NEW YORK—All sectors of the Asian art market seemed to benefit from growing interest and enthusiasm. At Sotheby’s, on March 31, Contemporary Art Asia brought $13.22 million (see page 2); on March 30, ceramics and works of art fetched $15.7 million; on March 29, Indian and Southeast Asian art grossed $13.63 million; and, on March 28, the Jucker Collection of Himalayan paintings realized $9.05 million for a total of $51.6 million.
Across town at Rockefeller Center, Christie’s Asian sales—comprising Japanese art ($4.6 million), Korean art ($2.2 million); several sales of Chinese ceramics and works of art ($20.1 million); Indian and Southeast Asian art ($3.7 million); and modern and contemporary Indian art ($15.6 million)—totaled $46.2 million.
Along with the new record for Zhang Xiaogang at Sotheby’s, records were set for six other artists, including Chen Yifei (1946-2005), Fang Lijun (b. 1963), Liu Xiaodong (b.1963), Wang Guangyi (b.1957), Xu Bing (b.1955) and Zhang Huan (b.1965). Said Tobias Meyer, Sotheby’s head of worldwide contemporary art and the auctioneer for the sale: “The enormous energy and enthusiasm in the room today validates this collecting area on a global level.”
Abstractionist Works Fetch High Prices
Abstractionist paintings by artists of Indian origin scored high this spring at both Christie’s and Sotheby’s. An untitled 1975 work by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde (1924-2001) set an auction record for the artist at Christie’s when it fell for $1.47 million against a high estimate of $800,000. The picture was bought by a New York-based hedge fund manager of Indian origin.
The previous day at Sotheby’s, another abstractionist of Indian origin, Syed Haider Raza (b. 1922), scored a record with his Tapovan, 1972, for the same price of $1.47 million against a high estimate of $1 million.
Robin Dean, director of Sotheby’s Indian and Southeast Asian Art Department, points out that the auction total was the highest to date for that category and, moreover, established four auction records for some of India’s most senior artists. The sale, Dean says, “demonstrated the growing strength for more contemporary works by younger artists.”
Christie’s specialist head of modern and contemporary art, Yamini Mehta, concurs, citing a work by Tyeb Mehta (b. 1925), Mahisasura, 1997, which sold for nearly $1.16 million last season (ANL, 10/11/05). “This collecting area,” Mehta says, “has grown at an outstanding rate, and we saw a strong surge in both interest and price for the next generation of contemporary artists, such as Rameshwar Broota (b.1941), Subodh Gupta (b.1964) and Ravinder Reddy (b.1956).”
At the Christie’s modern and contemporary Indian art auction on March 30, Sita Hanuman, 1979, by Maqbool Fida Husain (b.1915), set another auction record, selling for $576,000 against a high estimate of $500,000; it was acquired by a collector from the U.K.
Six paintings from Indian artists sold at twice the high estimate, and Untitled (Seated Nude), 1962, by Francis Newton Souza (1924-2002), doubled its high estimate for $800,000.
At the Sotheby’s Indian and Southeast Asian art sale on March 29, records were set for the artists Ram Kumar (b. 1924), Akbar Padamsee (b.1928) and Jagdish Swaminathan (1929-1994).
At the Sotheby’s sale of Chinese ceramics and works of art on March 30, an early blue and white baluster jar (Guan, Yuan dynasty, 1279-1368) went to an Asian collector for $4.72 million (estimate: $4/5 million).
At Christie’s sales of ceramics and works of art on March 29, a large, early blue and white double-gourd vase from the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) brought an above-estimate $2.03 million from an Asian buyer. There was noticeable participation from mainland Chinese clients, and several of the sale highlights were eagerly pursued by both Eastern and Western bidders, says Theow Tow, Christie’s deputy chairman, Asia and Americas, Chinese art.
As part of the Jucker Collection of Himalayan paintings (120 of them Tibetan and Nepalese) at Sotheby’s, a portrait of a Tibetan religious master, Nyö Drupapal, painted circa 1200—a thanka—set a record for a Tibetan work of art at $1.13 million, well above the high estimate of $600,000.
Christie’s sale of Japanese art—including property from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art—took in $4.56 million. A Hasegawa school (early-17th-century) Tagasode, pair of six-panel screens, made $968,000 (estimate: $800,000/1 million) from an American buyer.
Katsura Yamaguchi, head of Christie’s Japanese and Korean art department, called this the highest price achieved for a work of Japanese art since the 1980s, adding that “bidding kept a brisk and energetic rhythm all during the sale.”