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Asia Week at Christie's

Japanese and Korean Art

2 PM, March 17, 2009

Sale 2266

Fine Chinese Art from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections

10 AM, March 18, 2009

Sale 2268

Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art

2:30 PM, March 18, 2009, amd 2 PM, March 19, 2009

Sales 2267 and 2269

Southeast Asian Modern + Contemporary Art

10 AM, March 19, 2009

Sale 2270

Indian and Southeast Asian Art including highlights from the Star Collection

10 AM, March 20, 2009

Sale 2278 and 2271

Eastern Zhou dynasty translucent greyish-green jad long flat bead

Lot 313, one of two translucent greyish-green jad long flat beads, Eastern Zhou Dynasty, 6th-5th Century B.C., 4 3/4 inches long, held by Michael Bass, Christie's specialist

By Michele Leight

Entering Christie's from Rockefeller Plaza with the flags of many nations fluttering in a March wind inspired thoughts of spring, which continued in the galleries filled with exotic collectibles assembled for Asia Week, a riot of flowers strewn across porcelain vases, leaves carved in translucent jade, and cherry blossoms finely embroidered on beautiful silk kimonos in timeless designs derived from nature.

In uncertain economic times the diversity of these beautiful Asian treasures were a reminder that stock markets, GDP's and economies can rise and fall, but art endures, inspires and rejuvenates, despite the sobering effect of the past few months.

The diversity of the offerings was impressive, reflected in the fact that Christie's had five catalogues for the week compared to two at Sotheby's.

South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art

"Culture of the Streets," 32 photographs by Maqbool Fida Husain


Lot 1001, "Culture of the Streets," by Maqbool Fida Husain, circa 1981, 32 Kodak C-prints, in a custom made leather portfolio, signed and numbered '3 / Husain' (lower left of the frontispiece, 10 7/8 by 13 7/8 or 13 7/8 by 10 7/8 inches each

Maqbool Fida Husain (b. 1915), for example is one of the most famous contemporary Indian painters and he was represented by Lot 1001, "Culture of the Streets," a collection of 32 photographs numbered '3 and executed in 1981, and by a large untitled oil on canvas, Lot 1043. Each photograph in Lot 1001 measured 10 7/8 by 13 7/8 inches. Twelve of the photographs were exhibited at the Tate Gallery in London in 1982. Detail from Lot 1001,"Culture of the Streets" by M. F. Husain, illustrated at the top of the story

Husain originally aspired to be a filmmaker not a painter, and "Culture of the Streets," comprises iconography that is deeply imbedded in and inseparable from the visual, emotional and psychological landscape of India. There is no escaping the deliciously tawdry billboard art that advertises the latest movie or hottest movie stars in a land of one billion avid movie buffs - many of whom hail from the masses whose main escape is the local cinema hall where for a few hours life's mundane realities can be put on a back burner.

Armed with a 35 mm SLR camera, Husain captured the glamour of the movie stars depicted here from a series of billboards in Madras but which occur in any Indian city, town or village - juxtaposing the hypnotizing fantasies, fabrication and escape that cinema represents - with the reality of poverty and urban decay. The result is a potent cocktail of urban grit and the dream worlds created to appease and delight the masses.

As a struggling artist, Husain painted billboards of Indian cinema, a tradition that persists today for other artists as he has soared to unimaginable heights. Layers of these billboards form an unforgettable backdrop in a nation grappling with the inevitable dualities of tradition and prosperous modern identity. Most often, a fruit or vegetable vendor, or a day laborer sucking on a cheroot sits in front of these fantastical backdrops.

The lot has an estimate of $12,000 to $18,000. It sold for $12,500 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.

Dr. Hugo Weihe with untitled work by Maqbool Fida Husain

Dr. Hugo Weihe with Lot 1043, an untitled oil on canvas by Maqbool Fida Husain, 73 1/4 by 115 inches, 1971

Lot 1043 was consigned by the Harry N. Abrams family and was exhibited at the Worcester Art Museum in 1974. A detail of the work was the cover illustration for the catalogue for the South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art auction. It is a Picasso-esque composition, one of many paintings in this sale with a New York theme or association:

Untitled work by Husain in background and untitled sculpture by Ravinder Reddy foreground

Background, Lot 1043, "Untitled," by Maqbool Fida Husain, 1971, oil on canvas, 73 ¼ by 115 inches; foreground, Lot 1037, "Untitled," by Ravinder Reddy, polyester, resin and fiberglass, 34 ¼ by 34 ½ by 22 inches

