Ellsworth and Asia Week

2015’s Asia Week has proved itself to be one of the most lucrative and exciting art events of the year. A barrage of gallery and museum shows, lectures, and auctions litter the art scene in celebration of artwork from multiple nations. High predictions of sales were reported to be around the $250 million dollar range, in large part owing to the excitement over the Robert Hatfield Ellsworth sale at Christies.

Auction catalogs from four of the Ellsworth auctions via Christie's

Auction catalogs from four of the Ellsworth auctions via Christie's

Ellsworth’s prestigious collection contained Indian, Himalayan, Southeast Asian, Chinese, and Japanese art and is one of the largest of estates Asian art ever to come to auction. Considering that all 57 lots sold in Part I, it appears that this estimate may have been correct - including buyer’s premium this part of the collection totaled $61,107,500.

Gilt Bronze figure of a Seated Bear from China created in the Western Han Dynasty (200 BC – 8 AD)   courtesy of Christie's

Gilt Bronze figure of a Seated Bear from China created in the Western Han Dynasty (200 BC – 8 AD)  courtesy of Christie's

Part I – Masterworks Including Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Works of Art, Chinese & Japanese Works of Art, had the highest selling works of the entire collection. The most expensive of which was the set of four 17th Century Huanghulai Horseshoe-back arm chairs that sold for over $9 million (estimate of $800,000 – $1.2 million). Another work which defied its estimate was the Gilt Bronze figure of a Seated Bear from China created in the Western Han Dynasty (200 BC – 8 AD) which was estimated to sell for between $200,000 to $300,000 and sold for $2.8 million. According to our Asian art specialist collectors were enamored by this small totem - its rare pose and subtle characterization.

However, it was not just Chinese art that did well in the sale. The second highest price was for a large gilt bronze sculpture of Avalokiteshvara from 13th Century Nepal which sold for $8.2 million (estimate of $2-3 million). A “rare and important” bronze figure of a seated Yogi, possibly Padampa Sangye sold for $4.8 million, a little more than $3 million over the high estimate.

Part II, which included Chinese furniture, scholar’s objects, and Chinese paintings, still reached high prices and totaled $39,137,625. Part III – Chinese Works of Art: Qing Ceramics, Glass & Jade totaled $8,189,875, Part IV – Chinese Works of Art: Metal, Sculpture & Early Ceramics $15,840,625, Part V – European Decorative Arts, Carpets, Old Master Paintings & Asian Works of Art $6,207,688 and Part VI – The Library $1,176,875. The extraordinary results of these sales pay tribute to Ellsworth’s genius in the field of Asian art - something for which OTE can attest, as over the years he advised our firms president on the Asian market and, in particular, the estate of C.C. Wang.

The Ellsworth sale has amounted $132 million at auction, no doubt in large part because of the incredible provenance of his collection. As the Asian art market is becoming more overheated and frenzied, provenance is becoming increasingly more important in legitimizing extraordinarily high prices for classical Chinese art.

Although they were arguable overshadowed by the Ellsworth sale at Christie’s, Sotheby’s Asia week sales also did well. Their most successful sale appears to be Fine Classical Chinese Paintings & Calligraphy which netted them $41,441,375.

However Asia week is not just about big sales, it is also an amazing time to learn more about the art history and development of countries throughout Asia. A lecture I attended at the Korean Society, ‘Adoption, Assimilation, Transformation,’ with Robert D. Mowry discussed some of the most important developments in Korea’s art history and its relationship with China.

Geumgang Jeondo (금강전도 金剛全圖) by Jeong Seon

Geumgang Jeondo (금강전도 金剛全圖) by Jeong Seon

During the lecture Mr. Mowry spoke about the distinctly Korean style of landscape paintings typified by the painter Jeong Seon 정선 / 鄭敾 (1676–1759), whose pen name Gyeomjae meant humble study. He lived during the Joseon Dynasty and is one of the few known Korean painters to move away from traditional Chinese styles. Another, Shin Yun-bok (1758-early 19th C), paintings of people reveal a humor that is also uniquely Korean. Their paintings present a contextual history for some of Korea’s modern painters such as An Jung-sik (안중식, 1861-1919).

Scenery on Dano day (단오풍정 端午風情) by Shin Yun-bok , in the Gansong Art Museum in Seoul, South Korea

Scenery on Dano day (단오풍정 端午風情) by Shin Yun-bok , in the Gansong Art Museum in Seoul, South Korea

Overall it was a great week to experience some of the world’s most beautiful art and culture.



