The Complete Results of 2021’s Fall Asia Week Auctions

Liz Catalano
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Collectors eagerly raised their paddles during this year’s Fall Asia Week. The largest auction houses together offered nearly two dozen events. The sales celebrated antique, modern, and contemporary items from across the continent. This auction series follows the success of Asia Week New York’s spring edition, which marked its 12th anniversary this year. What sold during the autumn auctions, and which categories saw the strongest results? Auction Daily investigates.

Katsushika Hokusai, Kanagawa oki nami ura (Under the well of the Great Wave off Kanagawa), 1830. Image from Christie’s.
Katsushika Hokusai, Kanagawa oki nami ura (Under the well of the Great Wave off Kanagawa), 1830. Image from Christie’s.

Christie’s 

During this year’s Fall Asia Week, Christie’s presented six auctions that surveyed the breadth of Asia’s geography and history. The week opened with an Important Japanese Art sale that achieved a total of USD 8,537,000 and an 85 percent sell-through rate by lot. A woodblock print of Katsushika Hokusai’s iconic Great Wave dominated the listings and sold for $687,500. Works by other ukiyo-e masters, including Toshusai Sharaku, Totoya Hokkei, and Utagawa Hiroshige, also yielded strong results. 

Christie’s continued its offerings with two live auctions of Indian, Himalayan, and Southeast Asian art. One focused on antiquities, such as a South Indian bronze figure of Shri Devi from the 15th century and a large schist bodhisattva figure that dates back to the 4th century CE. The sale total was $2,699,000. The second auction included modern and contemporary works by masters like Jehangir Sabavala, Tyeb Mehta, and Maqbool Fida Husain. Sabavala’s The Embarkation (1965) notably realized $1,590,000, a new auction record for the artist. 

A two-day event featuring Chinese decorative art, ceramics, and fine art finished with the highest single auction total of any Asia Week sale. High prices for a rare silver bowl, a large huanghuali table, and a jade tiger pendant contributed to the event’s final total of $24,637,625. The diverse catalog included items from the Springfield Museums, India House, and the Indianapolis Museum.

Two timed auctions from Christie’s saw lukewarm results. The Asia! sale, which closed on September 28th, saw competitive bids for large Chinese silk paintings completed in the late Ming or early Qing dynasty. A timed online auction of Japanese woodblock prints wrapped up on September 29th. Spirited bidding for the modestly-priced prints meant that most items sold comfortably within or slightly above their estimates.

A beige and brown jade figure of a bixie, Ming dynasty or later. Image from Sotheby’s.
A beige and brown jade figure of a bixie, Ming dynasty or later. Image from Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s 

Sotheby’s covered over 4,000 years of history across five auctions during 2021’s Fall Asia Week. The first Indian, Himalayan, and Southeast Asian Works of Art sale opened on September 20th. It featured Himalayan sculptures from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Collection and the MacLean Collection. Top lots included a South Indian copper alloy figure of Vishnu, Bhudevi, and Sridevi that sold for $685,500, more than double the high estimate of $300,000. 

The week continued with Sotheby’s Important Chinese Art auction. This live sale proved to be the second highest-grossing event in the industry this Asia Week, finishing with a staggering total of $24,172,942. Ritual bronzes from the MacLean Collection bagged the highest prices. Several individual bronzes from the Shang dynasty exceeded $1,000,000 each. 

Sotheby’s offered three timed auctions of Asian art, including a selection of jades, ceramics, and bronzes from the collection of Stephen Junkunc, III. Carved jade figures were especially popular with bidders. Many had conservative estimates ranging from $5,000 to $20,000. A few lots breezed past those figures. One jade bixie figure sold for $746,000 against a high estimate of $12,000. The two other timed auctions offered antiques from the Collection of Bruce Dayton and Ruth Stricker Dayton, the Collection of Simon F. Rothschild, and other estates. These timed auctions brought in a combined total of $5,630,184.

