Christie's New York Asian Art
take place from March 20-22, 2007 beginning with Japanese and
Korean Art, Indian and Southeast Asian Art, Modern and Contemporary
Indian Painting and Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art
Two single owner collections will accompany the sales, "Art
for the Way of Tea: An Important Private Collection," and
Important Chinese Snuff Bottles from the J & J Collection,
Modern and Contemporary Indian
Art is one of
the fastest growing areas of the Asian art market, and this sale
is expected to realize more than $8 million and has some important
examples of paintings and sculpture on offer. The sale total
was $8,593,080 including the buyers' premiums with 79 percent
of the 117 offered lots selling.
Ravinder Reddy's (b. 1956)
Lot 103, was created by Ravinder Reddy (b. 1956) in 2003 and has
an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. It sold for $312,000
the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.
It is a gorgeous golden super-sized bust of a traditional
Indian deity, with decidedly Jeff Koons overtones. The temporal
serenity of the usual goddesses that adorn shrines and dwellings
the length and breadth of India are transformed by Reddy into
Pop Art, with no loss of reverence. India is famous for its ancient
sculptures, and "Laksmi Devi" continues the tradition
in contemporary polyester resin.
The catalogue entry provides
"In a way, Reddy's works
of femininity and beauty, suggesting both the pressure to look
beautiful through the aid of make up, clothing and hair styling,
as well as the pressure to maintain a reverence for and adherence
to tradition, conservative as it may be. Through his gargantuan
transformations and re-appropriations of ancient Indian temple
sculpture, Reddy is possibly commenting on how India's religious
and cultural history are being diluted and westernized by the
racing bandwidth and relentless bombardment of internet and other
mass media from abroad."
Lot 30 in the same sale is a
work from 1968 by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde (1924-2001) and it comes
from the renowned Krishna Riboud Estate. It is measures 70 by
49 3/4 inches and is estimated at $500,000 to $700,000. It
sold for $768,000. Mrs. Riboud is from the famous, artistic
Tagore family - Rabindranth Tagore won the Nobel Prize for poetry
- and married Jean Riboud, a French Industrial magnate. She began
collecting Asian antiquities and textiles, and was instrumental
in the formation of the Musée Guimet in Paris. Mrs. Riboud
was awarded the Legion d'Honneur for her contribution to the arts,
and the large, rare "Untitled, is one of the highlights of
At $1.6 million, Tyeb Mehta (b.
1923) is the
record holder for the highest price for a modern Indian artist
at auction. His "Diagonal XV," (1975), Lot 23, included
in this sale, is estimated at $750,000 to $1,000,000, and references
his "diagonal" series "which he embraced after
a trip to New York in the late 1960s when he saw the work of Francis
Bacon and Western Modernism. "Diagonal XV" is an important
painting in the "slash" series. It failed to sell.
The sale also includes works
from a private
Swiss collection that were once in the personal collection of
Mr, Kekoo Gandhy, legendary owner of Chemould Gallery in Mumbai,
who discovered many famous Indian artists, including Haider Raza
and Jagdish Swaminathan, whose paintings are on offer at this
Lot 9, "Sasantasena," is a good
of the Indian mythological figures painted by Raja Ravi Varma
(1848-1906) that, the catalogue notes, "redefined the popular
imagery available to India's masses."
The catalogue provides the
"Born into one of the
families in Travancore, then the southernmost kingdom of India,
Ravi Varma grew up in Kilimanoor, the small fiefdom belonging
to his family. Among his relatives, the pursuit and mastery of
warfare had long been replaced by the arts and Varma grew up surrounded
by poets, painters, scribes and musicians. The artist's innate
artistic skill was first discovered by his uncle, Raja Raja Varma,
who happened to notice the charcoal drawings that Ravi Varma scrawled
onto the walls of Kilimanoor and his uncle took it upon himself
to give the fledgling artist his first lessons in painting. A
youth of aristocratic upbringing, Varma's instruction and explorations
at the Royal Court of Thiruvanathapuram were furthered as he began
to study the court's available books and manuscripts, many which
showcased developments in western art. Learning traditional Indian
techniques of watercolor and ground pigments from the palace painter
Rama Swamy Naidu, Varma sought to master the western technique
of oil painting. Oil painting was still uncommon in India and
one of the few local artists working with the medium, Ramaswamy
Naicker, refused to teach Varma as he rightly viewed him as
Eventually, through covert instruction from Naicker's assistant
and observation of Theodore Jensen, a Dutch painter from England
who was filling portrait commissions in the Palace, Varma began
to hone his immense talent with the brush. Familiarizing himself
with the concepts of Realism and Naturalism, Varma began to create
his three dimensional worlds on flat surfaces, depicting for the
first time mythological gods and epics in naturalized settings.
