because the gooses' belly held water
that absorbed smoke from the oil that kept the wick enflamed,
lessening the risk of fire at a time when all houses were constructed
of wood." It failed to sell.
Perhaps the most spectacular
work in all of
Christie's Asian Week offerings was Lot 579, an important and
very rare large gilt-copper draogn plaque, Liao dnasty (907-1125).
The six-foot-long plaque has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000.
It sold for $272,500. The catalogue noted that
magnificent, lavishly gidled copper plaque likely represents theAzure
Dragon of the East, one of the animal symbols of the four
other animals are the White Tiger of the East, the Vermillion
Bird of the South and the Dark Warrior of the North. This animal
symbolism originated in Central China and was well established
by the Han dynasty, when images of the four direction animals
were frequently represented in tombs."
has an estimate of
$600,000 to $800,000. It did not sell.
Lot 569, "A Very Rare Red
of an Apsara" dates from 386-534 and depicts a graceful yet
animated celestial female drummer, one of many musicians that
once decorated the walls of the Yungang Caves. The 15 1/8-inch
long sculpture has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It
did not sell.
The stunningly modern green
glazed vase illustrated
below is one of the great treasures of this sale, with its trumpet
neck and luscious leafy peonies rendered in black. It was created
in the 12th century, using cutting edge technology. It has an
estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It sold for $722,500.
A highlight of the sale is an early Ming "sweet white"
vase of divine proportions, with a "rippling water"
effect that cannot be captured effectively in a photograph, that
was first used on fine Imperial porcelains of the Yongle reign
Changing scale dramatically
with no loss of
technical and artistic virtuosity are two delightful snuff bottles,
one a diminutive, double-gourd enamel on pale yellow glass painted
with flowers, the other a strikingly modern composition of a bird
and mysterious dots, both illustrated below.
One of the finest items in the
Lot 568, "a magnificent and rare sandstone head of Buddha,"
from the Northern Wei Dynasty, late 5th Century, Yungang Caves,
Shaanxi Province. The 14-inch high head has an estimate of $250,000
to $350,000. It failed to sell.
From a private Michigan
collection is Lot 577,
an ethereal Bodhisattva with an elaborate foliate crown carved
with a central figure of Amitabha Buddha surrounded by clouds
and flowers, with traces of colored pigments. The 18 7/8-inch-high
statue has an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It failed to
Proceeds from the three
(one in New York and two in Hong Kong) comprising 151 Chinese
classical paintings, ceramics and works of art that are expected
to fetch $22-28 million dollars will benefit The Ping Y Tai Foundation
that donates to American Cancer Society, American Red Cross, American
Heart Association, UNICEF, City Meals on Wheels and Memorial
Japanese and Korean artists
were well represented
by luscious artworks, from sublime kimonos dripping with embroidered
flowers, to elaborate and minutely detailed screens, (Lot 244,
illustrated above, estimate $800,000 to $1,200,000), sculpture,
(Lot 95, illustrated above, estimate $8,000 to $12,000) arms and
armor, lacquer ware and exquisite paintings and prints.
A fantastic mid-late 16th
century screen, Lot
144, "In and Around the Capital," displaying panoramic
views of Kyoto set the pace in the Japanese Galleries. The anonymous
work measures 59 7/8 by 140 1/2 inches and has an estimate of
$800,000 to $1,200,000.
"Many of the places depicted in
still exist in Kyoto, like Nijo Castle," said Katsura Yamaguchi,
Christie's International Head, Japanese and Korean Art, "and
today there are many eateries around the Shijo Bridge, shown here."
Not illustrated here because it
was too fragile
and valuable to remove from its protective folder except for a
few moments at the press preview was a world-class print by Kitagawa
Utamaro, a revered Japanese print maker, and an artist whose impact
on Western art was enormous. The Impressionists, Van Gogh and
Gauguin and many other famous artists were deeply influenced by
Japanese prints, especially Ukiyo-E, of which Utamaro and Hiroshige
were supreme masters. It was wonderful to have the opportunity
to see it.
Lot 83 is a lovely Karaori Noh
the Edo Period that has an estimate $4,000 to $5,000. It failed
One of the highlights of the
Japanese Art auction
was a print by Kitagawa Utamaro (1753?-1806) entitled "Mono
omu koi (Reflections of Love)," depicting a dreamy beauty.
Katsura Yamaguchi, Christie's International Director, Japanese
and Korean Art, said that "Utmaro really loved women, and
it shows in his work. He knew the women he painted, so the prints
are extraordinarily beautiful. "Reflections of Love"
is considered a masterpiece among his prints. With an estimate
of $1-1.5 million, it may be the most expensive print so far."
It failed to sell.
"A Picasso print made over a
so why not Utamaro? French painters loved Ukiyo E prints. I cannot
believe it was made over 200 years ago. I think it should be the
same level as a Picasso print," he said.
The spectacular suits of armor
here conjure up images from legendary Japanese films by Kurosawa,
and no doubt inspired the attire of more recent masked Hollywood
villains like Darth Vader, who is recognized across the globe.
Lot 352, for example, is a gold-lacquer Armor with Shamazu family
crests from the Edo Period and it has an estimate of $30,000 to
Lot 351 is a Edo suit of
armorwith a Byotoji
Yoko-Hagi Okegaqwa Do. It has an estimate of $25,000-30,000.
Flora and fauna abound in
Japanese art, and
to great effect on Lot 42, a devastatingly simple rectangular
inro box, painted in Rinpa style, where blossoming flowers, plants
and grasses roam on an undecorated ground, to reveal the natural
wood grain. It is a "keeper," with a reasonable estimate
of $4,000-6,000. One of the most beautiful objects in all the
Asian Art auctions at Christie's this fall, it sold for $4.350.
The paintings of Korean artist
(1914-1965), are instantly recognizable because they are usually
small, monochromatic, roughly textured, and depict simple subject
matter, like this charming "Figures in a Landscape,"
painted in 1964, with people coming home from market, dressed
in traditional clothes.
Christie's catalog states:
"Sookeun's work was widely
by Americans stationed in Seoul during the 1960s. Now it is prized
by Korean collectors and museums as well. The Bando Gallery in
the Choson Hotel began exhibiting his paintings in 1965, selling
them for a nominal sum to clients who were predominantly American."
Those who were fortunate enough
to carry a
painting away with them made a good investment. Heakyum Kim, Christie's
Specialist, Korean Art, said "Figures in a Landscape"
originally sold for $20. Its pre-sale estimate is $400,000 to
The inspiration for a more
by the Korean artist Kang Ik-Joong, (b. 1960), entitled "Happy
Buddha," is fascinating, as described in Christies sale catalog:
"I developed the 3 by 3 inch
my days as an art student at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn - but
outside the classroom, in response to practical necessity. As
an impoverished student, I worked a total of twelve hours a day
at a Korean grocery store in Manhattan, and as a watchman at the
flea market at Far Rockaway, Queens. Looking for ways to effectively
utilize time of long subway rides, I discovered that 3-inch-square
canvases fit easily into my pocket and into the palm of my hand.
My lengthy commute became transformed into work time in a mobile
studio." (See "Dreams and Reality: Korean American Contemporary
Art; http://www.koamart2003.com/Artist06.html). The lot has an
estimate of $20,000 to $30,000
Walker Evans, who took a series
of iconic photos
- clandestinely - on the New York Subway, would heartily approve
of painting on the move.
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