The catalogue entry for this lot noted that Husain "traveled extensively in Europe after 1952 to experience Western art history firsthand through the works of Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Constantin Brancusi and Marcel Duchamp amongst others. Husain later became a recipient of the prestigious Rockefeller Foundation grant in 1959 for a stay in New York. In his autobiography, he states that he accepted the honor in the hopes of understanding the assault of Jackson Pollock and the Op-Art and Pop Art movements of the day on the prevailing European consciousness, which he likened to the brash new superpower of America exerting its force in the art historical pantheon." It has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. It failed to sell. Another Husain painting, "Gandhi, Man of Peace," Lot 1066, has an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It sold for $152,000.

Untitled by Reddy

Lot 1037, "Untitled," by Ravinder Reddy, polyester, resin and fiberglass, 34 1/4 by 34 1/2 by 22 inches

Ravinder Reddy (b. 1956) references ancient Indian sculptural traditions with his "supersized" heads such as Lot 1037, a 34 1/4 by 34 1/2 by 22 inch polyester, resin and fiberglass work. The catalogue entry notes that "the artist cleverly imbues his sculptures with a sense of serenity and the brash faces remain docile and oddly domestic." It has an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. It failed to sell.

"The Tree Arch" and "Tom B. Scott Jr." both by Francis Newton Sousa

Lot 1031, "The Tree Arch on the Road to Hawley Lake, Arizona," 1971, oil on canvas board, 24 by 20 inches, left, and Lot 1029, "Tom B. Scott Jr., Vice President U.S. Savings & Loan League," 1968, oil, acrylic, spray paint and charcoal on board, 48 1/8 by 36 inches, right, both by Frances Newton Sousa

Two very different paintings by Francis Newton Sousa could be perceived as a metaphor for the fiasco in the current financial and housing markets. Atypically bright and colorful for Sousa, Lot 1301, "The Tree Arch on the Road to Hawley Lake, Arizona," looks surprisingly like the work of Van Gogh. It has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $47,500. In contrast somber, beautifully "broody" Lot 1029 is a portrait of "Tom B. Scott Jr., Vice President U.S. Savings & Loan League," painted in a style more readily associated with Sousa and it has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. However, it alludes to subject matter (financial) that might have something to do with why this wonderful painting passed! In happier economic times it should do well.

"Portrait of H. K. (Harold Kovner)" by Sousa
Lot 1032, "Portrait of H.K. (Harold Kovner)," by Francis Newton Sousa, 1971, oil on canvas board, 24 1/8 by 20 inches

Another portrait by Sousa, Lot 1032, "Portrait of H.K. (Harold Kovner)," in also executed in impressive Van Gogh style. An oil on canvas, it measures 24 1/8 by 20 inches and has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $56,250.

"Face" by Broota

Lot 1010, "Face," by Rameshwar Broota, 1993, oil on canvas, 25 by 25 inches

Another artist represented in the auction with several works is Rameshwar Broota (b. 1941). His "Face," Lot 1010, is one of the strongest paintings in this auction, a marvelous, primordial face whose mysterious "head-and-body-stocking" texture is achieved through a meticulous, subtractive process of scraping away thickly applied layers of paint with a blade. An oil on canvas, it is 25 inches square and was executed in 1993. The catalogue notes that this work is one of the last from the artist's "Man" series, "which plays tribute to an injured man, perhaps a warrior, whose brooding stance and statuesque quality appears fossilized, frozen in time and space." "The figure," the entry continued, "exudes strength against the odds and looms from its dark surroundings with a translucence of dignity. Rameshwar Broota's reverse technique of 'extracting' forms and imagery from the canvas began in the late 1970s." It has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $80,500.

In Lot 1071, a winsome, 50-by-70-inch oil on canvas painted by Broota in 1980, the artist uses the Havaldar, or police officer - always visible in India - in the guise of an snoozing anthropomorphized gorilla to make satirical comments about his social environment and systems. A "pillar of society" is depicted in a compromising situation, but the artist deploys humor as he exposes a serious subject - a law-enforcement officer shirking his responsibility. Broota's witty "exposes" recall George Bernard Shaw's famous comment, "if you want to tell people the truth you had better make them laugh, or they will want to kill you!" The lot has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $158,500.

