NEW YORK—In September Sotheby’s and Christie’s saw their Asian art sales take off, fueled by the strength of modern and contemporary art, with totals of $45.35 million and $34.99 million, respectively—generously outstripping figures for last year, when Sotheby’s posted a total of $23 million; and Christie’s, just under $30 million (ANL, 10/11/05). Experts note the exponential growth in demand for Chinese, Indian, Japanese and Korean contemporary art. At Christie’s “the most vibrant markets were Chinese art and modern and contemporary Indian art—two categories that have witnessed important additions to the buyer base with the emergence of the overseas Chinese and Indian collectors,” says Theow Tow, deputy chairman of Christie’s Americas and Asia.
Sale totals in traditional collecting areas, such as Chinese ceramics and works of art, held steady, while in sales of Indian and southeast Asian art “the balance is shifting much more to modern and contemporary paintings in addition to miniatures,” says Matthew Weigman, Sotheby’s senior vice president of corporate affairs. Meanwhile, auction experts note a decline in the sales volume of more classicalart, such as Buddhist sculptures.
Christie’s realized $17.81 million in its modern and contemporary Indian art sale on Sept. 20. The total “surpassed all previous records and endorsed our strategy of including works from prime private collections,” says Yamini Mehta, Christie’s head of modern and contemporary Indian art. Pointing out that the first such sale, held in New York in 2000, made just $600,000, she calls the auction “a tremendous testimonial to the buoyancy and the energy of Indian art, its collectors and its supporters.” The breakdown of buyers, Christie’s reports, was American (including nonresident Indians based in the U.S.), 48%; Asian, 41%; Middle Eastern, 8%; European, 2%; and all others, 1%.
An Indian hedge-fund manager gave $1.36 million for Man and Woman,1954, an oil on board by Francis Newton Souza (1924-2002), at Christie’s (estimate: $300,000/500,000). Another Indian collector paid $1.13 million (estimate: $800,000/1 million) for a Tyeb Mehta (b.1925) painting, Untitled (Figures with Bull Head), circa 1984.
An auction record was set for Indian artist Jagdish Swaminathan (1929-93) when his untitled, three-paneled work of 1988 took $520,000 (estimate: $400,000/600,000). Another record was claimed for Arpita Singh (b.1937), when Bhishma, 1997, in acrylic on canvas, fetched $408,000.
Souza Stars at Sotheby’s $14.8M Sale
At Sotheby’s, on Sept. 19, the auction of Indian art, including miniatures and modern paintings, totaled $14.8 million. Souza’s Man with Monstrance, a 1953 oil on board, became the leader when a private collector from Singapore acquired it for $1.36 million, way past the high estimate of $700,000. Mehta’s Untitled, 1993, from his“Falling Figures” series, went for $1.24 million (estimate: $750,000/1 million); and another Untitled, 1972, by abstractionist Vasudeo S. Gaitonde (1924-2001), was bought by a Japanese private collector for $1.1 million (estimate: $700,000/900,000).
The auction “attracted crossover buying and bidding from other Asian collecting categories,” observes Zara Porter Hill, who heads Sotheby’s Indian and southeast Asian department.
At Sotheby’s first dedicated sale of Indian contemporary art, on Sept. 22, 70 percent of all lots outstripped their high estimates. A total of 58 lots was offered, including work by both established and emerging artists. The sale reached $1.81 million, above the high estimate of $1.56 million. The auction was 93.1 percent sold by lot, 97.7 percent by value.
Mirage, 2002, by Atul Dodiya (b. 1959)—an installation from his 2002 “Shutter” series—moved to the lead when it fell for $216,000 (estimate:$180,000/220,000). It was followed by Existence of Instinct—4, 2004, by Shibu Natesan (b.1966), which made $156,000 (estimate: $120,000/180,000).
Two artists’ records were set: Ancestral Fruit on a Siamese Twine, 1998, by Jitish Kallat (b.1974), went to an Indian collector for $72,000 (estimate: $60,000/80,000); and Untitled (“Paper Moon” series), 1995, by Sudarshan Shetty (b. 1961), sold for $66,000 (estimate: $60,000/80,000).
Contemporary Indian Art Scores
Works by Indian artists the likes of Bikash Bhattacharjee (b.1940), Avinash Chandra (b. 1931), Jogen Chowdhury (b.1939), Anju Dodiya (b.1964), Subodh Gupta (b.1964), Bhupen Khakhar (b. 1934), Nusra Latif Qureshi (b.1973) and Ravinder G. Reddy (b.1956) also were well-received—as were those by Pakistani artists Aisha Khalid (b.1972) and Ahmed Shabbudin (b.1950).
The results “affirm the fact that Indian contemporary art deserves its own spotlight in New York,” comments Hill. “The sale attracted participation from around the world from new and established buyers.”
Sotheby’s second-ever sale of contemporary Asian art from China, Korea and Japan, on Sept. 20, totaled $18.16 million. A record was set for Chinese artist Chen Danqing (b. 1953) when his diptych Street Theatre, 1991, fetched $1.47 million from a bidder on the phone. The unpublished presale estimate, according to Sotheby’s, was “in the region of $1.5 million.”
Records also were set for Liu Xiaodong, whoseComputer Leader, 1996, brought $520,000 (estimate: $450,000/700,000) from a private buyer from mainland China; and Zhao Chunxiang (Chao Chung-Hsiang), whose Midsummer, 1970, was picked up by a Taiwanese collector for $464,000 (estimate: $125,000/150,000).
Henry Howard-Sneyd, deputy chairman, Sotheby’s Asia and Europe, reports that “the market responded with enthusiasm, and major private collectors were very active.”
Second-Highest Chinese Sale at Christie’s
Elsewhere, Sotheby’s sale of Chinese ceramicsand works of art, on Sept. 21, totaled $10.56 million, falling below the year-ago figure of $12.8 million (ANL, 10/11/05).
An Extremely rare carved rhinoceros-horn “Log Raft” wine vessel, signed by You Kan, Qing dynasty, Kangxi period (1662-1722) went for $2.03 million to a mainland Chinese collector, who had successfully outbid five other buyers (estimate: $500,000/700,000). A New York dealer purchased a Green-glazed ovoid vessel from the Northern Qi dynasty(550-577) for $475,200 (estimate: $300,000/400,000).
Christie’s sale of Chinese ceramics and works of art, on Sept. 19, earned $12.11 million, dipping below last year’s $14.5 million total but still the second-highest such sale to date.
Townoted afterward that “bidding came from [both] Eastern and Western collectors and was neither extravagant nor hesitant but healthy and supportive of all collecting segments.”
A rare Early blue and white globular vase, Xuande period (1426-35), was purchased by Chak’s Company Ltd., Hong Kong, for $2.2 million (estimate: $200,000/300,000). London dealer Eskenazi Ltd. bought a Large, early carved grayish-green jade beaker, mid-2nd century, B.C., for $856,000 (estimate: $500,000/600,000).
The Christie’s sale of Japanese and Korean art, on Sept. 21, realized $2.76 million. The top lot was an 18th-century Korean “Autumn Grasses” blue and white porcelain beveled jar, Chosun period (1392-1910), that sold for $240,000 (estimate: $250,000/300,000).
The Indian and southeast Asian art sale at Christie’s, on Sept. 20, totaled $2.3 million, with American buyers picking up the top lots including: a Rare triad of granite figures of [Hindu god] Vishnu and his consorts (South India, 13th-14th centuries); and a Large gilt bronze figure of Akshobhya (Tibet, 15th century)—each selling for $144,000.