Oil, jade, scrolls and dollars: Asian art auctions at a glance

Oil, jade, scrolls and dollars: Asian art auctions at a glance

Oil, jade, scrolls and dollars: Asian art auctions at a glance

Jomon Perido — Shakoki Dogu — Christies 2022Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh- — -How Can You Sleep Tonight — 1994–95

Summary of the most notable works from the Asian art auctions at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Bonhams in New York, March 2022.

G. Fernández · theartwolf.com — Images: earthenware sculpture of a woman (Shakoki Dogu) from the Jomon Period (5th to 3rd centuries BC). Image via christies.com ·· Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh, “How Can You Sleep Tonight?” (1994–95)

The first of Sotheby’s auctions, dedicated to Modern and Contemporary South Asian art, on Monday 21 March, it was led by “Painting 4”, painted in 1974 by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde (1924–2001), and sold for $2.47 million. In the catalogue of the work, Meera Menezes writes: “Like most paintings by the artist, there is a Zen aesthetics that permeates the work (…) Gaitonde was also exposed to the works of color field painters like Mark Rothko, whom he personally met, while on a J.D. Rockefeller III Fund fellowship in 1964 in the United States”. “Sheikh Shoe Mart”, painted in 1967 by Bhupen Khakhar (1934–2003), was sold for $1.38 million, three times its pre-sale estimate.

The following day, “A Journey through China’s History. The Dr Wou Kiuan Collection”, organised on Tuesday 22 March, was led by an extraordinary work in jade –one of the most prized materials by Chinese artists- depicting a luohan, identified in the inscription as Kanakavatsa, inside a grotto. The Qianlong-period sculpture, which measures more than 30 centimetres high (a remarkable size for a jade work) and had an estimated pre-sale price of between $400,000 and $600,000, fetched $1.07 million. The surprise was an inscribed archaic bronze ritual food vessel cover, Late Western Zhou dynasty, which fetched $264,000, almost 50 times its pre-sale estimate. On a negative note, the proliferation of lots in the “no reserve” category meant that several of them sold for prices well below the auction house’s pre-sale estimates. The following day, at Sotheby’s Important Chinese Art auction, a ritual wine jug, known as Guo Ji Shi Zi Zu Hu, which the auction house described as “an impressive example of late Western Zhou dynasty bronze art”, fetched $2.1 million, two times its pre-sale estimate.

Meanwhile, the first of Christie’s auctions, Japanese and Korean Art including the David and Nayda Utterberg Collection on 22 March, included what was perhaps the most immediately recognisable work to Western audiences, a print of Hokusai’s celebrated Kanagawa oki nami ura (The Great Wave of Kanagawa), which comfortably exceeded its pre-sale estimate of between $300,000 and $400,000 by fetching $604,800. It was not, however, the most expensive work of the auction (that honour went to a 16th century scroll, sold for $693,000) nor the biggest surprise of the auction, as a small bronze plaque from the Hakuho period fetched $352,800, more than 15 times its pre-sale estimate. What was in my opinion the most attractive work of the auction, however, an earthenware sculpture of a woman (Shakoki Dogu) from the Jomon Period (5th to 3rd centuries BC) exceeded its pre-sale estimate of $80,000 to $120,000 by fetching $176,400, still a very low price for this exceptional work of art. Works from the same period have fetched excellent results in recent years. For example, in 2015 a female bust, which had a pre-sale estimate of between £70,000 and £90,000, was sold at Sotheby’s for over £1 million. And in 2017 a small female head, which had a pre-sale estimate of between $3,000 and $4,000, was sold at Christie’s for $43,750.

Speaking of successes: the auction of South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art Including Works from the Collection of Mahinder and Sharad Tak on 23 March was packed with works that exceeded expectations, including four paintings sold for more than $2 million each. The most notable was “How Can You Sleep Tonight?”, an excellent painting by Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh (b.1937), sold for $2.04 million against a pre-sale estimate of between $250,000 and $350,000. In the painting’s catalogue, Christie’s lists René Magritte, Giorgio Morandi and Max Beckmann as influences, although personally it reminds me of the more imaginative works of Marc Chagall.

The following day’s auction of Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art included a sculpture of Guanyin Pusa (or Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara) created around the 11th or 12th century, which had a pre-sale estimate of $2–3 million and fetched $2.58 million. The highest price, however, was achieved for a bronze vessel from the Warring States Period, which sold for $2.76 million, more than five times its pre-sale estimate. And as all Asian art auctions are bound to have an unexpected surprise, a Yongzheng period dish, decorated with the figures of three roosters in a peony garden, smashed its pre-sale estimate of between $4,000 and $6,000 by fetching $107,100.

Meanwhile, Bonhams achieved unexpected success in its Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art auction with the sale of a Tara sculpture from Nepal (Malla period, 13th century), which fetched $2.3 million, four times its pre-sale estimate. In Bonhams Chinese works of art auction, the big surprise was a pair of lemon-yellow glazed bowls, which fetched $200,313, forty times their pre-sale estimate of $5,000-$7,000. #2022 #ArtMarket #theartwolf

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