On Tuesday, an auction of Japanese and Korean Art during Christie’s Asia week sales in New York achieved a total of $9.7 million across 187 lots. The sale realized an 85 percent sell-through rate and set two world records for Japanese masters.
Katsushika Hokusai’s woodblock print Under the Well of the Great Wave off Kanagawa, made sometime around 1831, sold for the $1.6 million with buyer’s premium, 10 times its low estimate of $150,000. The scene, which is the Japanese painter’s signature image, depicts Tokyo-bound boaters confronting rough waters, with Mount Fuji visible in the background.
Hokusai’s wave prints, begun in the early 1800s, are his most famous works. They were introduced to the European market in the mid-19th century. By the time this print was produced, the artist was in his 70s and in financial need.
The previous record for Hokusai was set in 2002, when a book of woodblock prints comprising views of Mount Fuji sold at Sotheby’s Paris for $1.47 million. The estate of French art dealer Huguette Berès had sold the book.
An 18th-century hanging scroll by Ito Jakuchu titled Pair of Cranes and the Rising Sun, also sold for $1.6 million, five times its low estimate of $300,000. The two white cranes are emblems of the New Year and symbols of immortality in East Asia. The work came from a private Japanese collection and had never before been sold on the market.
The previous record for a work by Jakuchu was set in 2006, when the Metropolitan Museum of Art sold a handscroll titled Suibokuyu (The pleasure of ink) at Christie’s New York for $441,600, against an estimate of $80,000.
“The exceptional results and global participation in today’s sale demonstrate the strength of the market,” said Takaaki Murakami, a specialist in Japanese and Korean Art at Christie’s.
The top Korean artwork sold in yesterday’s auction was a gilt-bronze standing figure of Buddha, which went for $162,500, against its low estimate of $30,000. Another print by Hokusai, Mino no Kuni Yoro no taki (The Yoro waterfall in Mino Province), depicting a waterfall, sold for $100,000, 10 times its low estimate of $10,000. Japanese artist Kano Eino’s large-scale six-panel gold leaf screen Birds and Flowers of Four Seasons (ca. 17th century) sold for $250,000, against an estimate of $50,000.