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Tokyo Auction House Sales: A 43 Percent Increase

Total annual sales at Japan’s five major auction houses reached a combined ¥13.968 billion ($129 million) in 2004, a 43 percent increase over the previous year, according to a Nikkei Art Auction Data report. Annual sales had increased steadily from the late-1990s to 2000, before declining in 2001. In successive years, however, annual auction totals

TOKYO—Total annual sales at Japan’s five major auction houses reached a combined ¥13.968 billion ($129 million) in 2004, a 43 percent increase over the previous year, according to a Nikkei Art Auction Data report.

Annual sales had increased steadily from the late-1990s to 2000, before declining in 2001. In successive years, however, annual auction totals have been on the rise. In both 2002 and 2003, sales rose 15 percent on the year, hitting ¥9.764 billion ($84.3 million) in 2003.

All the major houses reported increases in 2004. Shinwa Art Auction realized ¥6.631 billion ($61 million), a 32.2 percent rise over the previous year.

Mainichi Art Auction, which has seen double-digit growth in each of the past five years, posted auction sales of ¥3.238 billion ($30 million), a 68.1 percent increase. The firm drew notice after selling two Western paintings for more than ¥100 million ($886,000) each for the first time since its inception in 1989.

AJC Auction realized ¥2.183 billion ($20.1 million), a 28.4 percent increase, and Art Masters posted a total of ¥863 million ($8 million), a 43.2 percent rise, while Discovery National Auction reported ¥1.053 billion ($9.7 million), a jump of 102 percent from a year ago.

After rapid growth during the 1980s the Japanese art market, along with other Japanese financial markets, was hit by a recession in the early 1990s. Many artworks were sold off at below-market prices.

In recent years, however, the art auction market has experienced a solid, steady rebound, with new and established auction houses alike experiencing sales growth rather than detracting from each other’s market share.

Last year seven works were sold for more than ¥100 million ($886,000) each, the first such result in a decade. (The highest-priced lot in 2003 was ¥80 million ($693,400.) The top price in 2004 was ¥270 million ($2.5 million), given for Ryuzaburo Umehara’s Yoga (Western-style painting by a Japanese artist) Rafusen.

The second-highest was Sotaro Yasuda’s Yoga Ryuzou, which fetched ¥240 million ($2.2 million). Taikan Yokoyama’s Nihonga (Japanese-style painting) Reiho Fuji brought ¥200 million ($1.8 million), and Matazo Kayama’s Nihonga Ookami sold for ¥115 million ($1.1 million).

Western painting also fared well. Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s oil Fillette à l’orange made ¥150 million ($1.4 million), and Henri Matisse’s La bouquet de rose took ¥135 million ($1.2 million); his Sue le chaise longue won ¥129 million, or $1.2 million. (Prices do not include the buyer’s premium.)

Three of the seven lots that fetched more than ¥100 million were Western paintings, indicating a reversal of previous softness in this market. In recent years the highest price for a Western painting was ¥86 million ($680,000), for a Renoir piece sold at auction in 2002.

SUKI NAKAMICHI

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