Another Broota work, "Transplantation," Lot 1009, is a 54 1/2-inch-square acrylic on canvas depicts anthopomorphic "surgeon" apes wielding unusual "tools." It has an estimate of $140,000 to $180,000. It sold for $170,500.


Dr. Deepanjana Klein, Christies Head of Sale, South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art, with (right) Lot 1012, "Untitled," by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, and (left) Lot 1071, "Havaldar - III," by Rameshwar Brootha.

A plateau-ing in prices for South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art after their meteoric rise in the last few years is inevitable after the downturn on Wall Street, but this in no way diminishes its continued importance in the impressive pantheon of Asian art history that plays out so dramatically in the auction galleries during Asia Week, whereby walking from one gallery to another one traverses thousands of years of art history. Contemporary Indian art continues to cause great excitement globally, and thankfully the greatest artists have never spent much time worrying about the price their work is fetching. If they had there would be no Van Gogh - who never sold a canvas during his lifetime - and no great art.

Lot 1012 is Vasudeo Gaitonde's beautifully spare "Untitled," which has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for $482,500. Like Rameshwar Broota's monochromatic canvases it contrasts with many of the vivid paintings in the gallery. This masterpiece by Gaitonde has a unique New York connection - a theme that runs through this sale said Dr. Hugo Weihe: "Having already participated in group exhibitions in New York at Graham Gallery (1959) and Gallery 63 (1963), in 1964 Gaitonde was awarded the J.D. Rockefeller III Fund Fellowship to work in America. This work comprises monochromatic tones which ebb and flow across its horizontal surface, reflecting the artist's interest in American Abstract Expressionism at the height of its development."

"Untitled" by Gupta

Lot 1021, "Untitled," by Subodh Gupta, 2004, oil on canvas, 66 by 90 inches

Like most of his superbly executed paintings, Subodh Gupta's "Untitled," Lot 1021, represents his instantly recognizable, iconic kitchen utensils dangling from the roof of a store. The impressive, 66-by-90-inch oil on canvas, created in 2004, carries a double meaning. The utilitarian homeliness of these commonplace middle-class household objects is used as a foil for the complex contradictions presented by globalization and India's economic ascendance in contemporary India. The artist was born in 1964, It has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $176,500.

"Untitled" by Chakravarty

Lot 1073, "Untitled," by Jayashree Chakravarty, 2002-2004, acrylic and oil on canvas, 29 by 45 7/8 inches

Lot 1073 is a strong work by Jayashree Chakravarty (b. 1956) that is highly textured like some of Anselm Kiefer's work. An Acrylic and oil on canvas, it measures 29 by 45 7/8 inches. It has an estimate of $18,000 to $25,000. It sold for $50,000.

Works by Malini, Dodiya and Ganesh

Lot 1007, "Family of Street Performers," by Nalini Malini, 1988, watercolor on paper, left; Lot 1072, "Untitled," by Anju Dodiya, 1993, watercolor on paper, center; Lot 1022, "Sugar and Milk," by Chitra Ganesh, 2008, digital collage, right

Illustrated above is trio of paintings by female artists: Nalini Malini's Lot 1007, "Family of Street Performers," sold for $5000, Anju Dodiya's Lot 1072, "Untitled," sold for $7,500 (estimate of $10,000-15,000) and Chitra Ganesh's "Sugar and Milk" fetched $5,000 (estimate $8,000-12,000).

Four paintings in the sale by Bengali artist Jamini Roy (1887-1972) did consistently well, with none passing and each selling at or above their high estimate. These include Lot 1038, which has an estimate of $6,000 to $8,000 and sold for $7,500; Lot 1039, which has an estimate of $5,000 to $7,000 and sold for $8,125; Lot 1040, which has an estimate of $6,000 to $8,000 and sold for $9,375, all three of folk art horses; and Lot 1041, which depicts three female musicians in Roy's sophisticated "take" on traditional Bengali folk art style and has an estimate of $8,000 to $12,000 and sold for $13,125.

After the auction, which totalled $2,159,500, Hugo Weihe, International Director, International Specialist, Head of Indian and Southeast Asian Art, said that "This morning's sale of South Asian Modern +Contemporary Art was led by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde's superb Untitled, 1965, which achieved $482,500. We were also pleased to see further strong results for Maqbool Fida Husain's Ghandi- Man of Peace at $152,000 and Rameshwar Broota's Face at $80,500. Buyers continued to be selective and to focus on quality with solid results for mid-level price ranges. The sale was well attended with international bidders in the room, on the phone and on Christie's LIVE™."

