Bloomberg News

Buddha Finds No Friend as Asian Sales Raise $140 Million

March 25, 2012

A gilt bronze figure of Padmapani. The work sold for $2,490,500 in March 2012. Source: Christie's International via Bloomberg

A gilt bronze figure of Padmapani. The work sold for $2,490,500 in March 2012. Source: Christie's International via Bloomberg

New York’s 15 Asia Week auctions tallied $140.4 million, with classical Chinese painting and calligraphy commanding the highest prices.

Sotheby’s (BID) four sales raised $61.8 million, surpassing the presale high estimate of $41.4 million. Christie’s International’s (CHRS) seven auctions took $69 million, in the middle of the targeted range. Three auctions at Bonhams brought in $5.8 million, better than forecasted. Doyle New York posted the smallest result, $3.8 million, squeezing past the low estimate.

Here are the top results of the week:

Sotheby’s

In a quiet Sotheby’s salesroom filled with Chinese bidders, a group of eight calligraphy scripts by the 12th and 13th- century Southern Song emperors surged to $5.7 million, the highest price of the week and more than five times the lot’s high estimate of $1 million.

Two Qianlong-era revolving Famille-Rose porcelain brush- pots, depicting heaven and earth, tallied $3.5 million. One was estimated at $120,000 to $150,000 and soared to $1.9 million. The other had an $80,000-$120,000 estimate and sold for $1.5 million.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art helped push the price for an album featuring 17th century ink drawings of Yellow Mountain, “Eight Views of Huangshan,” to $2.3 million, about 10 times the presale estimate.

Christie’s

A 13th-century Nepalese gilt bronze figure of Padmapani, a Buddhist divinity, soared to $2.5 million at Christie’s, more than its presale estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. The work came from the collection of art dealer Doris Wiener.

A silvery bronze Tang dynasty (618-907) mirror from the collection of Robert H. Ellsworth fetched $482,500, three times the high estimate. It was one of 70 bronze mirrors consigned by Ellsworth, a major Asian art collector and dealer, who began buying them more than 60 years ago.

Bonhams

A dazzling 1808 harem scene by Indian artist Bagta, purchased for $125 in 1991, fetched $302,500 at Bonhams, 10 times the low estimate of $30,000. The signed miniature was previously unrecorded. Bagta’s work was recently on display at the Met’s “Wonder of the Age, Master Painters of India, 1100- 1900” exhibition.

Doyle

A 17th-century Chinese bronze cannon sold for $362,500 at Doyle, falling short of low estimate of $400,000 despite its provenance. Commissioned by Emperor Kangxi and dated 1695, the cannon was captured during the Boxer Rebellion and brought to the U.S. by Colonel Webb C. Hayes, son of President Rutherford B. Hayes.

Casualties

One of the biggest disappointments at Christie’s was a 16th-century gilt-bronze Buddha statue which weighed almost a ton and was estimated to bring $2 million to $3 million. It found no buyers.

At Sotheby’s, a 1958 painting by Syed Haider Raza, “Village with Church,” which once belonged to John D. Rockefeller III and his wife, Blanchette, also flopped. It had a presale estimate of $1.5 million to $2.5 million.

(Katya Kazakina is a reporter for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the reporter of this story: Katya Kazakina in New York at kkazakina@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.


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