September 2022 NYC Asia Week - Imperial Chinese Porcelain and Fantastic Jades Carvings!
Updated: Jun 2
And that wraps up another New York Asia Week! The last couple of months has been wonderful for the Asian art market, even a resurgence of sorts. After 2.5 years of what seemed like a very bad dream for pretty much everyone on this planet, the Asian art market is thriving again and bustling with activity all over the world.
Personally, I have been business traveling almost to pre-Covid levels - so in addition to my work in Toronto, I've been able to visit Montreal, Vancouver, New York, Chicago and London. Unfortunately I still haven't been to East Asia in almost 3 years. I still have a lot of family, friends and colleagues over there, so hopefully I'll have the chance to visit them in 2023.
Anyways back to New York Asia Week! As many of my readers now know, Asia Week takes place every September and March, and I have been making a point to attend the events for almost the past 15 years.
For this round of Asia Week, I was there for about 6 days to check out the auction previews at Bonhams, Christie's and Sotheby's. A lot of major artwork was also on display at the regional auction houses, in particular Doyle, Heritage and Hindman.
The Asian art crowds are definitely back again, and it was great to see so many people that have been absent for so many years. There was also a strong contingent of Canadian visitors too! Most were from the Toronto and Montreal area, but I saw some friends who flew in from as far as Vancouver!
So here are some of the items I saw and examined during New York Asia Week! Enjoy!
Image 1a. At Bonhams, it was a pleasure to examine this pair of doucai enameled footed bowls with marks and period of Qianlong (1736-1795). Both of them had designs of florals on the exterior, and made wonderful use of the colourful doucai palette which involved adding famille verte enamels on an underglaze blue and white pattern.
The estimate was quite reasonable at USD 60/80,000, especially since one of them had a slight hairline crack to the rim. These footed bowls ended up realizing USD 138,975 (approximately CAD 186,000)!
Image 1b. A close look at one of the footed bowl's interior, and its design of two central butterflies in doucai enamels surrounded by numerous florals including lotus, peony and chrysanthemum.
Image 1c. A view of the underside of the footed bowls with the reign marks daqing Qianlong nianzhi 大清乾隆年製, made in the 'Qianlong reign of the Qing Dynasty'.
Image 2a. Also on view at Bonhams was this Tibetan mandala of Buddhasamayoga. A mandala (meaning circle in Sanskrit), is a teaching device for various East Asian religions such as Buddhism, Jainisn and Hinduism.
Typically they are used to worship a central deity, religion or idea, and the whole painting is supposed to represent the infinite cosmos. (You can learn more about mandalas in a blog I wrote for Bidsquare.com back in 2021).
The detail of this mandala was absolutely stunning with all its figures and design. It teaches an advanced tantric Buddhist idea involved esoteric deities, with Buddhasamayoga (literally 'the secret union of the enlightened one') front and centre.
This painting was not for sale during my visit, but it is a highlight to be offered in March of 2023 with an estimate of USD 150/200,000. I'm looking forward to see how much this mandala sells for in the Spring!
Image 2b. Detail of the central Buddhist deities in this fantastic mandala.
Image 3. Over at Christie's New York, I was able view a wonderful selection of Chinese porcelain, jade carvings, furniture and scholar objects. This pedestal (above) contained two of my favourite pieces from the sale, both formerly from the collection of legendary Shanghai-Hong Kong collector J. M. Hu (Hu Jenmou, 胡惠春) (1911-1995).
Using his hall name Zande Lou 暫得樓 , which translates to 'Studio of Temporary Enjoyment', Hu was a major collector of Chinese ceramics. In 1960, he was one of the cofounders and first Chairman of Hong Kong's prestigious Min Chiu Society, an association of Chinese art collectors who met monthly to discuss connoisseurship. With their objects which range from porcelain, jades, furniture and painting, they planned publications and exhibitions to promote Chinese art in Hong Kong and around the world.
Image 4a. A photo of me examining one of the objects formerly owned by J. M. Hu. Here I am holding a rare and large celadon glazed vase from with mark and period of Yongzheng (1723-1735).
I really liked the large size, weight and even glazing of this vase. One unusual aspect about this example is that the rim and foot was painted in gold a band of lotus, florals and ruyi fungus heads. These types of vases are typically just a celadon glaze, so a lot of my colleagues and I were debating whether the gold bands were original or later additions.