Indian and Southeast Asian Art including highlights from the Star Collection

Dr. Hugo Weihe with Shiva and Uma as Somaskanda left and Jina right

Dr. Hugo Weihe with (left) Lot 1287, "A Large and Important Bronze Group of Shiva and Uma as Somaskanda," South India, Tamilnadu, Chola Period, 13th Century, 26 inches wide, left; Lot 1281,"A Bronze Figure of a Jina," South India, Karnataka or Tamilnadu, circa 10th century, 14 7/8 inches high

While these auctions includes works of art with high price tags, there are many affordable gems woven into the mix, like "Culture of the Streets," by Maqbool Fida Husain, one of India's most recognizable artists, with a modest estimate of $12,000 to $18,000, which sold for $12,500, and a pair of exquisitely carved "beads" from The Arthur M. Sackler Collection, one illustrated at the top of the story (Lot 313, estimate $6,000 to $8,000).

Winged atlas from Gandhara
"Lot 1201, A Gray Schist Figure of a Winged Atlas," Gandhara, 2nd/3rd Century," from the Star Collection

Higher up the price scale is Lot 1201, "A Gray Schist Figure of a Winged Atlas," from Gandhara, a unique and mysterious sculpture that is one of the highlights of the Star Collection. It has an estimate of $120,000 to $180-000 and it sold for $170,500, and Lot 1287, " A Large and Important Bronze Group of Shiva and Uma as Somaskanda," an exquisite piece from Tamilnadu, with an estimate of $600,000-800,000. Lot 1287 failed to sell.

Figure of Padmapani

Lot 123, figure of Padmapani, gilt copper, Nepal, 14th Century, 10 1/2 inches high

Lot 124 is a shimmering gilt copper figure of Padmapani from Nepal. The 14th Century work is 10 1/2 inches high and has an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. It sold for $182,500.

Sachika, India, Rajasthan

Lot 1208, "An Important Buff Sandstone Figure of Sachika," India, Rajasthan, Dated to 1179, 33 inches high

A far more earthy lot from the same collection is Lot 128, an "important" buff sandstone figure of Sachika (another form of the goddess Durga), from India, Rajasthan. It is dated to 1179 and is a dramatic three-dimensional depiction of a goddess with a foot on a buffalo's head while a lion bites its hindquarters, her multiple arms encased in bracelets. This marvelous sculpture stands 33 inches tall and has an estimate of $200,000-300,000. It sold for $242,500. The work has been exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum, the Kimbell Art Museum, New Orleans Museum of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Bronze head of Buddha from Thailand

Lot 1221, Buddha, bronze, 13 inches high, Thailand, Ayutthayta style, 15th Century

Lot 1221 is a striking bronze head of Buddha in Ayutthayta style from Thailand. It is 13 inches high and is dated to the 15th Century. It has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold for $62,500.

Sandstone statue of Vishnu from Khmer

Lot 1425, Vishnu, sandstone, Khmer, Angkor Period, Baphuon style, 11th Century, 36 inches high

Lot 1425 is a 36-inch-high sandstone statue of Vishnu from Khmer, Angkor Period, Baphuon style. The 11th Century work has an estimate of $120,000 to $180,000. It sold for $98,500

"Adoration of Sita and Rama"

Lot 1318, "Adoration of Sita and Rama," paintingk 17 3/4 by 14 3/4 inches, India, Kangra or Mandi, circa 1840

The auction has numerous fine Indian paintings.

One of the most lovely is Lot 1318, "Adoration of Sita and Rama, a 17 3/4 by 14 3/4 inch panting that was executed in Kangra or Mandi circa 1840. It has an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. It failed to sell.

"Princess Observing Fireworks"
Lot 1339, "A Painting of a Princess Observing Fireworks in the Moonlight," India, Oudh, Mughal Period, circa 1775. 14 3/4 by 11 3/4 inches

The lusciousness of India is captured in a gorgeous miniature painting of a princess with attendants observing fireworks that rain down like a waterfall from sparklers. Dressed in gold brocade, the princess is entertained by musicians under a moonlit sky, and holds a flask of wine in her hand. Life does not get much better than this, assuming her prince is about to visit. Lot 1339, "Princess Observing Fireworks in the Moonlight," measures 14 3/4 by 11 3/4 inches and has an estimate of $70,000-90,000. It sold for $86,500.