A gilt copper alloy figure of Yamantaka Vajrabhairava and Vajravetali, mid-15th century. Image from Bonhams.
A gilt copper alloy figure of Yamantaka Vajrabhairava and Vajravetali, mid-15th century. Image from Bonhams.

Bonhams

Bonhams presented seven auctions for 2021’s Fall Asia Week. The sale series opened with a selection of Chinese paintings and calligraphy from the collection of Reverend Richard Fabian. It boasted a 90 percent sell-through rate by value. Two lots crossed the $200,000 threshold: a set of four running script scrolls by 19th-century calligrapher Zhao Zhiqian and a 1952 landscape painting by modern literati artist Huang Binhong. Following the calligraphy event was a live auction of Chinese ceramics, decorative art, and paintings. Top lots included a pair of famille rose lantern bowls and a loquats painting by Qi Baishi. However, anticipated items such as a hu-shaped vase with a ‘robin’s-egg’ glaze went unsold. 

Bonhams also offered two auctions of Chinese snuff bottles. The first featured the 50-year collection of Manfred Arnold. Most lots modestly sold within their presale estimates. The second snuff bottle auction featured items from the Emily Byrne Curtis Collection. Two bottles exceeded expectations. An Imperial bottle with a Chinese garden scene sold for $137,812, and an enameled opaque bottle notably reached $69,062. 

Beyond Chinese works of art, Bonhams offered a Japanese and Korean fine art auction on September 22nd. A complex six-panel screen produced by an anonymous Korean painter from the Joseon dynasty was the surprise top lot after it sold for $94,062. Works by Kubo Shunman, Torii Kotondo, and Katsushika Hokusai reached $35,000 or above. 

Bonhams achieved the top result for Himalayan art among all of the Asia Week auctions. The house sold a gilt copper alloy figure of Yamantaka Vajrabhairava and Vajravetali from the mid-15th century for $687,812. A timed online auction of Indian, Southeast Asian, and Himalayan art wrapped up Bonhams’ offerings. Enthusiastic bidders brought in strong results for Vietnamese ceramics, Tibetan thangkas, and 18th-century Indian paintings.

A partial Chinese Imperial falangcai vase from the Sarah Belk Gambrell Collection. Image from Doyle.
A partial Chinese Imperial falangcai vase from the Sarah Belk Gambrell Collection. Image from Doyle.

Doyle

Doyle offered a two-session decorative art sale during this year’s Fall Asia Week. The first session was held on September 20th, 2021 and achieved a total of $4,300,000. A Qianlong falangcai vase exceeded expectations after selling for $2,450,000, more than eight times its high estimate of $300,000. The piece formerly belonged to department store heiress Sarah Belk Gambrell. The illustration features two European women and a young boy playing in a garden, reflecting the Qianlong Emperor’s sustained interest in Western styles. 

The second Asian Works of Art auction from Doyle also exceeded estimates and totaled $376,821. Top lots included a Japanese embroidered silk tapestry, a pair of Chinese square form lamps with spinach jade panels, and blue and white porcelain vases.

Attributed to Chen Yu (1313 - 1384), Scholars and Attendants with Painting. Image from Heritage Auctions.
Attributed to Chen Yu (1313 – 1384), Scholars and Attendants with Painting. Image from Heritage Auctions.

Heritage Auctions

Heritage Auctions offered a two-day fine and decorative Asian art event from September 22nd through 23rd. The auction house attracted 574 bidders and realized a sale total of $1,327,281. An ink painting attributed to 14th-century artist Chen Yu led the results with a hammer price of $137,500. Likely created at the start of the Ming dynasty, this painting shows a scholar and his attendants hard at work examining landscape paintings. A Chinese blue and white bowl from the Qing dynasty, an Indian sandstone sculpture, and a Korean celadon vessel from the Joseon dynasty were other notable lots.

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James Ardis
James Ardis
Senior Writer and Editor

James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

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