Ming art sets Christie's high

Updated: 2015-03-19 11:36

By Amy He in New York(China Daily USA)

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Perhaps the most anticipated highlight of Asia Week in New York, the Robert Ellsworth collection of Asian art at Christie's auction house, brought in more than $61 million for 57 lots of Chinese, Japanese, Indian and other Asian works of art, nearly doubling the $35 million for the 1,400 items estimated at pre-sale.

The priciest lot was a set of rare Ming Dynasty horseshoe-back chairs, which was expected in pre-sale to fetch between $800,000 to $1.2 million, and ended up going for $9.7 million. The chairs were purchased by a private Asian buyer, and the price set a world auction record for huanghuali (traditional wooden Chinese) furniture.

The fourth-most expensive lot was another huanghuali piece - a Ming painting table, which brought in $3.5 million, after an estimate of $800,000 to $1.2 million.

 Ming art sets Christie's high

A gilt bronze from the Western Han Dynasty in China was sold for $2.85 million at an auction at Christie's, up from the pre-sale estimates of $200,000 to $300,000. The item was a part of the Robert Ellsworth collection, one of the most valuable collections of Asian art in the West.  Christie's Images Ltd / Provided to China Daily

"It's a great moment for the market for Asian art," said Jonathan Rendell, Christie's deputy chairman. "It really showed a maturing and globality that we in New York have not yet really experienced."

"The numbers of registrants from various countries, the number of people bidding in the room, it felt like a contemporary evening sale, with that buzz and energy," he told China Daily. "I think it was, in this Asia art week, the go-to event. Everybody needed to come and see the exhibition and it felt like everybody then needed to get into the sale room."

The auction was Christie's New York's first-ever evening sale of Asian art, with 490 registrants from 24 countries, according to the auction house. Fifteen of the 57 total lots sold for more than $1 million, and two lots sold for more than $5 million.

Ellsworth was a pioneer collector of Asian art, and owned one of the most important collections in the West. He had a 22-room apartment by Central Park that displayed his acquisitions and he influenced the tastes of many other art collectors.

Six of the top 10 most expensive lots sold at the Christie's auction were pieces of Chinese art, and there are more auctions for the collection scheduled through March 21, and online-only sales will run between March 18 to 27. The online lots are already popular - there's a bid on everything and prices are getting competitive, Rendell said.

Rendell said that the Tuesday evening sale set the tone for other sales in the collection, including a furniture sale on Wednesday morning, where a lot of lamp stands went for $1.3 million, with pre-sale estimates at $40,000 to $60,000. A brush pot estimated at $20,000 to $30,000 went for $200,000.

He said it was too early to predict what the totals for the entire collection would be, but "suffice it to say, I think the furniture section this morning sold for around four times the predicted estimates. If everything goes on like that, then it'll be a fairly healthy total by the end of the week."

The collection was available for public viewing in the days leading up to the auction and Rendell said the interest was immense.

"I've never seen so many people. This weekend was absolutely packed," he said. "It felt like there were planes being specially flown from the mainland to bring the collectors. One of my colleagues said to me, 'Everybody who should be here is here, and they brought all their friends'."


(China Daily USA 03/19/2015 page1)