New York Asian art auctions span bronze antiquities to contemporary art

Fri Mar 15, 2013 9:00pm EDT
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By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rare bronzes, contemporary masterpieces, museum-quality furniture and antiquities dating back more than 3,000 years are among thousands of art objects hitting the auction block in New York next week during Christie's and Sotheby's Asia week sales.

The four days of auctions, estimated to take in anywhere from $74 million to $106 million, begin on Tuesday with Sotheby's sales of contemporary Indian art and Chinese ceramics and art, and Christie's Indian and Southeast Asian sale, which includes some of its higher-priced works.

The semi-annual sales of Asian works of art have become an important driver in the global market, with strong activity in recent years. But a recent report found art spending by Chinese collectors fell 24 percent last year because of slowing economic growth and a lack of availability of top-quality works.

"Just as we've seen in the overall market, we're seeing a focus on quality" within Asian art collecting, Christie's international director of Asian art, Hugo Weihe, told Reuters.

"And there's a deeper level of scholarship now, so we have been selective in what we offer," he said.

This season, Christie's has more extensive offerings, with eight sales over four days expected to take in between $44 million and $62 million. Sotheby's four auctions over three days should total from $30 million to $44 million.

Among highlights is a towering, Tibetan bronze figure of a bodhisattva from around the ninth or 10th century that reaches nearly 4 feet and is expected to fetch about $2.5 million at Christie's.

"Buddhist art in general has become an increasingly big focus," Weihe said.   Continued...