East Meets West: Sotheby’s Fall Auction

Following the overwhelming success of the spring auction of Asian artwork, Sotheby’s fall auction is filled with an array of fine and immaculate Asian works that are rich in history and intrigue

By Sara Neff


With a record sale of over $89 million worth of Asian artwork in March 2007, it comes as no surprise that Sotheby’s New York would choose to hold five separate Asian art auctions this September. The exhibition of the works commences September 14, and with a new auction every day until September 21, this year’s Asia Week is certain to follow suit and surpass expectations. An tremendous collection of historic and modern artwork is available for bidding at this year’s auction. The five separate auctions will showcase the work of the exorbitantly diverse Asian cultures.

In March 2007 the sale of Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art was unprecedented, and can be expected to be so this year as well for the September 18 auction. Approximately 300 magnificent yet distinct lots are being offered and are expected to bring in $9 million. Everything from Chinese ceramics and Cloisonné figures to archaic bronzes and classical furniture will be auctioned. The cover lot is one of exceptional value: a Cloisonné and gilt bronze sculpture of ‘hehe’ twin boys. The sculpture dates back to the Qing dynasty, during the Kangxi period. The Kangxi period (1662-1722 A.D.) was the longest reign of any Emperor of China and the start of the Kang-Quian Golden Age, during which the Qing Dynasty reached the pinnacle of its social, economic, and military prowess. Made from the ancient metalworking technique of Cloisonné, the sculpture embodies the era from which it was made. Each boy is modeled kneeling on one knee with both arms raised and adorned with elaborate waistcoats bearing three dragons. The sculpture was pictured on the cover of the 1996 Sotheby’s London catalogue and is expected to sell for $1.3-1.8 million.

Also included in the Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art auction is a classic 14th century blue and white vase from the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368 A.D.). It is from a private collection in Paris and was acquired in the early 1980s. In the March 2006 auction, a similar blue and white Yuan jar brought $4.7 million, the highest price ever achieved for an Asian artwork at Sotheby’s New York at that time. While the jar featured in this auction is estimated to sell for $1.2-1.8 million, it is evident that the popularity for the Yuan jars is ever present.

On September 19, the Indian Art Including Miniatures and Modern Paintings auction will take place. Incredible paintings and sculptures by famous Indian artists will take center stage in this auction. Works by M.F. Husain, Akbar Padamsee, V.S. Gaitonde, F.N. Souza, Ram Kumar, S.H. Raza, and R. Broota, and others will be showcased at this auction.

R. Broota’s The Other Space will lead the auction with an estimated price of $600-800,000. This painting denotes a momentary and uncommon point in Broota’s career. He used an unusual and meticulous technique in which he scraped the paint from the canvas, revealing the white beneath, and creating an image. The result is a monochromatic work of complex and precise detail that undoubtedly will have bidders clamoring to buy. Completing this auction is a section of six miniatures including the 18th century A Princess Hawking on Her Stallion, signed by Al-Qatib al Faqir Mohammed Latif, and Study of a Black Buck, circa 1740-1750 A.D. Both miniatures are opaque watercolors heightened with gold on paper and in excellent condition considering their almost 300-year age. Also being offered in this auction is an untitled work by Akbar Padamsee. The oil on canvas painting is a nude from 1962 and exhibits Padamsee’s fixation on capturing the emotive qualities of the human form. It is expected to sell from  $150-200,000.

On September 20, the fourth sale of Sotheby’s New York ‘s Contemporary Art Asia: China Korea Japan will be held as the third auction of the Asia Week series. With approximately 280 lots, the sale is primarily comprised of influential Chinese contemporary artists with a smaller offering of works from Japanese and Korean artists. In whole, the lots are estimated to bring an impressive $19.5-20 million. As a seminal artist in the Cynical Realism movement, Yue Minjun and his oil on canvas painting Infanta (The Princess) will highlight this auction. The 1997 piece takes inspiration from Diego Velazquez’s famed 1656 canvas entitled Las Meninas, a scene in which Infanta Dona Margarita reluctantly poses for the artist. Earlier this year, the sale of Minjun’s The Pope set a record for a Chinese contemporary artist at auction when it sold for $4.2 million and Infanta will certainly also be popular with an estimated price of $1.8-2.5 million. Also included in the sale will be a number of works by Zhang Xiaogang, including the 1995 piece entitled Bloodline Series: Comrade and Birth of a Century, one of Xiaogang’s earlier pieces. The paintings are estimated to bring $400-600,000 and $1.5-2.5 million, respectively. Rounding out the sale are many offerings by Realist Chen Yifei. Highlighting his works is The Cellist, which is estimated to sell for $800,000-1 million.

Contemporary Art South Asia: India and Pakistan will include approximately 84 lots of paintings, sculptures, photographs, video art, and instillations from many prominent South Asian artists. The focal point of the sale will be an untitled life-sized sculpture by Subodh Gupta from 2006, which is estimated to sell for $200-250,000. Also highlighted in the sale will be an acrylic on canvas self-portrait of the artist Ashim Purkayastha and Gandhi. The 2004 work entitled He is Not My Enemy is predicted to bring $30-40,000.

On September 21, Asia Week concludes with the special theme sale, The Arts of the Buddha, which will present a physical representation of the Divine in different media. A magnificent and historically significant 13th century Tibetan gilt bronze Maitreya is the cornerstone of the sale. The gilded and bejewelled copper alloy image of the Buddha of the future is one of the most notable Himalayan artworks to come to auction. Expected to sell for $3.5 million, this sale is the perfect finale to Sotheby’s New York’s Asia Week; a week full of not solely historic, but also eminent and influential modern artworks that is sure to be an overwhelming success.