Lot 1305, "A Rare Silver Model of a Chariot," India, Tanjore, circa 18th Century, 18 inches high

Lot 1305, a rare silver model of a chariot, is one of those "must have" collectibles, an over-the-top open chariot in the best Indian tradition, over-decorated in a dizzying combination of goddesses, celestial figures and winged mythical creatures. It is 18 inches high and has an estimate of $40,000-60,000. It sold for $43,750. In the background is Lot 1280, "A Gray Stone Figure of a Female Attendant."

Upper left corner: Lot 1303, "A Rare Silver Mask of Shiva," India, Karnataka, circa 18th century; lower right, Lot 1304, "A Large Folk Bronze Figure of Durga on a Lion," India, Bengal, 19th century; lower left, Lot 1301, "A Stone Brahmanda "Cosmic Egg," Central India, circa 19th century

This winsome vignette of Indian and South East Asian Art treasures captures the diversity of the Indian sub-continent, and includes Lot 1303, a stunning mask of a mustachioed Shiva baring fangs from Karnataka, with an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It is 15 3/4 inches high and sold for $40,000; a delightful folk art bronze of a female deity from Bengal seated side-saddle on a lion, Lot 1304, which has an estimate of $18,000 to $25,000 and sold for $18,750, and Lot 1301, "A Stone Brahmanda, 'Cosmic Egg,'" with an estimate of $1,500-2,000 that sold for $2,750.

Hugo Weihe, International Director, International Specialist, Head of Indian and Southeast Asian Art, said: "The sale of Indian and Southeast Asian Art including Highlights from the Star Collection realized $3,042,750 and was led by an important Indian buff sandstone figure of Sachika, which achieved $242,500. The top three lots of the sale were sculptures from The Star Collection, carefully curated highlights that attracted global clients and achieved a combined total of $595,500. We were also pleased to see top prices for Himalayan bronzes and Gandharan sculptures."


Japanese and Korean Art

Katsukawa Shunsho

Katsura Yamaguchi, Christie's International Director, Japanese and Korean Art, with Lot 39, "Nine Erotic Scenes from Secret Games in the Spring Palace," by Katsukawa Shunsho (d. 1792), handscroll 19 1/16 by 27 9/16 inches

Christie's public relations co-ordinator Sung Hee Park guided members of the press through auction highlights from China, Korea, Japan and South East Asia, and first up on the tour was Katsura Yamaguchi, International Director Japanese and Korean Art, who focused on Lot 39, "Nine Erotic Scenes from Secret Games in the Spring Palace" displayed behind velvet curtains that tastefully concealed erotica from the potential gaze of passing children. While these paintings are certainly not imagery to view with grandma, they were as beautifully painted as if the artist were depicting a vase of peonies or the boudoir of geishas. Mr. Yamaguchi said that in the 18th century when these erotic scenes were painted, girls were married off as young as14 or 15. The paintings were often commissioned by the girl's family and were sometimes never opened by the daughters. He observed the fine attention to detail in works of art of this quality were especially prized as a record of the clothes, props, hairstyles and combs of the times. . The 9 paintings were by Katsukawa Shunsho (d. 1792) and were on a handscroll that measures 18 13/16 by 27 9/16 inches. The lot has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. It failed to sell.

Lot 69, Kitagawa Utamaro's "Ebon Komachi-biki," or "Picture Book: Pulling Komachi," a complete album of twelve illustrations, the last of the artist's three erotic masterworks, with an estimate of $200,000-250,000, sold for $242,500.

"Standing Beauty" by Chikanobu

Lot 33, "Standing Beauty," by Matsuno Chikanobu, hanging scroll, 27 1/2 by 16 7/8 inches

The auction has numerous beautiful scrolls of beautiful Japanese women. One of the most spectacular is Lot 33, "Standing Beauty," a 27 1/2 by 16 7/8 inch hanging scroll by Matsuno Chikanobu (fl. 1716-1735). It has an estimate of $40,000 to $50,000. It sold for $50,000. The blue and white abstractions of her gown are magnificent.

"Beauty holding a fan and a cat" by Hiroshige

Lot 47, "Beauty holding a fan and a cat," by Utagawa Hiroshige, hanging scroll, 40 3/4 by 18 1/2 inches

Lot 47 is a fine hanging scrhool of a "Beauty holding a fan and a cat" by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858). It measures 40 3/4 by 18 1/2 inches and has an estimate of $150,00 to $200,000. It failed to sell.

