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Sotheby's Asia Week Auctions achieve $45.7 million in New York
Shen Zhou 1427-1509, Poems On Falling Flowers In Running. Script ink on paper, handscroll 28.5 by 286 cm. 11 1/4 by 112 3/4 in. Estimate $1.2/1.8 million Sold for $3,020,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s twice-annual Asia Week sale series in New York concluded this weekend, with 800+ works sold across eight auctions spanning 4,000 years of Asian Art for a total of $45.7 million – meeting the series’ overall high estimate. Coinciding with the 10th anniversary of Asia Week New York, works from this season’s sales series were sold to a diverse group of collectors worldwide, highlighted by five works that achieved prices over $2 million. Below is a look at the magnificent art and collections that drove these results.

Christina Prescott-Walker, Senior Vice President & Division Director of Asian Art, commented: "We are very pleased with the results of our spring Asia Week auctions. Strong market interest in collecting a diverse range of Asian art was demonstrated by the fact that our top three prices of the week represent Fine Chinese Paintings, Important Chinese Works of Art, and Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Art. Overall, we saw robust bidding across each of the eight sales, with strong participation from both collectors and trade from greater China. We were thrilled in particular to deliver strong results for a spectacular offering of Chinese jades sold by The Art Institute of Chicago, including a rare white jade ‘Imperial Procession’ Qing Dynasty brushpot that fetched one of the week’s top prices.

Auction Total $7.3 Million

Friday’s auction of Fine Classical Chinese Paintings & Calligraphy achieved $7.3 million on Friday, nearing its $7.4 million high estimate. The sale was led by Shen Zhou’s Poems on Falling Flowers in Running Script, a rare and extraordinary handscroll previously collected by Wu Hufan and kept in wonderful condition, which achieved $3 million – the top price of Sotheby’s Asia Week, and well in excess of the work’s $1.8 million high estimate. Following the loss of his son, Shen Zhou wrote a set of ten poems with a falling flower theme, perhaps inspired by seeing their colors in nature or because he was then able to allow his feelings of sadness to be expressed. In the spring of 1504, Shen Zhou shared these poems with his students at the Wu School, who composed poems in response, resulting in an exchange of 90 poems which became a celebrated story in the study of Chinese calligraphy and literature.

Xian Fang, Head of Sotheby’s Classical Chinese Paintings & Calligraphy Sales in New York, commented: “We are extremely pleased with the success of such an extraordinary piece by Shen Zhou, Poems on Falling Flowers in Running Script, which achieved $3 million in today’s sale and led our Asia Week series. The auction saw strong interest from American buyers, and continued to prove that North America remains an important source for collectors to find fresh-to-the-market pieces."

Auction Total: $5.2 Million

The Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Works of Art auction was led by A Thangka Depicting a Hevajra Mandala that achieved $2.4 million – marking new a world auction record for any Tibetan painting (estimate $800,000/1.2 million). On offer from the estate of Johannes Dutt, the work is numbered 26th in a series of which at least 18 other paintings are known. The group represents perhaps the finest of all mandala painting from Tibet in the 14th century, designed and painted with the same exquisite attention to detail and vibrant palette. Paintings from this series were first published – and recognized as masterpieces of early Tibetan art – by Robert Burawoy, in his seminal exhibition catalogue Peintures du monastère de Nor from 1978 which featured four of the mandalas. Paintings from the set are now preserved in private and museum collections worldwide.

Anu Ghosh-Mazumdar, Head of Sotheby’s Indian and Southeast Asian Art Department in New York, commented: “We are pleased beyond measure to have achieved a record price for the Thangka Depicting a Hevajra Mandala, a work emerging from a series of mandala paintings from 14th-century Tibet that rarely appear at auction. Our overall results were bolstered by strong prices for works across the many collecting categories represented in the sale, including stone sculpture and Indian miniature paintings. We saw diverse competition with buyers from Asia, Europe, the United States, and robust online participation. Overall, we are delighted with our very healthy and positive results.”

Auction Total $3 Million

Sotheby's Asia Week auctions began with a spectacular array of fine art by some of the most important and avant-garde artists from India, along with a diverse selection from the Bengal School of Art and works by modern and contemporary Pakistani artists. Record prices achieved by a number of exceptional works that rarely appear at auction.

The sale was led by F.N. Souza’s Golgotha in Goa which achieved $437,500 (estimate $250/350,000). A rare work painted in Bombay in 1948, and included in the artist’s fourth solo show at the Bombay Art Society that year, Golgotha in Goa demonstrates the profound influence of Catholicism on Souza’s personal and artistic development. While Souza was an incredibly prolific artist across his nearly-seven-decade career, works from this formative period remain incredibly rare – less than 20 paintings by Souza from the 1940s have ever appeared at auction, marking this as a major event in the artist's market. The work remained in the artist’s personal collection until just a few years prior to his passing and was acquired by a fellow Goan private collector who cherished it as long as he lived.

