ARTnewsletter Archive

Asian Art Sales Dip From Year-Ago Highs

Asian art sales held in New York the week of March 19–23, yielded lower overall volumes than last year, despite broad international demand for certain categories.

NEW YORK—Asian art sales held in New York the week of March 19–23, yielded lower overall volumes than last year, despite broad international demand for certain categories. Christie’s realized over $60 million, for seven sales, including three private collections. The top category was the house’s sale of Chinese ceramics and works of art that had realized $23.3 million as ARTnewsletter was published. It was followed by a private collection sale of Indian and southeast Asian art, assembled by dealer and collector Doris Wiener, that took a record $12.8 million. By comparison, Christie’s took in $117 million at last spring’s sales, and $60 million in 2010.

Sotheby’s realized $61.8 million for four sales, led by classical Chinese paintings, which accounted for $35 million, or more than half of the total, followed by Chinese ceramics, which brought $20.7 million. Indian and southeast Asian art yielded $3.8 million, while modern and contemporary south Asian paintings brought $2.1 million. In 2011, Sotheby’s took in $84 million, compared with $22.6 million in 2010 (ANL, 4//5/11).

Modern Masters Lead South Asian Painting Sale

Christie’s sale of south Asian modern and contemporary art on March 21 realized $7.7 million for 124 lots offered. Of these, 85, or 69 percent, were sold. By value, the sale realized 82 percent.

The top lot was Tyeb Mehta’s Untitled (Figures with Bull Head), 1984, an oil on canvas that sold for $1.8 million, compared with an estimate of $1.5 million/2 million.

The second-highest lot was Akbar Padamsee’s Cityscape, 1959, which sold for $1.3 million against an unpublished estimate in the region of $1 million.

Also by Padamsee, Mirror Image, 1996, was the third-highest lot. The diptych oil on canvas sold for $422,500, falling within the $400,000/600,000 estimate.

Hugo Weihe, Christie’s international director of Asian art and specialist in South Asian modern and contemporary art, said “works from modern masters continue to lead sales and contemporary works received renewed interest.”

The rest of the sale was led by mainstays, including Francis Newton Souza and Maqbool Fida Husain, as well as more recently executed works, including those by Subodh Gupta.

Syed Haider Raza’s Untitled (Village), 1958, sold for $410,500, compared with an estimate of $200,000/300,000. The sale included a total of seven works by Raza that brought in just over $1 million altogether. Nuage Blanc, 1956, sold for $290,500 on an estimate of $150,000/200,000.

Souza’s Chance, 1966, also sold for $290,500, meeting the estimate of $250,000/350,000. A 2007, untitled oil on canvas, by Gupta, that featured the artist’s signature steel pots and pans, sold for $218,500 to a private Asian buyer.

Husain’s Untitled (Keehn Family Portrait), 1959, sold above the $100,000/150,000 estimate, for $206,500, to a dealer.

Said Weihe: “Cross-cultural buying continues to play a significant role in the development of this market, and this season’s was no exception. Contemporary works were mostly acquired by clients from the US, Europe, the UK, India and Hong Kong, with many of them being first time bidders.”

The Indian and southeast Asian art sale, also held March 21, realized $6.3 million, with 90, or 63 percent, of the 143 lots offered finding buyers. The top lot was a buff sandstone torso of Uma, 10th century (Khmer, Angkor period, Pre-Rup). It sold for $1.1 million, far surpassing the $350,000/450,000 estimate, and to a private European buyer. Japanese and Korean art contributed a more modest sum of $1.7 million with just 36 percent sold by value.

Christie’s auction of the Doris Wiener collection saw robust demand, with 346, or 93 percent, of 374 lots finding buyers. By value, the sale was 96 percent sold. Weihe said the auction marked a “milestone” and was the highest total ever achieved for a single-owner collection of classical Indian and southeast Asian Art at Christie’s. He added that the results are a reflection of a “market that honors quality and provenance.”

The top lot was a gilt bronze figure of Padmapani, 13th century (Nepal), that sold for $2.49 million, against an estimate of $250,000/350,000. Another bronze group of Somaskanda, ca. 11th century (South India, Chola period), sold at $1.8 million, compared with a high estimate of $1.2 million.

Sotheby’s March 19 modern and contemporary south Asian art sale brought a total of $2.12 million. Of the 84 lots offered, just 48, or 57.1 percent, were sold by lot. The auction was 41 percent sold by value.

Raza topped the sale, with Jalashaya, 2000. The piece sold for $242,500, falling within the $200,000/300,000 estimate, to a private Indian buyer. It was followed by Husain’s Untitled (Scientist), 1965, which also sold for $242,500, against an identical estimate of $200,000/300,000.

Jagdish Swaminathan’s Untitled (Bird, Tree & Moutain Series), 1972, sold for $194,500, well above the $80,000/120,000 estimate, to an Indian dealer. Specialist Priyanka Mathew noted several strong prices, but conceded that the market is “selective,” and yielded “mixed results” in certain areas.

There were four other works by Husain in the top lots: Udaipur, 1962, sold for $98,500, meeting the $80,000/120,000 estimate; Untitled (Horse), an undated oil on mounted canvas, sold for $62,500, compared with an estimate of $50,000/70,000; Untitled (Woman on a Horse), undated, sold for $56,250, exceeding the $15,000/20,000 estimate; and an untitled gouache and ink on paper, 1949, depicting a woman with a broom, sold for $52,500, compared with an estimate of $35,000/55,000.

The Sotheby’s March 21 sale of Indian and southeast Asian works of art totaled $3.8 million, with 72 percent sold by lot and 74 percent sold by value. The top lot was a standing Vishnu, ca. 12th century (Nepal), which was bought by an American buyer for $590,500, against a high estimate of $300,000. The second-highest lot was a polished brown sandstone of Uma, 11th century (Khmer, Baphuon period), which was bought for $530,500, over four times the high estimate of $120,000.

Anuradha Ghosh-Mazumdar, head of the Indian southeast Asian art department said, “top lots—sculptures of Vishnu and Uma were completely fresh to the market, which helped drive prices well over the high estimates and reflected a stable market in this category.”

At Sotheby’s March 20 Chinese ceramics and works of art sale, two “Heaven and Earth” revolving brushpots from the Qianlong period led the sale. Both of the rare pieces well exceeded their respective $120,000/150,000 and $80,000/120,000 estimates to achieve a combined total of $3.5 million. Henry Howard-Sneyd, Sotheby’s vice chair of Asian art, said: “collectors are prepared to fight for objects with rarity and good provenance when offered at conservative estimates.