What’s happening in Asian art

Sotheby’s New York Presents: March Asia Week Sale Series, Spanning 4,000 Years of History

March 4, 2021

An Exceptional and Rare Blue and White 'Floral' Bowl, Ming Dynasty, Yongle Period

Sotheby’s is delighted to present highlights of its upcoming Asia Week sales in New York, featuring a diverse array of Asian art spanning 4,000 years of history. Among the highlights are an exceptional selection of Imperial jades and cloisonné enamels from the Brooklyn Museum, sold to support museum collections; Vasudeo S. Gaitonde’s Untitled – which will appear at auction for the first time this March after remaining in the collection of renowned American physicist, Robert Marshak and his wife Ruth for nearly sixty years, and more. All works on offer are open for viewing by appointment in Sotheby’s New York galleries beginning 11 March, with auctions taking place from 12 – 24 March.

MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY SOUTH ASIAN ART,  Auction 16 March @ 10:00AM

There is an exceptional offering of works from the storied collections of Ruth and Robert Marshak and design impresario Patwant Singh, as well as masterpieces, such as Akbar Padamsee’s 1956 Landscape, which traveled for a representation at the La Biennale di Venezia, 1956, and a 1961 French landscape by Sayed Haider Raza.  This year’s sale features works by more than 65 artists, with an effort towards expanding the discourse around the diverse corpus of South Asian Art created in the 20th century.

The sale is led by two rare paintings on public view for the first time in decades, including Vasudeo S. Gaitonde’s Untitled, which will appear at auction for the very first time since it was acquired in the 1960s; and Jehangir Sabavala’s Lone Vigil from 1989, which entered a private international collection thirty-two years ago and has not been seen since. The sale features works from other significant private collections, including the Patwant Singh and Romen & Rasil Basu Family Collection, and works from the collection of renowned art critic George Butcher; a selection of sculptures led by an archetypal bronze masterpiece by Meera Mukherjee; as well as a diverse selection of works from the Bengal School of Art by many of the leading artists that defined this iconic genre including Gaganendranath Tagore, Benode Behari Mukherjee, Sunayani Devi and Sailoz Mookherjea.

Acquired directly from the artist in Bombay in the 1960s, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde’s incandescent red canvas Untitled, 1962 will appear at auction for the first time this March, after remaining in the collection of renowned American physicist, Robert Marshak and his wife Ruth for nearly sixty years (estimate $800,000/1,200,000). The early 1960s were a critical moment in both Gaitonde’s career and the development of Color Field painting. The present work represents the artist’s unique experimentation with color, surface, texture, proportion and suspension, a defiant and remarkable intent which became the hallmark of Gaitonde’s celebrated œuvre.

IMPERIAL CLOISONNE & JADE: CHINESE ART FROM THE BROOKLYN MUSEUM, Auction 17 March @ 9:00 AM

Leading Sotheby’s Asia Week sale series this March is a remarkable selection of Imperial jades and cloisonné enamels produced during the Ming and Qing dynasties from the Brooklyn Museum, sold to support museum collections. Two of the most significant gifts made to the Brooklyn Museum during the early years of the twentieth century are the cloisonné enamels collected by Samuel P. Avery, Jr. (1847- 1920), and jades and hardstones acquired by Colonel Robert B. Woodward (1840-1915). The 45 works on offer from the Brooklyn Museum represents the generosity of these two patrons, among others, who together were to shape the understanding of these two materials.