The vase was estimated at what I thought was a 'fair' USD 600/800,000, but unfortunately it failed to sell.
Image 4b. The base of the vase with the reign mark daqing Yongzheng nianzhi 大清雍正年製, made in the 'Yongzheng reign of the Qing Dynasty'. You can also see an old J. M. Hu Collection sticker and two holes to the side of the footrim. Those holes were present so that the vase can be tied/secured to a large stand or base.
Image 5a. Also from the J. M. Hu Collection at Christie's was this magnificent famille rose figure of Amitayus, the Buddha of Infinite Light. It's simply amazing that this figure is made of porcelain and has so much delicate details in the pointed crown and drapery. Even the toes and fingers of this Amitayus are well-modelled.
I thought the estimate for this figure was quite conservative at USD 150/250,000, and I was correct! It ended up selling for USD 630,000 (approximately CAD 840,000) with buyer's premium.
Image 5b. A view of the reverse of this Amitayus Buddha and the splendid modelling of the porcelain. The quality of the colours and painting are also exceptional.
Image 5c. A view of Amitayus Buddha's base with its finely painted lotus leaves.
Image 6a. Also at Christie's was a jade carving that has become one of my favourites (at least until I see another jade carving I really like!!!). This is a yellow jade figure of a mythical beast that is dated to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
This jade beast has a long publication history and was exhibited at these following museums:
Pasadena, Pacific Asia Museum, Chinese Jade: The Image from Within, 1986.
San Antonio, San Antonio Museum of Art, 1986.
Dayton, The Dayton Art Institute, January 1989.
Palm Springs, Palm Springs Desert Museum, Magic, Art & Order: Jade in Chinese Culture, 8 February – 29 April 1990.
The carving is so well-modelled and it does look very cute. The beast has a wonderful expression and intricate floral patterns on the legs. A lot of people these days also prefer yellow jade over white jade since the former is so much rarer. This yellow jade mythical beast was estimated at USD 100/150,000 and sold for an amazing USD 441,000 (approximately CAD 590,000)!
Image 6b. A detail of the yellow jade mythical beast's base. Even the details seen here are quite intricate with its carved claws/paws, and what I think are supposed to be heavenly flames on the bottom of its feet.
Image 6c. Here's an interesting photo I took of the yellow jade mythical beast and its image in the Christie's catalogue.
You can see that the colour of the jade changes depending on the different backgrounds. Here it is more a greenish-yellow tone, but in my first two photos, the jade is actually more of an amber yellow. You can also tell that there is a huge colour discrepancy between the actual object and how it is showcased in the catalogue. (FYI the phone I used to take all the photos is an Apple XR from circa 2018).
That's why examining jades in person is always necessary, especially if it is higher priced! The photography of jade doesn't always equate to its true colours, especially if you are just viewing it on a computer screen.
Image 7a. At Sotheby's, there was an impressive collection of archaic bronzes, jade carvings and ceramics.
Archaic bronzes are performing so well in the market these days. One of the best bronze pieces I handled was this important bronze gui. A gui is a food offering vessel that has a low-profile globular body that is flanked with a pair of handles and raised on a base.
This particular vessel is incredibly well-cast with many fine details. It was named The Yi Yu Bronze Gui. Yi Yu 馭從 is the original owner of this vessel and this object has an important 19-character inscription that traces it back to circa BCE 980 of the King Zhao Period of the Western Zhou Dynasty (BCE 1050-771).
According the Sotheby's specialist, the characters in the interior of the vessel acts as an important historical document. Yi Yu followed King Zhao to conquer the south by mounting a military campaign against the Chujing 楚荊 clan.
Yi Yu was thus rewarded for his military success and used his new wealth to make this precious vessel for his father Wu 戊. This military expedition was a major event in the Western Zhou period, one that led this flourishing empire to an eventual demise.
In addition to its important important inscription, the bronze was also well-published and has an amazing line of provenance. Here is some of its lineage tracing it back to the mid-20th Century:
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Edmund Toeg.
Sotheby's London, 3rd December 1963, lot 184.
Bluett & Son Ltd., London, 6th January 1964.
Collection of Professor Peter Plesch (1918-2013)
Sotheby's London, 20th February 1968, lot 53.