It was in 1893, that Ravi Varma was
bring art to the masses and established the first printing press
in India, known as the Ravi Varma Oleographic and Chromolithographic
Printing Workshop....This work, Vasantasena, meaning spring, is
most likely the basis for one of Ravi Varma's oleographs reproduced
in both an exhibition catalogue edited by R.C. Sharma for the
National Museum of New Delhi's exhibition entitled Raja Ravi Varma,
New Perspectives, (R.C. Sharma, ed., Raja Ravi Varma, New Perspectives,
exh. cat., National Museum, New Delhi, 1993, pg 134) and editors
Edwin Neumayer and Christine Schelberger's book which publishes
the diary of C. Raja Raja Varma (E. Neumayer and C. Schelberger,
Raja Ravi Varma: Portrait of an artist, the Diary of C. Raja Raja
Varma Oxford, New Delhi, 2005, pp xv and 283). The Indian female
in particular, was a favorite subject for the artist and he often
used local Maliyali or Maharashtrian women as the prototype for
his works. Casting them as various mythological figures, Varma
would endow their likeness with a sense of the sensual careful
not to overstep the lines of propriety. Vasantasena, after which
this work is titled, refers to both a character of India's 5th
century classical play, The Clay Cart, in which Vasantasena is
the faithful courtesan, as well a term indicating the season of
spring. Varma highlights both of these definitions in this work
depicting a beautiful woman in light fluttering robes placed within
a landscape which easily resembles the first blossoms of the Spring."
Varma is considered a "National
whose artworks may not be exported outside India under normal
circumstances. This painting is from a collection outside India.
It has an estimate of $350,000
It sold for $420,000.
Believing the works of previous
to be overly sentimental, Francis Newton Souza looked to Western
Modernism for inspiration on how to radicalize and shock the South
Asian art world, founding the legendary Bombay Progressives Artists
Group in 1947. A master of line, Souza's forays into the human
form are well documented and his works successfully explore a
wide range of physiognomies from the most sublime of female nudes
to riotous and tortured figural forms. Living in London from 1949
to 1967, Souza often visited the National Gallery, developing
a deep appreciation for the work of Rembrandt, Vermeer and most
notably Francisco De Goya. Exposed to Goya's famous Pinturas
Negras, or black paintings, executed in the final tumultuous
years of the Spanish artist's lifetime, Souza, possibly in a reaction
to these works, embarked on his own series of all black canvases.
Painting these during the mid 1960s, a time in which the artist
was suffering severe financial difficulties, drinking heavily,
and had begun to lose the favor of his critics whom had previously
praised him, the works emerged as a stark and poignant testimony
to both Souza's personal state and his feelings on the state of
art in general. The choice of all black was courageous as it both
made creating the work technically more difficult while simultaneously
mocking the commercial viability of paintings in general, sacrificing
the popular and the publishable, as these works are notoriously
difficult to reproduce in print, for the profound. Shortly after
finishing the small group of these black works, Souza, frustrated
with his life in England, moved to New York. Many critics have
suggested Souza's black paintings are the climax of a period of
intense artistic creativity for the artist, their monotone palette
focusing attention on Souza's mastery of line and impasto, while
providing a clear and unmediated window into the troubled soul
of the painter."
The lot has an estimate of
$350,000 to $500,000.
It sold for $420,000.
Atul Dodiya (b. 1959) is
considered the father
of the Contemporary Art movement in India, and is represented
at this sale by Lot 104, "July," a 60 1/8-inch square
oil on canvas painted in 1987. It has an estimate of $100,000
to $150,000. It sold for $120,000.
"Atul Dodiya's allegorical
the catalogue notes, "fuse fragments of art historical masterpieces
with moments of pop culture, current events and his own autobiography.
