What’s Going On in New York’s Asia Week?
This commentary by Marion Maneker is available to AMMpro subscribers. (The first month of AMMpro is free and subscribers are welcome to sign up for the first month and cancel before they are billed.)
Asia Week in New York has seen an unusual number of works bid well above the estimates. This has happened before. But it comes at a time when there’s a general buzz about that the Chinese art market is weak reflecting a healing Chinese economy.
Chinese art advisors say that buyers for Western art who have come to play a central role in the Impressionist and Modern market are different from the buyers pursuing Chinese works of art. But that those buyers now view the auctions in Hong Kong as having their estimates pushed to the limit.
Sales in the West are perceived to have less aggressive estimates leaving buyers more room to bid on works they believe are undervalued. The result seems to be strong bidding in New York.
Here are a few examples from Christie’s:
- an important and extremely rare Imperially inscribed greenish-white jade ‘Twin Fish’ washer realized $2,895,000, after eight minutes of bidding
- a rare gilt-bronze standing figure of an Acuoye Guanyin, which realized $1,935,000
- a rare and finely carved red lacquer Daoist scripture box and cover, which sold for $1,035,000, against a low estimate of $150,000
- a rare bronze figure of Shiva Nataraja, that sold for ten times its estimate, achieving $1,035,000
- Shibata Zeshin (Japan, 1807-1891), The Narrow Road to Shu, which sold for $275,000, over eight times its estimate
- Lithe Like A Crane, Leisurely Like A Seagull, by Fu Baoshi (1904-1965), which sold for $1,815,000
Sotheby’s has had its share too:
- a Thangka depicting a Hevajra Mandala from the second half of the 14th Century made $2.42m against a low estimate of $800k.
- a gilt-bronze figure of the Chinese Buddhist deity Cintamanicakra Avalokiteshvara dating to the late Tang Dynasty / Five Dynasties sold for $2.1 million, following a seven-minute bidding battle. The seller had brought the piece to an Antiques Roadshow appraisal event in St. Louis, recalling that she had purchased the work at a garage sale some 20 years prior for approximately $75–100. The work came to auction today with a pre-sale estimate of $60/80,000.
- An Exceedingly Rare and Important Complete Set of the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment by the Qianlong Emperor that fetched $2.7 million – more than five times its $500,000 high estimate
- A group of Chinese jade sold by The Art Institute of Chicago was 100% sold, totaling $3.2 million. The group was led by A Rare White Jade ‘Imperial Procession’ Brushpot dating to the Qing Dynasty, Qianlong / Jiaqing Period. Fashioned from superlative quality stone and deeply carved in the round to form a virtual diorama, the work achieved $2.1 million – well exceeding its $1.2 million high estimate.
- An Extremely Rare Beige Jade Carving of a Mythical Beast Han Dynasty – Six Dynasties, which achieved $740,000 – well above its $500,00 high estimate. Figural sculptures such as the present work executed from the Han dynasty to Six Dynasties period were both a sumptuous display item for appreciation by the elite, as well as a reminder of the powerful supernatural forces latent in the world. A Tang Dynasty Large and Rare White Marble Carving of a Bodhisattva, previously held in the Cleveland Museum of Art, also reached $740,000 (estimate $600/800,000)
- an Extraordinary, Fine and Large Inscribed Famille-Verte Brushpot that soared to $572,000 – more than four times is $120,000 high estimate
- a Ming Dynasty Yellow and Russet Jade Figure of Zhou Yanzi achieved $150,000, more than double its $60,000 high estimate.
- A Qing DynastyArchaistic Pale Celadon Jade Baluster Vase and Cover also achieved $150,000 – three times its high estimate of $50,000.
Jonas Wood Auditions for Greatness
Katya Kazakina wrote a profile of Jonas Wood whose has been on day sale market run for the last three years since getting picked up by Gagosian Gallery. Now he’s got a new show opening at Gagosian in New York and survey at the Dallas Museum of Art.
If you’ve seen Wood’s figurative painting, you might find this one observation illuminating:
- Wood […] was profoundly influenced by his father,
an architect, and his mother, a high school drama teacher. She
would stage five to six plays a year and he spent a lot of his
free time watching her build sets, paint backdrops and create
handmade costumes. “It was really a big deal in retrospect that I was around
sets and plays and props,” he said. “Because my paintings are
like that, in a way. They are not real. They have a theatrical
Chinese Contemporary Art Went Home—and Stayed There
James Tarmy tackled the conundrum of Chinese Contemporary art earlier this week. The early years of the 21st Century saw a lot of interest among European and American collectors in a group of Chinese artists who found a way to make social and political statements in the interstices of the Communist state. But starting in 2006, the auction houses successfully moved the center of the Chinese Contemporary auction market to Hong Kong and used it to build a market for pan-Asian Contemporary art.
The result, as Tarmy shows, is that Chinese Contemporary art no longer registers with collectors in the US:
- “Chinese contemporary art is really collected by China,” says Larry Warsh, the publisher of Jing Daily and a collector whose Chinese art includes work by Ai Weiwei. “The activity from western collectors was 10 to 15 years ago, and people who bought [Chinese] art then really thought China was going to explode.”It did, Warsh says, “and a lot of people did well, but the point is that I don’t believe the actual collecting base is here [in New York]. Museums collect, and selected global collectors will want Chinese art, but the real action is in China.”