Nimai-Do suit of armor, Edo Period

Lot 94, a Nimai-Do Suit of Armor, Edo Period (18th Century)

The helmet of Lot 94, "A Nimai-Do Suit of Armor," from the 18th Century, illustrated above, is finely carved with scrolling foliage. The armor has an estimate of $20,000 to $25,000. It sold for $23,750.

Untitled paiting by Kim Sou (Kim Heungsou)
Lot 171, "Untitled," by Kim Sou (Kim Heungsou), oil on canvas, framed 39 ¾ x 28 ¼ inches

Lot 171, "Untitled," an impressionistic painting by the Korean artist Kim Sou (Kim Heungsou), (b. 1919), who went to Paris to study at Academic de la Grande Chaumiere, and exhibited regularly at the Salon d'Automne. He also taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, among other American colleges. It has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It failed to sell.

Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art

Sui/Tang dragon lampstand

Lot 507, a rare glazed white ware lampstand, Sui/Tang dynasty, 6th/7th Century, 12 1/4 inches high

The most extraordinary object in this auction is Lot 507, a rare glazed white ware lampstand from the Sui/Tang dynasty, 6th/7th Century. It is 12 1/4 inches high and has an estimate of $30,000 to $40,000. The column is wrapped by the coiled bodies of two dragons. A similar lampstand is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. It sold for $30,000.

Early Western Zhou dynastry food vessel

Lot 521, bronze ritual food vessel, Early Western Zhou dynasty, 11th-10th Century B.C., 9 1/8 inches high

Another remarkable work is Lot 521, a bronze ritual food vessel, fangding, Early Western Zhou dynasty, 11th-10th century B.C,. 9 1/8 inches high. It has an estimate of $30,000 to $40,000. The catalogue notes that Ding vessels with this decoration are very rare but a slightly larger example is in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. It sold for $110,500.

Vaishravana

Lot 534, "magnificent" large painted and gilded wood figure of Vaishravana, Yongle/Xuamde Period (1403-1435), 22 1/2 inches high

The back cover of the catalogue for this auction is Lot 534, a "magnificent" large painted and gilded wood figure of Vaishravana from the Yongle/Xuande Period (1403-1435). The work is 22 1/2 inches high and has an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000. It failed to sell.


Furniture and Ceramics from the "Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art" sale, including jades from the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, and Property of the Harvard Art Museum. In the foreground is Lot 518, "An Important and Very Rare Blue and White Basin," Yongle Period (1403-1425)

Lot 719, "An Important and Rare Large Wucai Fish Jar," that once belonged to the writer Henry James, is from the Harvard Art Museum, sold to benefit the Asian Acquisitions Fund

Works of art "with a past" beyond the impressively historical always garner curiosity. "An Important and Rare Large Wucai Fish Jar," Lot 719, with its plump yellow carp floating amidst plants is just that kind of piece, from the property of the Harvard Art Museum sold to benefit the Asian Acquisitions Fund. It once belonged to the writer Henry James (1843-1916) and would fit right into a gorgeously over-stuffed room in any of his famous novels. Fish are symbols of abundance and prosperity in Chinese art, and they are found on the earliest works such as this one, which was also in the collection of Charles Dana (1819-1897). It has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for $242,500.

Wood figure of a Luohan

Lot 535, unusual carved wood figure of a standing Luohan, Yuan/Ming dynasty, 13th-16th century, 29 3/8 inches high

Some modern collectors shy away from "perfect" pieces and like works that show some ravages that conjur the crises of Donatello. Such a work is Lot 535, an unusual carved wood figure of a standing Luohan from the Yuan/Ming dynasty, 12th-16th Century. It is 28 3/8 inches high and has a modest estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. It sold for $6,250.

Jade, hardstoe, and kingfisher feather cloud collar

Lot 665, rare jade, hardstone, and kingfisher feather-embellished cloud collar, 32 1/2 inches wide

Lot 665 is the perfect gift to give Zhang Ziyi in honor of her spectacular beauty and talents. It is a rare jade, jardstone, and kingfisher feather-embellished cloud collar from the Late Qing Dynasty. It is 32 1/2 inches wide. Eat your heart out, Tiffany's! It has a modest estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. It sold for $23,750.