Regarded as one of the leading artists of his generation, Dodiya
has become a widely recognized figurehead in South Asian contemporary
art influencing many of the country's burgeoning younger artists.
Born in and still residing in Mumbai, the culture and history
of India plays an important role in shaping the barrage of images
which inform his works. Beginning his career with a straightforward
and cleverly deadpan realist style, Dodiya moved away from the
literal in the mid-90's towards the fragmented and multilayered
techniques which now dominate his oeuvre. Immensely conscious
of history, his works reflect his impressive knowledge about both
current events and ancient religions and he quotes freely from
the recesses of both Western and Indian art traditions. Capitalizing
on the post-modern tendency towards ironic juxtaposition, Dodiya
manages to use the vocabulary of western contemporary in creating
a unique and potent pictorial language. According to art historian
Thomas McEvilley, "even as [Dodiya's] work attempts to bring
Indian art into a closer embrace with western post-Modernist art,
he also wants to bring contemporary Indian art closer to its Hindu
roots, through re-adjustment and reproaches to cultural and
figures such as Gandhi, Siva and Kali." An excellent example
of the straightforward style which defined his oeuvre in the 1980s
and first brought him critical acclaim, this work by Dodiya is
the first of an important series featuring a stark interior and
a single central figure. Taking cues from the 2-dimensional candy
colored pop of David Hockney, July depicts a
in Indian life during the summer months or monsoon season, the
convergence of wildlife and domestic life. The room pictured is
in Santiniketan, West Bengal, and is the home of Rabindranath
Tagore, the Nobel-Prize winner, poet and philosopher, and Tagore's
portrait hangs on the wall behind the figure. In this simple scene,
Dodiya creates a strange camaraderie between the trespassing turtle
and the man, whose likeness closely resembles that of the artist.
However, ironically the presence of the turtle seems to highlight
both the loneliness of the scene and the loneliness of the man
Contemporary artists Chitra Ganesh, Baiju Parthan, Sudarshan Sherry,
Shibu Natesan, Jitish Kallat, and T.V. Santosh, amongst others,
are also represented at this sale.
Rewinding the art tape to
ancient times, masterpieces
from the Estate of Thomas Solley and the Estate of Christian H.
Fischbacher lead the sale of Indian and Southeast Asian Art. A
beautiful and very graceful 33 1/4-inch-high bronze "Parvati,"
Lot 57, from South India, Vijayanagar Period, circa 1400, is the
star lot and sets the bar high for this sale. She is from the
Thomas Solley Estate. While the estimate for this lissome goddess
is $400-600,000, there are choice items on offer at every price
level for the keen connoisseur. It sold for $2,728,000,
a new world auction record for a classical Indian work of art.
The sale total of 47,478,360 was the highest ever achieved for
classical Indian and Southeast Asian Art at Christie's.
Thomas Solley (1924-2006) was a
man, and grandson of Evan Frost Lilly (1855-1903), of the
company Eli Lilly & Co. He came from a family known for its
visionary philanthropy, and amassed an exceptional collection
of masterpieces in fields as diverse as photography, German
and Indian art, a special favorite. He became the director of
the University of Indiana Art Museum in Bloomington.
Also from the Solley Collection
is the gray
schist "Maitreya," (the future Buddha), 2nd-3rd Century,
estimated at $120-150,000. It sold for $288,000.
22 3/4 inch high figure is Lot 220.
Some of the other Solley
properties in the
auction are much more diminutive but no less stunning. Lot 290,
for example, is a rare gold figure of Durga that is only 3 1/4
inches high. The very finely cast statue from Central Java in
Indonesia, circa 8th/9th Century, is standing on a buffalo holding
a dagger and backed by a delicate ovoid nimbus. The lot has a
modest estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. It sold for $26,400.
Another gem is Lot 286, a rare
of Avalokiteshvara, Thailand, Pra Kon Chai style, 7th/8th Century.
The 2 5/8-inch-high statuette has an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000.
It sold for $31,200.
Other properties in this sale
include an impressive
black stone statue of Buddha from Northeastern India, Bihar, Early
Pala Period. Lot 245, it is 42 1/2 inches high. It has an estimate
of $150,000 to $200,000. It sold for $180,000. The
was once owned by C. T. Loo and then Frank Caro.