Manjari Sihare-Sutin, Head of Sotheby’s Modern & Contemporary South Asian Sales in New York, noted: “We are extremely pleased with the results of Monday’s auction, which saw a strong sell-through rate and top prices for exceptional works on offer. We were thrilled to see Huma Bhabha’s Untitled from 2011 set a new world auction record for the artist at $200,000, as well as a continued appreciation for works by MF Husain, whose five works all found buyers. From the Bengal School of artists, to the spectacular F.N. Souza, Zainul Abedin and more, we were proud to present a sale completely sourced from private collections and the results were very rewarding.”

Auction Total $19.8 Million

This season’s various-owner auction of Important Chinese Art was led by a gilt-bronze figure of the Chinese Buddhist deity Cintamanicakra Avalokiteshvara dating to the late Tang Dynasty / Five Dynasties, which 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.

The auction was also led by 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. Every detail in the production of this Sutra reflects the supremacy of imperial quality, executed to the highest standards overall. The present Sutra also has a long collecting history in the West, that can be traced to Bernard Alfred Quaritch, a German bookseller who opened a bookshop in London in 1847 specializing in old and rare books, which still exists today.

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.

Angela McAteer, Sotheby’s Head of the Chinese Works of Art Department in New York, commented: “We are extremely pleased with results achieved across our four auctions devoted to Chinese Works of Art last week. We saw great demand for works acquired by visionary American collectors, including important pieces from the fabled collection of Stephen Junkunc III, Kangxi period porcelain from the collection of Jeffrey P. Stamen, and Chinese jade and ceramics from the Robert Youngman collection. A group of jades offered on behalf of The Art Institute of Chicago was 100% sold, led by a beautiful and rare white jade imperial procession brushpot that achieved $2.1 million. Overall, we saw strong competition for Imperial works of art, with Chinese porcelain reigning supreme throughout the sales.”

Auction Total $4.1 Million

Our March auctions of Important Chinese Works of Art opened with a series of dedicated sales, beginning with an exceptional offering of Chinese gilt-bronzes, weapons, jade animals, Buddhist sculpture and pottery from the collection of Stephen Junkunc, which brought $4.1 million with an exceptional 82% of all sold lots achieving prices above their high estimates. The sale followed Sotheby’s offering of Chinese Buddhist sculpture from Mr. Junkunc’s collection in September 2018.

Tuesday’s sale was led by An Extremely Rare Beige Jade Carving of a Mythical Beast Han Dynasty - Six Dynasties, which achieved $740,000 – well above its $500,000 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 (pictured right, estimate $600/800,000). Freestanding sculptures from this period are rare, and even rarer are those of this exceptional quality and carved from marble. Since the introduction of Buddhism in the first century AD, images of Buddha and bodhisattva were believed to be imbued with the spiritual presence of the deity they depicted and served as bridges between the deity and devotees.

Auction Total $2.2 Million

Following the success of KANGXI: The Jie Rui Tang Collection in March 2018, this season’s selection of Kangxi-era ceramics from the Collection of Jeffrey P. Stamen featured a range of representative examples of major ceramic categories of the period. The offering was led by an Extraordinary, Fine and Large Inscribed Famille-Verte Brushpot that soared to $572,000 – more than four times its $120,000 high estimate. Brushpots of this large size in the famille-verte palette and bearing inscriptions are exceptionally rare. An essential item for a scholar, the present brushpot is decorated with an aspirational depiction capturing a moment of poetic inspiration. Scholarly-themed luxury wares gained popularity among the wealthy elite of the late Ming and early Qing dynasties, and were likely understood and appreciated by the fortunate few who could afford them as both spiritual inspiration and as a resounding statement of wealth and social status.

Auction Total: $1 Million

The series of Chinese Works of Art collection sales continued with a group of over 70 jades spanning 4,000 years of Chinese Art offered from the private collection of Robert Youngman. The group was highlighted by a Ming Dynasty Yellow and Russet Jade Figure of Zhou Yanzi, which achieved $150,000, more than double its $60,000 high estimate (pictured right). The present carving depicts the Confucian parable of Zhou Yanzi, a boy who bravely cloaked himself in deerskin among a herd of does to collect milk to reverse his elderly parents’ blindness. A Qing Dynasty Archaistic Pale Celadon Jade Baluster Vase and Cover also achieved $150,000 - three times its high estimate of $50,000. Jade vases such as the present work proliferated during and after the Qianlong period, and can be traced to the Qianlong Emperor's fondness for innovative designs referencing archaic styles.

Auction Total $3 Million

The Asia Week sale series drew to a close over the weekend, with 300 works sold across our Saturday at Sotheby's auction, surpassing the auction’s high estimate. The auction was led by a calligraphy group that soared exponentially beyond expectations, on offer from The Tao Ting Yee and Tao Pao Ve Ming Collection of Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy: various calligraphy attributed to Wu Kuan, Chen Liu, Chen Jiru, Qian Qianyi, Mao Xiang, and Liu Yong together brought $122,500 (estimate $4/6,000), and Flowers, Bamboo and Landscape attributed to Yun Shouping, Zheng Banqiao, Li Shan and Mingjian achieved $105,000 (estimate $3/5,000). The sale was also highlighted by a 20th Century Large Archaistic Jadeite Hu-Form Vase and Cover which achieved $112,500 – over seven times its $15,000 high estimate.

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