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Japanese Works Turn Buyers’ Heads at Asian Fair

Organizers of the International Asian Art Fair, at Manhattan’s Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue from April 1-6, reported strong results, and particular interest in Japanese works from American and international collectors on hand.

NEW YORK—Organizers of the International Asian Art Fair, at Manhattan’s Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue from April 1-6, reported strong results, and particular interest in Japanese works from American and international collectors on hand.

Held for the past decade during Asia Week, right after the Asian sales at New York’s auction houses every spring, the fair has become a barometer of the rising interest in Asian art. Among the highlights was a pair of early 18th-century Japanese folding screens, sold by German dealer Erik Thomsen to a private collector.

British dealer Kevin Page, who specializes in Japanese works of art, reported sales to collectors and institutions from Japan, as well as to American dealers and collectors.

New York private dealer Joan B. Mirviss, cochair of the fair’s vetting committee, said she had sold “well over a hundred objects at prices ranging from $2,200 to the low six figures.” Her stand’s selection of 28 celadon pieces by contemporary Japanese ceramic artist Kawase Shinobu was sold out completely, and the gallery also received commissions for new works by the artist. On the relative strength of Japan at the fair, and in the market generally, Mirviss said, “the Japanese work is largely not archaic” and so does not have problems of provenance or issues of export.

Indian and Southeast Asian art also found ready buyers. London dealer John Eskenazi sold a Gandharan fifth/sixth-century terra-cotta sculpture of Maya, the mother of Buddha, to an American collector; and another collector paid a seven-figure price for the centerpiece of his stand, a late 11th- century South Indian chola bronze of the god Shiva, his consort Parvati and their child Skanda.

New York dealers Doris and Nancy Wiener sold a 13th/14th-century Khmer bronze depicting the Buddhist goddess Prajnaparamita with 12 heads.

Of the Tibetan works, Milan dealer Carlo Christi sold a 15th-century gilt bronze panel of four dancing dakinis and a 17th-century silver and gilt bronze of the ninth Karmapa lama, each to a new collector. Bangkok-based Mehmet Hassan placed a 17th-century Thanka painting with a New York museum. Indian miniature painting specialist Francesca Galloway of London sold an 18th-century floral-patterned carpet fragment from the Deccan region of India.

Although Chinese specialists from abroad were less in evidence this year, New York’s China Gallery and Chinese Porcelain Company both reported sales of Tang dynasty (618-906) pottery figures, including a group of figures—one depicting a rider on a Bactrian camel that China Gallery sold to a private collector.

New to the fair this year were two New York galleries featuring Korean art, and both noted good results: The Kang Collection reported selling eight pieces to museums, including a painted screen that went to a midwestern museum for $300,000; and two early stoneware pots that fetched $18,000 from East Coast museums. Gallery director Keum Ja Kang said she had returned to the fair after eight years in order to reach out to individual collectors. “The public loved our bamboo scrolls and a lacquer box, but we sold 100 percent to museums,” she told ARTnewsletter. “Next year we will double the size of the booth and also include contemporary Korean ink painting.”

And Jiyoung Koo, director of Koo New York, observed that he had met “many new interested clients,” including a young East Coast couple who bought an 18th-19th century eight-panel embroidered screen.

In all, 55 dealers participated in the fair. More than 14,000 visitors came, according to fair publicist Magda Grigorian, who said that attendance at the opening benefit “was record-breaking.” Some 140 museum curators had visited then or in the following days, she noted.

Among events that accompanied Asia Week elsewhere in New York, an exhibition by the Italian dealer Rossi & Rossi of a private collection of gilded bronze Buddhist sculpture, from 17th–18th century Mongolia, saw the sale of 21 of 26 pieces. The exhibit was held at the Barbara Mathes Gallery in the Fuller Building from March 28-April 4. Buyers included American, British and Indian collectors. Gisèle Croës, a dealer of ancient Chinese art who is based in Brussels and has previously participated in the Asian Art Fair, also opened for business in the Fuller Building during the week.

“I sold all my main bronzes,” she said of her show at the Danese Gallery, adding that prices for the works ranged as high as a “few million dollars.” Croës noted that business came “more from institutions than collectors this year,” adding that the market for Chinese art is “stronger than ever because the Chinese are now very interested in their own objects.”