Sotheby's upbeat about Asian art sales

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Sotheby’s kicks off its sales of Chinese and Indian works of art this week in New York confident that despite the worst recession in 70 years prices for Asian art will be buoyant.

“We approach this market as if we are in a good place,” Henry Howard-Sneyd, the vice chairman of Asian Art at Sotheby’s said ahead of the sales. “We’re aiming as high as we can.”

A rare mother-of pearl inlaid black lacquer wine table, dating to the Wanli Period (1573-1620) that once belonged to Mrs. Nelson Rockefeller, is expected to be among the top selling items in one of two Chinese works of art auctions on Wednesday. It could fetch up to $600,000.

Also included in the sale is a pale celadon jade carved brushpot, Bitong, dating to the 18th century that could sell for as much $400,000, and a large bronze figure of an 11-headed and multi-armed Avalokitesvara, one of the most important Buddhist deities, with an estimated price tag of $200,000.

“We see the price and interest in Asia art going higher and higher,” Howard-Sneyd added.

Forty lots of Chinese furniture from the collections of Dr Arthur M. Sackler, a psychiatrist, businessman and philanthropist, will also go under the hammer on Wednesday.

In the auction of Indian Art on Thursday, a red and black oil on canvas, “Untitled,” by V.S. Gaitonde, who used a roller and palette knife instead of a pain brush to recreate the work, could sell for up to $600,000 during the sales of painting by modern and contemporary Indian artists.

“Following the success of our June sale in London, which surpassed expectation, we have assembled a tightly edited sale with an emphasis on quality works at reasonable prices,” said Zara Porter-Hill, the head of Indian Art at Sotheby’s.

A painting called “And Behind Me Desolation” by artist Tyeb Mehta, one of India’s most acclaimed Modernists who died two months ago, is also expected to generate interest and could sell for as much as $350,000.

“We expect a broad range of buyers for this work,” Porter-Hill added.

The auction will also include six miniatures from the personal collection of Dr. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, who established the first Indian Art department at a U.S. institution. The top item of the collection is a miniature depicting an ancient tale in which a tiger is shown slinking away from a jackal.

“Everything has a meaning,” said Anuradha Ghosh-Mazumdar, an expert in Indian and southeast Asian art at Sotheby’s, referring to the animals in “An Illustration to a Jataka Series: The Sixth Dream of King Pasenadi,” which depicts the challenge of a powerful ruler by an upstart.