This distinguished group of works is led by a magnificent Qing dynasty, Qianlong period Exceptional White and Russet Jade Brushpot (estimate $1/1.5 million) from the Woodward Collection. Colonel Robert B. Woodward (1840-1915) was a lifelong Brooklyn resident whose generous gift of 218 jade and hardstone carvings was made to the institution in 1914. Produced in increased quantity from the mid-Qianlong period on, jade brushpots were rarer and more valuable than those made from bamboo, wood or porcelain, and tended to be concentrated in the collections of the imperial family and other nobility. Under the Qianlong Emperor’s auspices, the jade brushpot became an important medium for pictorial subjects. Many of these illustrate historical events or stories as memorialized in classical paintings, while others interpret their source material, aiming to capture the spirit of China's rich tradition of landscape painting. The decoration of the present brushpot follows in the tradition of Chinese painting, treating the surface of the material as a horizontal scroll. The motif unfolds in front of the viewer as the brushpot is turned and with each scene a new perspective of the landscape is revealed, making the brushpot an object that can be appreciated from multiple vantage points. Also on offer from the Brooklyn Museum collection is a group of cloisonné enamels from the world-renowned Samuel P. Avery, Jr. Collection, led by an exceptionally rare ‘Bats And Clouds’ cloisonné enamel vase (estimate $300/500,00). The Avery Collection of Chinese Cloisonné Enamels was not only the most important and largest of its type in America, but it remains today one of the most important holdings of Chinese cloisonné worldwide.

IMPORTANT CHINESE ART, Auction 17 March @ 10:00 AM

The day continues with a diverse assemblage of rare and exceptional Chinese works of art from distinguished collections, spanning 4,000 years of Chinese history from the Shang dynasty onwards. The Important Chinese Art auction highlights include two early Ming dynasty blue and white masterworks, led by an exceptional and rare 15th century Chinese Yongle period Blue and White  ‘Floral’ Bowl, which will appear at auction for the first time after it was amazingly discovered at a yard sale near New Haven, Connecticut - where it was purchased for just $35 (estimate $300/500,000). While perusing yard sales in Connecticut last year, the consignor came across the small yet eye-catching bowl. Given his attraction to its striking and intricate design, he purchased the bowl without hesitation for a modest $35 – the asking price. Intrigued by the piece, the buyer brought the bowl to Sotheby’s specialists for evaluation, where it was immediately identified as an exceptionally rare piece. For comparison, only six companion bowls are known, with most held in the most renowned museum collections in the world, including two in the National Palace Museum, Taipei; one in the British Museum; one in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and one in the National Museum of Iran, Tehran. This delicate bowl is a quintessential Yongle product made for the court, showing the striking combination of superb material and painting with a slightly exotic design that characterizes imperial porcelain of this period.

On offer from the collection of Stephen Junkunc III, a superb and important parcel-gilt silver 'Lotus And Pomegranate' bowl further highlights the sale (estimate $1/1.5 million). With its exquisite shape, lavish decoration and rich gilding, the present silver bowl stands firmly in the tradition of the best Tang silverwares, yet it is in many ways unique: it is extremely rare in being fully gilded on the outside, for example, rather than only to high-light the designs, as on the inside. Gold and silver are eternal symbols of wealth and luxury and were coveted in every period, but perhaps never more so than at the court and among the elites of the Tang dynasty (618-907).

THE HUNDRED ANTIQUES: FINE & DECORATIVE ASIAN ART, Auction 12 – 24 MARCH

Open for bidding online from 12 – 24 March, The Hundred Antiques: Fine & Decorative Asian Art comprises over 190 Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, and Himalayan works of art and paintings. The sale features Ming and Qing dynasty porcelains, classical furniture, jade, and scholar’s objects, among others. Together, they exemplify the range of artistic expressions, materials, and techniques from Asia’s diverse cultures. Highlights include a large Qing dynasty blue and white Tianqiuping (estimate $15/20,000, pictured left); an ornate hardstone-inlaid Nepalese votive plaque (estimate $5/7,000); a selection of Indian miniature paintings, jade and jadeite carvings from the Estate of Allen O. Battle, PhD; Qing dynasty glass from an important American private collection; a group of early Chinese ceramics from a Boston private collection; and numerous Chinese works of art from the collection of Henry H. Arnhold, sold to benefit the Arnhold Foundation.