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Asian Art Sales


Japanese and Korean Art

10:30 AM, March 20, 2007

Sale 1811

Art for the Way of Tea

10 AM, March 20, 2007

Sale 1936

Modern and Contemporary Indian Art

10 AM, March 21, 2007

Sale 1813

Indian and Southeast Asian Art

2 PM, March 21, 2007

Sale 1812

Important Chinese Snuff Bottles from the J & J Collection

10 AM, March 22, 2007

Sale 1866

Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art

About 10:45 AM, March 22, 2007

Sale 1814

"Lakshmi Devi" by Ravinder Reddy

Lot 103, Modern and Contemporary Indian Art, "Lakshmi Devi," by Ravinder Reddy, polyester-resin fiberglass, 48½ x 35 x 48 inches, 2003

By Michele Leight

Christie's New York Asian Art Auctions will 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 consecutively. 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, Part IV.

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) "Lakshmi Devi," 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 including 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 the following commentary:

"In a way, Reddy's works address issues 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."

"Untitled" by Gaitonde

Lot 30, Modern and Contemporary Indian Art, "Untitled," by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, oil on canvas, 70 by 49 3/4 inches, 1968

Lot 30 in the same sale is a sublime untitled 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 the sale.

"Diagonal XV," by Tyeb Mehta

Lot 23, "Diagonal XV," by Tyeb Mehta, oil on canvas, 66 by 51 inches, 1975

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 sale.

"Vasantasena" by Varma
Lot 9, "Vasantasena," by Raja Ravi Varma, oil on canvas, 39 5/8 by 18 inches,

Lot 9, "Sasantasena," is a good example 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 following commentary:

"Born into one of the prestigious feudal 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 competition. 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 inspired to 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 Treasure" 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 to $400,000. It sold for $420,000.

"Untitled (Black Nude)" by Souza
Lot 13, "Untitled (Black Nude)," by Francis Newton Souza, oil on canvas, 50 by 40 inches, 1965

Another highlight of the sale is Lot 13, "Untitled (Black Nude)," by Francis Newton Souza (1924-2002), a 50-by-40-inch oil on canvas that was painted in 1965.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

Believing the works of previous Indian artists 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.

"July" by Dodiya

Lot 104, "July," by Atul Dodiya, oil on canvas, 60 1/8 inches square, 1987

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 collages," 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 mythological 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 typical incident 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 himself."

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, setting 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 Renaissance man, and grandson of Evan Frost Lilly (1855-1903), of the pharmaceutical 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 Expressionism and Indian art, a special favorite. He became the director of the University of Indiana Art Museum in Bloomington.


Lot 220, "Maitreya (The Future Buddha)," Gandhara, gray schist, 2nd-3rd Century, 22 3/4 inches high

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. The 22 3/4 inch high figure is Lot 220.

Durga, Central Java
Lot 290, rare gold figure of Durga, Indonesia, Central Java, 8th/9th Century, 3 1/4 inches high

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.

Silver figure of Avalokiteshvara
Lot 286, rare silver figure of Avalokiteshvara, Thailand, Pra Kon Chai style, 7th/8th Century, 2 5/8 inches high

Another gem is Lot 286, a rare silver figure 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.

Buddha, black stone

Lot 245, Buddha, Northeastern India, Bihar, Early Pala Period, black stone, 7th/8th Century, 42 1/2 inches high

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 statue was once owned by C. T. Loo and then Frank Caro.

"Among the few known examples of pre-Pala 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."

Ganesha statue
Lot 269, Ganesha, sandstone, Khmer, Pre-Angkor Period, circa 8th Century, 13 1/2 inches high

Lot 269 is a rare and charming sandstone figure 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.

Tibetan gilt bronze statue of Vajrapani
Lot 316, Vajrapani, Tibet, gilt bronze, 16th Century

Lot 16 is an impressive gilt bronze depiction 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.

"Pine Trees in Moonlight"

"Pine Trees in Moonlight"

Lot 83, "Pine Trees in Moonlight," attributed to Hasegawa Tohaku, Japan, pair of six-panel screens, ink and gold wash on paper, each 59 1/4 by 138 1/4 inches

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 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, leaving his 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 thought 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 for $880,000.

"Flowers of the Four Seasons" by Kiitsu
Lot 103, "Flowers of the Four Seasons, six-panel screen, ink, color and gold on paper, 40 3/8 by 107 1/4 inches

One of the loveliest screens is 103, "Flowers 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.

Do-Maru suit of armor
Lot 172, a Do-Maru suit of armor, Edo Period, (18th-19th Century)

The auction has several fine Japanese suits 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 white with 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.

Akasaka Tadatoki tsuba
Lot 229, an Akasaka Tadatoki Tsuba, Edo Period (19th Century), signed Takatoki Saku, 2 5/8 inches

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.

Untitled by Kim Whanki

Lot 547, "Untitled" by Kim Whanki

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, modern Korean 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 $5,820,580.

Ming Dynasty turnip-shaped bronze flower vase

Lot 10, bronze "turnip-shaped" (Shimokabura) flower vase, named Onden (Conducting Sound), China, Ming Dynasty (17th Century), 10 1/8 inches high

Lot 10 is an impressive turnip-shaped bronze 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, popular 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 dish, 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.

Snuff bottle

Lot 4, "European subject" snuff bottle, Imperial palace workshops, Beijing, Qianlong, blue enamel four character mark, 1736-1780, 1 15/16 inches high

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 $204,000. 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 catalogue 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."

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