Archaistic 'champion' vase

Lot 440, "well-carved" pale beige jade archaistic 'champion' vase, 18th/19th century, 5 7/8 inches high

The cutest work in the auction is Lot 440, a "well-carved" pale beige jade archaistic 'champion' vase from the 18th/19th Century. It is 5 7/8 inches high and has an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. The catalogue entry notes that "The name 'champion' vase is a pun on the world ying (falcon) and xiong (bear), the two creatures, or mythical variations on the two, joining the adjacent vases and together forming the world yingx-iong, 'champion' Alternatively, this type of vessel is also known as a 'nuptual cup...as it is believed that during the Ming dynasty, it was used as a ritual wine vessel during the wedding ceremony. The double cylinders were filled with wine to be drunk by the bride and groom as part of the marriage rites." It sold for $50,000.

Blue and white basin, Yongle Period

Lot 518, "Important and Very Rare Blue and White Basin," Yongle Period, circa 1403-1425, 10 1/8 inches in diameter

It is impossible to think of Chinese art without fine blue and white porcelain, and a prime example from the estate of Walter Hochstader is illustrated above amidst alluring red lacquer, glossy wood furniture and ancient sculpture. Lot 518, "An Important and Very Rare Blue and White Basin," Yongle Period, circa 1403-1425 is a technical marvel considering when it was created, as well as a beautiful collectible, with an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It is 10 1/8 inches in diameter and a virtually identical one is in the collection of the Shanghai Museum. "The well-painted fruit that adorn the exterior sides of the current basin mark a new style of decoration that became established in the Yongle reign. Grapes and melons had been included in the landscape element designs in the centre of large Yuan dynasty dishes....However, other fruit were rarely used to decorate porcelains prioer to the Ming dynastry." This basin sold for $2,322,500, the top lot of the Chinese Art sale.

The sales of Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art including Jades from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, achieved $18.3 million and was 91% sold by value, 77% sold by lot.

Tina Zonars, International Director of Chinese Works of Art and Joe-Hynn Yang, Head of Department, Chinese Works of Art, New York said after the auction that they were "extremely pleased with the results of Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art including Jades from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, which totaled $18,323,463 and far exceeded pre-sale estimates." "We were delighted," they continued, "to see wide international participation, which was a testament to the prestige of the collections offered, including those from the Estate of Walter Hochstadter, a North American Chinese Family Collection, the Harvard Art Museum, and other private collections. Combined, the sales were 91% sold by value and reflected the continuing popularity of exceptional Chinese works of art, with spectacular results for an important and very rare blue and white basin, Yongle Period, at $2,322,500; a very rare and important doucai petal-lobed vase at $1,818,500; and a magnificent white jade carved brush pot at $722,500. The three Chinese sales totaled $29,196,263, and encouragingly demonstrated a continuous and strong market demand for quality, rarity and excellent provenance."

Fine Chinese Art from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections

Christie's Specialist Michael Bass took several exquisite jade pieces from the Sackler Collection out of their glass cases, including Lot 313, one of two beads in the lot illustrated at the top of this article. The intricate carving of this unique bead includes abstract dragons that are recognizable despite their scale, is shown in the palm of Mr. Bass's hand. Lot 313 has an estimate of $6,000 to $8,000. It sold for $40,000.


Joe Hynn-Yang, Christies Head of Department, Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, with Lot 357, "A Very Rare and Important Painted White Buddhist Votive Stele," Northern Qi Dynasty, (550-577), 66 7/8 inches high

Continuing the excellence and also from The Arthur M. Sackler Collection is Lot 357, "A Very Rare and Important Painted White Marble Buddhist Votive Stele," Northern Qi Dynasty, a mystical and beautiful sculpture that was highlighted as one of the stars of the sale by Joe Hynn-Yang, Christie's Head of Department, Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art. Visitors and enthusiasts of the museum might recognize this sculpture from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it was on loan from March 1965 to October 2008. It will be missed. It has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for $1,725,900, the top lot of this sale.

Turquoise inlaid bronze halberd blade from the Shang Dynasty

Lot 233, "A very Rare Turquoise-Inlaid Bronze GE-Halberd Blade," Shang Dynasty, Anyang Phase, circa 1200 B.C.