"Among the few known examples
and early Pala period black stone sculpture, the present example,"
the catalogue states, "must be regarded as among the most
important and largest of its type. Closely following the Gupta
idiom and retaining the refined sense of volume and smooth surface
as typified in fifth century Sarnath sculpture, it also reflects
a slightly later northeastern Indian influence. It shares the
smooth flowing diaphanous robe more revealing than concealing
of a gracefully modeled body, the pose with a gentle swing of
the right hip and the gesture of holding the hem in his left hand,
the distinct arched collar and tightly curled hair. This is combined
with a more humorous expression and the left foot turned in a
more exaggerated way, indicating the emergence of a regional style."
Lot 269 is a rare and charming
of Ganesha that is from Khmer, Pre-Angkor Period, circa 8th Century.
The 13 1/2-inch-high statue has an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000.
It sold for $96,000.
Lot 16 is an impressive gilt
of Vajrapani striding in alidasana over two prone figures on a
lotus base, his right hand raised and his left hand held in front
of his chest, wearing a dhoti secured by a snake around his waist
and a long garland of skulls, further snakes encircling his upper
arms and neck, the hair drawn up into a high chignon, richly gilt
overall and inlaid with turquoise. The Tibetan work of art dates
to the 16th Century and has an estimate of $30,000 to $40,000.
It failed to sell.
Lot 83 in the Japanese and
Korean Art sale,
"Pine Trees in Moonlight," which is attributed to Hasegawa
Tohaku (1539-1610), is a fairly recent discovery. Although it
has no signature or seal, it is, according to the catalogue, obviously
closely related to the famous National Treasure screens of Pine
Trees by Hasegawa Tohaku...in the Tokyo National Museum. Both
works feature four clusters of pines arranged in almost identical
groupings. There are some subtle differences, however. Most striking
is the addition of a moon in the pair of screens shown here. Gold
wash suggests moonlight, and ink was applied to the back of the
paper to darken the surface and enhance the contemplative, nocturnal
mood. According to Miyata Ayako, writing in a recent issue of
Kokka, Tohaku injured his right hand in 1604,
immediate followers in a difficult position. Over the course of
the following decade, Hasegawa Sotaku (d. 1611) and Hasegawa Toshu
(d. 1613) studied Tohaku's oeuvre and introduced new motifs into
paintings in his style. Pine Trees in Moonlight is
to date from that period. No one doubts that it was painted during
Tohaku's lifetime either by a close student working under his
supervision or by the master himself."
The lot has an estimate on
request. It sold
One of the loveliest screens is
of the Four Seasons," by Suzuki Kiitsu (1796-1858). A six-panel
screen in ink, color and gold on paper, it measures 40 3/8 by
107 1/4 inches. It has an estimate of $30,000 to $40,000. It
sold for $42,000.
The auction has several fine
of armor. Lot 172, for example, is a Do-Maru suit of armor from
the Edo Period. The catalogue provides the following description:
"The suit laced in green and
scarlet trim at the lowest edges of the bottom lames and comprising
a twenty-two plate russet-iron suji bachi mounted with gilt-metal
shinodare pierce-carved with chrysanthemum scroll and standing
rivets and a four-stage gilt-metal and shakudo tehen kanamomo
with chrysanthemum scroll and chrysanthemum petals, the bowl fitted
with a wide four-lame neck guard, the mabisashi and fukigaeshi
covered with stenciled leather, the kuwagata-dai gilt-metal carved
with chrysanthemum scroll, kuwagata and Buddhist ken maedate,
helmet bowl decorated with animal hair; the facemask black lacquer
with a moustache of applied animal fur, fitted with a three-lame
throat guard; an additonal throat guard of two lames decorated
with gilt metal chrysanthemum scroll hardware; the do constructed
of leather scales lacquered black, the muna-ita covered with stenciled
leather and mounted with gilt-metal fittings; sendan-no-ita and
kyubi-no-ita decorated to match the do and o-sode; sleeves with
solid plates on the forearms lacquered with family crests in gold;
kozane haidate; tsutsu suneate; animal fur boots; saihai and fan;
two storage boxes; no stand."
It has an estimate of $40,000
to $50,000. It
sold for $72,000.
