The New York Sun, March 30, 2006
New Buyers Flock to Asian Art
By CARLY BERWICK
China is the tiger, the dragon, the monkey - whatever zodiac power sign
you choose - of Asian art. In recent years, mainland collectors have
driven prices for ancient and contemporary Chinese art to new heights,
while those in Korean and Japanese art have stagnated.
Christie's sale of Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art yesterday
totaled $10.9 million, highlighted by a 14th-century blue-and-white vase
that sold for $2 million. The sale and two others held yesterday helped
Christie's to a single-day total of $20.1 million, the highest ever
amount for a series of Chinese art sales in New York, according to the
house. Today, Sotheby's hopes to bring in between $14.5 million and $20
million during its Chinese art sales.
The other great economic success story on the continent is India.
Contemporary Indian art is attracting new buyers, both among nonresident
Indians and collectors on the subcontinent. Traditional Indian art sales
have remained steady, while 20th-century art has been picking up
admirers. Call it the attack of the billion-dollar global contemporary
art market, or simply the recognition of the avant-garde's originality
by Asia's nouveau riches.
Sotheby's heavily emphasized its modern works in its sale of Indian and
Southeast Asian art yesterday, which earned $13.6 million.This total was
well above the high presale estimate of $10.7 million and set a record
for the highest auction total ever for Indian and Southeast Asian art,
according to the house.
The top lot of the Sotheby's sale was Syed Haider Raza's "Tapovan"
(1972), which sold to an anonymous bidder for $1.5 million.The cover
lot,Tyeb Mehta's "Falling Figure With Bird" (1988), sold for $800,000,
in line with its presale estimate. Mr. Mehta is one of the rediscovered
stars of modern Indian art; his auction record of $1.6 million was set
last fall at Christie's sale of Indian art in New York.
"We've seen Indians buying more widely over several categories,"
Sotheby's head of Indian and Southeast Asian art, Robin Dean, said. In
addition to an improving economy, they are being aided by a change in
tariff law.In recent years, India has lowered its onceexorbitant import
duties - to 15.5% from 40%, according to Mr. Dean - which has made
buying pricey items overseas more attractive.
This year, Christie's is breaking out its modern and contemporary Indian
art into a separate catalog. Christie's sale of Modern and Contemporary
Indian art today is estimated to bring between $6.9 million and $9.4
million, which would have been a solid total for the entire field just a
year ago. Christie's sale of traditional Indian and Southeast Asian art
is expected to raise $3.9 million to $5.5 million today.
The most popular modern Indian painters come from the Progressive
Artists Group, men who declared their artistic independence from
academic Indian painting in 1947, the same year India declared
independence from Britain. They include Mr. Mehta, F.N. Souza, Maqbool
Fida Husain, and Syed Raza, all of whom will be in the sale. Husain's
"Untitled" (1960), a Susan Rothenberg-esque painting of three horses,
was originally in the collection of Italian filmmaker Roberto
Rossellini, with whom Husain was friends, and is expected to sell for
$150,000 to $200,000. Mr. Mehta's "Blue Torso" (1973) is estimated at
$500,000 to $700,000.
"[Nonresident Indians] have been very successful in their fields outside
of India and have for patriotic reasons supported artists of their
heritage," Christie's head of modern and contemporary Indian art, Yamini
Mehta, said. "There is a bit of a sea change as well that there is more
awareness about art - art, too, is the ultimate status signifier."
A separate sale of Himalayan paintings from the Jucker Collection at
Sotheby's on Tuesday achieved $9 million, well above its presale
estimate of $2.6 million to $3.8 million. The sellers were Swiss
collectors who first started buying 12th-century Tibetan paintings on
cloth in India. "The collecting base traditionally had been European
really," Mr. Dean of Sotheby's said. Americans with interests in
Buddhism have been joining the field over the past three decades. And
now, he said, Indians are buying back this ancient art found at home as
with kind regards,
Matthias Arnold (Art-Eastasia list)
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