Spink & Son Ltd., London.
Collection of a European nobleman.
Christie's London, 6th June 1994, lot 68.
Due to its impeccable casting, historical significance and provenance, the original estimate of USD 600/800,000 was easily exceeded with a realized price of USD 1.083 million (approximately CAD 1.45 million).
Image 7b. Interior of the Yi Yu bronze vessel and its 19-character inscription.
Image 8a. Another object I really liked at Sotheby's was this Guan yao hexafoil tripod censer from the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). Guan pieces were from one of the 'five great kilns' of the Song Dynasty (the others being Ge, Ru, Ding and Jun).
Guan wares are known for their sturdy and dense bodies, and a fine light greenish glaze with large even crackles. This little censer fit all the quality of a choice Guan piece and despite being estimated at a conservative USD 50/70,000 it sold for many times more at USD 390,600 (approximately CAD 520,000).
Image 9b. A detail of the tripod censer's base and a clear view of the glaze's even crackles.
Image 10a. Finally at Sotheby's was one of the most monumental jade vases I have encountered. This magnificent white jade dragon vase is dated to the Qianlong period (1736-1795) and estimated at USD 800/1.2 million.
The vase did have some condition issues in that it had to chips to the rim and the cover was missing, but the massive size, solid white tone, and large and bold dragons suggested that this was made of the Imperial court. It really was quite an honour to be able to handle it.
The vase sold at Christie's London back in 2012 for GBP 505,250 (against an estimate of GBP 60/80,000). Ten years later, some profit was made in that it realized USD 756,000 (approximately CAD 1.01 million).
11a. There were a lot of items on view at the regional auction houses during Asia Week as well. One of the most talked about items was this famille rose tianqiuping (heavenly sphere) vase that was at Doyle at New York's upper east side.
It was especially large and well-painted and the body had a band of florals including lotus blooms and scrolling vine. The neck contained attractive turquoise and pink lotus dentals. This vase was dated to the Qianlong period and with an estimate of USD 100/150,000, it sold for just over USD 500,000 (approximately CAD 670,000).
11b. The base of the vase reign marks daqing Qianlong nianzhi 大清乾隆年製, made in the 'Qianlong reign of the Qing Dynasty'.
Image 12a. Over at Heritage Auctions in midtown was this incredible and rare underglaze copper red barbed rim charger from the Hongwu Period (1368-1398) of the Ming Dynasty.
These large chargers are exceptionally rare and are usually found only in major museums around the world. I've never been able to handle one in person (and yes it was really heavy!) so this was a great opportunity for me.
The vase was sold through the important dealer Frank Caro of New York in 1956 to Dr Cornelius Osgood (1905-1983) a curator of anthropology at the Yale Peabody Museum. It was also exhibited in the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1949.
This charger was repaired in many sections but many buyers still liked it. If it were mostly intact, there was no doubt the final price would be over USD 2 million, but in this case it sold for a respectful USD 275,000 (approximately CAD 365,000).
Image 12b. A view of the large charger's reverse side and its areas of restorations, overpainting and losses. It's still so impressive though!
Image 13. And last but not least at Hindman Auctions (visiting from Chicago and one of the places I consult for!), I saw one of the most amazing jadeite necklaces in North America. (I took a photo of it with a yellow glazed Yongzheng mark and period dish from 1723-1735).
This jadeite necklace is comprised of 39 individual spherical beads strung in gradually increasing size and is GIA certified. It came from the Estate of Hisazo Nagatani (1905-1994), a collector, connoisseur, and dealer of Asian works of art.
At the age of 17, Nagatani joined Yamanaka & Co., one of the most famous dealers of Chinese art around the world. Nagatani ran the Chicago branch of Yamanaka until he opened his own gallery in 1944. His jadeite necklace sold for USD 212,000 (approximately CAD 280,000) against an estimate of USD 200/250,000.
And that's it for this edition of my blog. The next few weeks will see me preparing for my next Heffel auction in October, as well as a trip to London for the Asian art shows in November.
In the meantime, if you need any help with Asian art appraisals or valuations, please feel free to send me an email. I've been working mostly on Chinese objects the past few years, but lately my projects have included a lot more Japanese and Himalayan items, specifically Buddhist sculptures and paintings. I'll keep you posted!