Many collectors prize sword
handle guards and
Lot 229, an Akasaka Tadatoki Tsuba, is especially beautiful with
a delicate lobed rim and pierced with chrysanthemum petals and
leaves around the edges and carved on the web with leaves in ke-bori.
It is signed Takatoki Saku and is from the Edo Period (19th Century).
It has an estimate of $3,000 to $5,000. It failed to sell.
A stunning selection of modern
Korean art includes
an untitled painting by Kim Whanki (1913-1974) that was painted
in 1969, and is estimated at $70-80,000. It sold for $84,000.
Like contemporary Indian art,
art has generated a great deal of interest and rapidly increasing
prices in the past few years. The Japanese and Korean Sale is
expected to realize $5.5 million. The sale total was
Lot 10 is an impressive
flower vase from the Ming Dynasty (17th Century) that is 10 1/8
inches high. It was cast in one piece and applied with cylindrical
handles and designed around the mouth and handles with a frieze
of stylized hook-beaked birds set against a thunder-scroll ground
and a band of bosses against a geometric pattern above the bulbous
body and around the splayed foot.
The catalogue notes that this vessel was made as an "arrow"
vase for a Chinese drinking game called touhu,
among elite men and women from the Spring and Autumn period (770-476
B.C.) onward. The players tried to throw arrows into the tubular
necks, with the winner getting the most or all arrows into the
vase. The loser had to take a drink when he missed. As the game
became more popular there were elaborate rituals, rules and pitching
techniques. By the Ming period the game was also played by wealthy
merchants as well as the aristocracy and scholars. In Japan, in
the context of tea practice, it is used as a flower vase."
It has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.
A refined and important Private Collection "Art for the Way
of Tea" includes choice tea ceremony items. These delicate
artifacts span the 16th through the 19th Century and consist of
40 lots estimated to fetch three million dollars. The collection
includes the "batterie de cuisine" for the private tea
room, including beautiful calligraphy to hang in the alcove, vases
for flowers, sake bottles and the essential ceramic tea bowls.
These delicate objects are
highly prized, and
the top item, Lot 19, is a rectangular stoneware bowl with bridge
handle, Momoyama period (17th century) Mino ware, Narumi Oribe
type (estimate $350,000 to $400,000). It sold for $300,000.
A great deal of work has gone into this unique serving
including molding, hand molding, decorating and glazing. The classic
tea arrangement combined Japanese, Chinese and Korean objects,
and this is reflected in objects in the sale.
Snuff bottle sales have
established their own
traditions - and enthusiasts - in the Asian Art market, and the
Christies sale offers 88 gems from the renowned J&J Collection.
The highlight of the snuff
bottle auction is
Lot 4, a "magnificent" Beijing enamel "European
Subject" snuff bottle that is only 1 15/16 inches high and
has an estimate of $200,000 to $250,000. It sold for
It comes from the Palace Workshops and has a Qianlong blue
enamel four-character mark and dates to 1736-1780. It was once
in the collection of Avery Brundage and was exhibited at the Percival
David Foundation of Chinese Art, London, in 1997.
The bottle, the catalogue notes, "is of compressed spherical
form, finely enameled with a continuous frieze in which two European
dandies are shown in conversation, one of whom points towards
an elegant lady in a hat carrying a basket of fruit and accompanied
by a young boy, all within a landscape with a lake and distant
country house set between delicate floral bands at the neck, shoulders
and base giving way to elaborate scalloping, the exposed metal
at the neck and the foot gilded."
"This exceptional bottle," the
entry continued "undoubtedly ranks among the finest Imperial
painted enamel bottles, a group in which masterpieces are standard.
The subject matter clearly shows the influence of eighteenth-century
French painters such as Watteau and Boucher, which was transmitted
by contemporaneous French enamellers to Jesuit artists at the
Chinese Court, who in turn passed it on to the craftsman employed
at the Imperial workshops at Beijing. French and Swiss painted-enamel
panels and other objects were sent to the Court at Beijing throughout
the first half of the Qing dynasty to inspire and instruct the
Court enamellers and ingratiate the Jesuits with the Emperor.
It is perhaps of little surprise that this extraordinary bottle
caught the eye of Avery Brundage, whose collection now forms the
core of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco."