Asian art sales in New York exceed expectations

Mon Mar 25, 2013 10:53am EDT
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By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A week of Asian art auctions exceeded expectations as Christie's and Sotheby's together sold more than $130 million worth of contemporary and Chinese art, rare bronzes, furniture and antiquities at their semi-annual Asia week sales.

The four days of auctions last week were estimated to result in sales of between $75 million and $105 million, but competitive bidding on several pieces drove up prices to many times higher than their pre-sale estimates.

Christie's led with just over $80 million, or about 50 percent above their pre-sale estimate. Sotheby's total was $52.4 million, which was nearly half again its estimated total.

The strong auction results followed a recent report which showed art spending by Chinese collectors fell 24 percent last year because of slowing economic growth and a lack of top-quality works. In the New York auction, however, the Chinese sales were among some of week's strongest results.

At Christie's, an 18th century pear-shaped yellow and blue vase estimated to sell for about $400,000 fetched nearly 10 times that, or $3.8 million. A 17th/18th century plank-top pedestal table nearly 15 feet long, which was expected to sell for up to $2 million, sold for $9.1 million.

A large pair of Ming Dynasty gilt-lacquered bronze figures of bodhisattvas with an estimate of $25,000 sold for $1.2 million.

Sotheby's two Chinese art auctions brought a total of $41.3 million, far above the $32 million high estimate. A 17th century work, "Stream-Laced Mountain After Snow" by Tang Dai, soared to $2.74 million, or more than five times the estimate.

"These figures confirm the continued strong demand for works of art from private collections with distinguished provenance, and underline the in-depth strength of the market across all collecting categories," Christie's co-heads of Chinese art Michael Bass and Noah Kupferman said in a statement.   Continued...

The main entrance to auction house Sotheby's is pictured on the day of their Sale of American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture in New York November 28, 2007. REUTERS/Jacob Silberberg