Best in Show: Auction House Previews

Vintage Diamond Ring tried on at a Christie's jewelry preview

Vintage Diamond Ring tried on at a Christie's jewelry preview

Auction previews happen all the time in New York City, but who goes? Well intrepid collectors, obviously, looking for their next big purchase and art world insiders. At any time the top auction houses: Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Phillip’s and Bonham’s, have a rotation of artwork, furniture or jewelry (just to name a few) on view. What is not widely known is that these previews are open free to the public. What is so exciting about this is that much of what is on view will go from private collections back into private collections. For some of these artworks and objects this is the only time they will be viewed by the public.

Not to mention, if you are a jewelry lover like me and want to try on $100,000+ rings, necklaces and earrings this is your chance! All one has to do is walk in and ask what floor the preview is and then you are good to go. But this is not the only reason you should go to a preview. Much like a museum or gallery these exhibitions are often curated and will offer a different perspective on the work at hand. An upcoming auction at Sotheby’s, The New York Sale, looks like a good prospect. According to Sotheby’s this is a curated auction of “items from, inspired by and celebrating New York City.”  This inaugural New York Sale includes Print, Photographs, Paintings, Sculpture, Silver, Books, Jewelry and iconic New York Memorabilia.

Auctions are often themed and scheduled to coincide with other events in New York. Right now Bonhams has an exhibition called Dogs in Show and Field for an auction featuring only canine focused fine art, a perfect match for the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, also in New York. The auction is happening tomorrow February 18th in New York beginning at 10am, so don’t worry dog lovers you still have time to hit both events.

Seeing auction previews and the auctions themselves is a great way to get a feel for what’s in the market at the moment, the prices and conditions of what is available. Plus, it can be a great way to spend an afternoon.

Here are some interesting auction previews and exhibitions that are coming up:

·         Rockefeller Center and the Rise of Modernism in the Metropolis, Christie’s Private Selling Exhibition, New York

    • On view: 17 January – 25 February 2015

·         Dogs in Show and Field, Bonham’s New York

    • On view: Today, February 17th 10AM-6PM
    • Auction: February 18th 10AM

·         Under the Influence, Phillips New York

    • 23 February – 3 March, 10am-6pm (Sundays 12pm-6pm)
    • Auction: March 4th 11am

·         The New York Sale, Sotheby’s New York

    • On view: 26 March - 31 March, 10AM - 01PM
    • Auction: April 1st, 7PM 

 

 

A Visit with Scotland Yard

Fortunately, I wasn't under arrest when my fellow appraiser Ellen Epstein and I spent the morning in Scotland Yard last week.  We were in London for the Arts and Antiques PG Board Meeting, for the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and were visiting Scotland Yard on official appraisal business. 

At Scotland Yard my colleague from RICS and I, met Detective Sergeant Claire Hutcheon, head of the “Organized and Economic Crime Command – Art & Antiques Unit.” Detective Hutcheon, an attractive woman who has worked for Scotland Yard for more than 14 years, discussed with us some of the experiences she had had in her career; but like much of police work un-publishable until the perpetrator is behind bars.

However, as representatives of RICS Personal Property/Art & Antiques Committee we were specifically interested in the professional standards for valuers (appraisers) in London. For example: what does it take to be taken seriously by the police if asked to value stolen or missing works of art?  Compared to the USA, Europe’s requirements for appraisers are far below those of US practitioners, something that is readily admitted by everyone in the London art world. In some countries there are no discernible standards at all. However, Detective Hutcheon mentioned that England and France were working towards an agreement that would raise the level of professional standards.

Change seems to be in the air. Those with whom we spoke – police, attorneys, non-profit organizations, and representatives of professional entities, stated that they hope for a tightening of the rules governing appraisals by independent appraisers.  We were told that at the moment, the only due diligence generally performed is through the Art Loss Register, which affirms whether a work has been stolen. 

View from the roof of the RICS building in Parliament Square

View from the roof of the RICS building in Parliament Square

It is anticipated that this will change with the implementation of The Red Book, which would be an international source of regulations and standards for appraisers worldwide. This document would help to unify standards globally, whether dealing with real estate or fine art.  Even now regulations are being standardized internationally, as are the ethical rules imposed on all practitioners.  It may not be long before The Red Book becomes required reading for those internationally who have any participation in the world of art.

There are well over 160,000 RICS members worldwide and growing.  At the moment there are relatively few practitioners in America, but the world is opening up and I can see a future where there are singular and stringent regulations regarding good business practice in all nations. Sort of a One World concept, but not altogether so bad a thought.

Written by Elin Lake-Ewald