(My) Highlights from Asia Week NYC 2017
I survived another Asia Week! The 2017 edition of Asia Week New York marked my 10th consecutive year of attending the weeklong festivities for Asian art collectors, dealers, academics and enthusiasts. On the program were over twenty auctions, gallery openings and new museum exhibitions taking place from March 9th to March 18th.
The auction previews are always one of the highlights for my annual March trip to NYC. It is one of the best opportunities to see all the great pieces coming up for sale, and to figure out the market trends for the rest of the season.
This year’s sale’s total from the ‘big three’ international auction houses, Bonhams, Christie’s and Sotheby’s, accounted for 424 million USD in total sales – a record for any Asia Week!
Prices were strong amongst all the Chinese categories including Ming and Qing porcelain, furniture, classical painting, and archaic bronzes. Other categories with amazing results include Himalayan sculpture, and the world record for any Indian work of art.
Here are some of the highlights I saw during my six day Asia Week visit:
The sales at Christie’s were highlighted by one of the most important collections to ever come up for auction - ‘Chinese Art from the Fujita Museum’. The 31 lots sold for a combined 262.8 million USD, a record for any single Asian art sale.
Located in Osaka, the Fujita Museum was founded in 1954 to showcase the over 2000 Japanese and Chinese works of art collected by Denzaburo Fujita (1841-1912) and his two sons. The proceeds of the sale are to be used for the museum's acquisition funds.
The Fujita gallery at Christie’s was well attended by dealers, museum curators and curious onlookers. The top lot of the sale was led by an important painting of ‘Six Dragons’ by Chen Rong (13th Century) that sold for 48.967 million USD, against an estimate of 1.2/1.8 million USD.
This horizontal scroll depicts six fierce dragons flying over clouds, oceans and mountains. It was catalogued and ranked as a highly important painting in the 18th Century Imperial records of Shiqu Baoji, and accompanied by numerous seals and inscriptions including those of the Qianlong Emperor (1736-1795). Since this is such a long scroll, I included only a couple of dragons.
Another of my highlights was also from the Fujita Museum sale - A Magnificent and Highly Important Bronze Ritual Wine Vessel, Fang Zun, from the Late Shang Dynasty (13th to 11th Century). It is one of the most well documented bronze vessels in existence due to its large size and imposing design. Against a conservative estimate of 6/8 million USD, it ended up selling for 37.207 million USD.
Also at Christie’s was this Large and Important Black Stone Figure of Lokanatha Avalokiteshvara from the Pala Period (12th Century) in North Eastern India. This enormous figure of the Buddhist bodhisattva of compassion measures 147.4 cm (58 inches) high and exudes all the grace and finesse of Pala Period sculptures. The provenance and history is spectacular as well - it was exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston from 1922-1935 before being moved through the auction circuit for the next 40 years. After selling in 1976 to a private European collection, it was not seen by the public until this sale. With an estimate upon request, it sold for 24.663 million USD, a new world record for any Indian work of art.
At Sotheby’s, they had one of the most impressive groupings of Ming Dynasty porcelain to come up for any New York auction. Titled ‘Ming: The Intervention of Imperial Taste’, the sale featured fourteen lots from the early 15th to mid 17th Century, selling for a combined total of 11.339 million USD.
One of my highlights was handling this Exceptionally Rare and Large Fine Blue and White Reverse-Decorated ‘Peony’ Dish with Xuande Mark and Period (1426-1435). Massive in size and in excellent condition, the use of the ‘resist’ design of a large peony on a ground of cobalt blue is both elegant and complicated, with only twelve related examples known to exist. This large dish sold for 2.172 million USD against an estimate of 1/1.5 million USD.
The six-character reign mark 'da Ming Xuande nian zhi' (made in the year of the Ming Xuande reign).
Bonhams had a very good selection of items up for sale including Chinese, Japanese and Himalayan works of art. They did exceedingly well with their important sale ‘Portrait of the Masters’, featuring 108 bronze sculptures of Buddhist teachers from the Himalayan region.
However, I was blown away by a Rare Pair of Blue and White ‘Bajixing’ Moonfasks with Qianlong Marks and of Period (1736-1795). If you have been following my Instagram account @anthonywuart, you would have noticed that the moonflask form is one of my favourite shapes in Chinese porcelain.
In a regular auction season, having one of these flasks would have been a reason for celebration in itself, but to feature a pair is quite extraordinary. They came from a California Estate where the same family owned the vases since the 1920’s. Set for sale in Hong Kong during the late spring, the estimate for these vases are still pending. However, a single flask of this size and design will typically sell for 1.5/2.5 million USD.
One of the two moonflasks out on on the examination table.
It was a tiring six days in New York so I was more than happy to return to Toronto on Tuesday the 14th. The only thing in my way of course was a big snowstorm! I was fortunate to have a 7:30 pm flight through Newark, and even though all flights prior to 6pm were cancelled, I was still able to get on board due to the clearer weather.
Here are a couple of snow-filled views of NYC after the storm:
A car buried in the Tribeca area.
Pedestrians trying to cross the street by Penn Station.
Midtown view of Park Avenue looking south.
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