TOKYO—As in most other countries, the effect of the global economic crisis on the Japanese art market last year was pronounced, and led to a number of major changes in the auction industry. Auction sales fell to ¥15.8 billion ($152.7 million) last year from about ¥20billion ($169.8million) in 2007.
One of the largest auction houses in Japan, AJC Auction, ceased operations altogether late last year. Meanwhile, Mainichi Auction, one of the country’s oldest auction houses, surpassed the former leader, Shinwa Art Auction, becoming Japan’s top auction house in annual sales volume.
Mainichi’s auction of modern art on Nov. 7, one of its three major annual sales, took in a total of ¥286.23million ($3.2million), down from the total of its previous sale of modern art, on July 25, which realized ¥396.7million ($4.2million). A total of 256, or 70.9 percent, of the 361 lots on offer found buyers.
Among the Western paintings on offer, the top lot was Georges Braque’s oil painting Verre, fruits, cuiller, 1939, which sold for ¥22million ($243,000), well above the estimate of ¥10million/15million. That was followed by Maurice Utrillo’s oil painting Moulin de la Galette, rue Lepic, ca. 1920, which sold for ¥6.8 million ($75,220) on an estimate of ¥5million/8million, and Auguste Renoir’s oil painting Étude pour Oedipe Roi–Fragment, 1895, which also sold for ¥6.8million ($75,220), falling below the estimate of ¥7million/12million.
Among the lots that failed to find buyers were Marc Chagall’s La vision du peintre, 1981, estimated at ¥14million/18million ($154,900/199,000), and Auguste Rodin’s Buste de Balzac, étude d’apres le portrait de Deveria, estimated at ¥5million/6million ($55,300/66,400).
Among the works of contemporary art, Andy Warhol’s screenprint The Beatles, 1980, sold for ¥4.5million ($49,780) against an estimate of ¥4million/6million. Ben Nicholson’s gouache drawing Harlequinade, 1978, sold for ¥2.9million ($32,000) against an estimate of ¥2million/3million, and Yayoi Kusama’s acrylic on canvas Pumpkin, 1988, sold for ¥2.8million ($30,970) on a ¥3million/4million estimate.
Among the offerings of traditional and modern Japanese painting, Waterfall, n.d., an ink-and-pigment painting on paper by Hiroshi Senju (b. 1958), sold for ¥5.2million ($57,500) against an estimate of ¥4million/6million, and Bijin Nouryou-zu, n.d., an ink and pigment on silk by Shoen Uemura, brought ¥5.8million ($64,160) against an estimate of ¥6million/8million.
Ryohei Koiso’s oil painting Tenmado no Seibutsu, 1970, sold for ¥6million ($66,370) on an estimate of ¥6million/8million, and Torajiro Kojima’s oil painting Pari no Yukifukei sold for ¥4.4million ($48,670), more than four times the ¥700,000/1million estimate.
Shinwa Art Auction’s sale of contemporary art on Oct. 31 realized a total of ¥21.18million ($234,290), down from the ¥29.4 million ($294,600) total of the house’s previous sale, on April 4. The number of lots on offer was also down, to 95 from 124 in April.
Of the 95 lots, 60, or 63 percent, were sold. (All prices are without the buyer’s premium.) The top lot was Atsuko Tanaka’s oil painting Work, 1963, which brought ¥6.2million ($68,180), double the estimate of ¥2million/3million. Among the top lots were Kazuo Shiraga’s oil painting Kamyo, n.d., which sold for ¥2.2million ($24,190) on an estimate of ¥1.5 million/2.5 million; Izumi Kato’s oil painting Work, 2005, which sold for ¥2.1million ($23,090), nearly double the ¥600,000/1.2million estimate; and Giacomo Balla’s tempera and watercolor Compenetrazioni sulla parola TicTac, 1921, which sold for ¥1.3million ($14,295) against a ¥1million/2million estimate.