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.
Henry Howard Sneyd, vice chairman for Asian art at Sotheby's, agreed.
"The result reaffirms New York as a global center for Asian Art auctions, attracting both buyers and sellers from around the world," he said.
The Asian market has become an important driver in the global market. The New York results boosted hopes for the auction houses as they gear up for the Impressionist, modern and contemporary art sales in May.
Before the sales, Sotheby's international head of South Asian art, Yamini Mehta, said the Indian art market was maturing, with top works attracting great interest.
At a private collection of Indian art owned by Amrita Jhaveri, the sales total neared the $7 million high estimate as 60 percent of the lots beat the high estimate.
Priyanka Mathew, Sotheby's head of sales for modern and contemporary South Asian art, said new buyers had entered the market, helping drive strong prices for Jhaveri's consignments.
"Bidding was truly global, with equal participation coming from Asia, North America and Europe," Mathew said.
Another highlight at Sotheby's was the $2.2 million price of a 1,000-year-old Chinese bowl that was bought for a few dollars at a tag sale in 2007. A New York state family bought the "Ding" bowl, from the Northern Song Dynasty in 2007 and displayed it in their home.
Sotheby's estimated it would sell for $200,000 to $300,000, but London dealer Giuseppe Eskenazi paid $2.2 million with commission.
Other highlights at Christie's included a towering Tibetan bronze figure of a bodhisattva from around the ninth or 10th century reaching nearly 4 feet, which sold for $2.8 million. A large-scale, intricate Tibetan Buddha painting estimated at $600,000 to $800,000 fetched $1.26 million.
Editing by Patricia Reaney and Christopher Wilson