Also illustrated is a stunning green jade dagger, Lot 233, "A Very Rare Turquoise-Inlaid BronzeGe-Halberd Blade," Shang Dynasty, with an estimate of $20,000-30,000/sold for $68,500. Lot 399, (not illustrated), also from the Arthur M. Sackler Collection, "A Rare Yellow and Pale Russet Jade Archaistic Hinged Twin Bi" (Quing Dynasty, 1644-1911) with a modest estimate of $10,000 to $15,000, fetched a staggering $422,500, reflecting the popularity of jade and correspondingly high prices realized for the most desirable pieces.

Lot 334, illustrated above, "Birds and Ducks," by Bada Shanren, (Zhu Da 1626-1705); foreground Lot 381, "A Rare and Unusual Rootwood Table," 18th century

In the Chinese galleries, Elizabeth Hammer, Christie's specialist Chinese Paintings, spoke of the unusually naturalistic brushwork in Bada Shanren's "Birds and Ducks," a stunning set of four hanging scrolls in ink on satin from The Arthur M. Sackler Collection, one of the most memorable lots of Asia Week. These panels are so contemporary it is hard to imagine they were created when they were (circa 1688-1692). The artist spent many years as a Zen monk in a monastery which probably influenced the simplicity, directness and intuitive naturalism of his brushwork, and the abstract placement of wildlife that appear to hang in space. Mystery and lack of artifice pervade these beautiful scrolls, which would not look out of place beside a Clifford Still or Morris Louis. Lot 334 has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for $1,725,900, the second highest price fetched for this sale. Lot 881, in the foreground, "A Rare and Unusual Rootwood Table," has an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. It sold for $20,000.

Zhou dynasty halberd or finial

Lot 224, "unusual" bronze halberd or finial, Zhou dynasty, circa 1100-256 B.C., 15 inches high

One of the most beautiful objects in the Sackler auction is Lot 224, an "unusual" bronze halberd or finial from the Zhou dynasty, circa 1100-256 B.C. It is 15 inches high and has a very modest estimate of $4,000 to $6,000. It sold for $32,500.

Rare two-sided chariot fitting, Late Shang/Early Western Zhou

Lot 213, rare bronze two-sided chariot fitting, Late Shang/Early Western Zhou dynasty, circa 1100 B.C., 4 1/2 inches high

Another superb piece is Lot 213, a rare bronze two-sided chariot fitting from the Late Shang/Early Western Zhou dynastry, circa 1100 B.C. It is 4 1/2 inches high and has a modest estimate of $5.000 to $7,000. It sold for $3,750.

Christie's Asia Week achieved a total of $36 million over four days of sales from March 17-20, 2009. Theow H. Tow, Deputy Chairman of Christie's Americas and Asia said: "We are pleased with the continued strength of Christie's Asian Art Week which presented exceptional works of art to an international audience. The market for Asian Art has been deepening and expanding over the past several years and Christie's is thrilled to be leading the way. Our dedicated and talented specialists put together well-edited sales with important works that achieved strong results. In particular, the sale of Fine Chinese Art from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections was a triumphant success. The results achieved honor Dr. Arthur M. Sackler's connoisseurship and his visionary aesthetic. Spirited bidders in the room competed against determined buyers on the telephone, and on Christie's LIVE™. We were also pleased to see numerous works of art at the mid-level range performed within or exceeded their estimates across the board."

The successful sale of Fine Chinese Art from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections achieved $10.8 million and was 99% sold by lot, 99% sold by value. The top lot of the sale was a very rare and important painted white marble Buddhist votive stele, Northern Qi dynasty, realizing $1,728,900.

Theow H. Tow, Deputy Chairman, Christie's Americas and Asia said: "We are thrilled with the outstanding sale of Fine Chinese Art from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections. The results have proved beyond a doubt that rare and exceptional works with excellent provenance continue to generate huge interest and demand from collectors throughout the world. Competitive and consistent bidding came from international buyers in a packed room and on Christie's LIVE™. Clients responded confidently to the museum-quality pieces of rare bronzes, jades, and paintings with a rate of 99% sold by lot and value. The superb white marble Buddhist votive stele became the centerpiece of the sale at $1,728,900. Exceptional prices were further achieved for the exquisite hanging scrolls of Birds and Ducks by Bada Shanren at $1,202,500; a rare yellow and pale russet jade archaistic hinged twin Bi at $422,500; and a bronze tripod ritual food vessel and cover, Gui at $218,500. It is also gratifying that members of the original Christie's team that worked on the Important Works of Art from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections in December 1994 were involved in this sale. We look forward to tomorrow's sale of Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art."

 

©The City Review and Michele Leight, 2009

 

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