Asian art auctions in NY exceed estimates

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Asian art auctions this week totaled nearly $50 million, including $3.3 million for an ancient wine vessel that set a new record at Christie’s for an item sold to an online buyer.

The vessel dating from the 12th or 11th century BC was the top seller at Christie’s where the week-long sales fetched more than $20 million, far exceeding pre-sale estimates.

Sotheby’s said their total was more than $27 million.

“This week’s sale saw enthusiastic bidding and strong prices across a range of different categories from porcelain and jades, to furniture and paintings,” said Dr. Caroline Schulten, Sotheby’s head of Chinese works of art.

“Collectors from around the world often raised the bidding to multiples of the high estimate in order to secure the very best works,” said added in a statement.

A Christie’s spokesman said their online record for the wine vessel adorned with a dragon surpassed the previous record for an item sold in an online sale in 2008 when $1.27 million was paid for a Stradivari violin.

Theow H. Tow, the deputy chairman of Christie’s America, said the small vessel still had “residual millet wine solidified in the bottom.”

Christie’s next highest selling piece, a ritual food vessel from the 10th century BC changed hands for nearly $3 million.

Tow said that bronze pieces are particularly valuable.

“Bronze work is an indispensable section in the development history of ancient China, symbolizing the advanced civilization and embodying the social hierarchy,” he explained in an interview. “Bronzes were predominantly made for the wealthier class to begin with, the material being rare and expensive.”

The auctions were part of New York Asia Week, which has been held since 1995. The event is also held in March.

In addition to Christie’s and Sotheby’s, more than a dozen other art galleries held exhibitions and auctions.

According to Tow, the quality of ancient Chinese art makes it unique, even among other notable pieces of ancient art.

“The bronze age in any culture gives one a very good marker for comparison with other early cultures. The fact that China stumbled upon casting bronze around 1900 BC places it behind development in the Euphrates Delta, Luristan and Egypt but in terms of bronze casting skills by 1200 BC it was second to none when judging by form and quality,” he said.

Also included in the auctions were antique and contemporary art from Japan, Korea, India and Southeast Asia.

Reporting by Bernd Debusmann Jr.; Editing by Patricia Reaney