Solid bidding for Chinese art at Bonhams New York

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Continuous strong bidding from the room, online and telephone buyers made for a lively salesroom during the Chinese Art From the Scholar’s Studio auction on September 15 at Bonhams New York, which brought in a total of $3.39 million, exceeding the pre-sale high estimate.

The highest selling lot was a large bronze Buddha seated on a lotus, from the Ming dynasty, that sold for $485,000, over five times its pre-sale estimate. Measuring 33 inches in height, the large sculpture stood serenely on a plinth in the background as the hammer fell, ending the bidding war and selling to a quiet gentleman who stood at the back of the room.

Another anticipated star lot, a large cast bronze figure of Guanyin from the late Ming dynasty did not disappoint, selling for $173,000, above its high estimate. Guanyin, the embodiment of universal compassion, could take many forms in Buddhist art of the Ming dynasty, but is rarely depicted in this pose. The sculpture was sourced from a private collection in New York.

Other top selling lots included an 18th century veneered altar table, which soared past its high estimate, selling for $197,000; and a collaboration by the twentieth century artist Qi Baishi and his student Yang Xiuzhen, which sold for $75,000. In a speedy bidding process, an ink and color on paper scroll by Qi Gong was snapped up for $100,000, well past its estimate. The beautiful scroll, which features a misty, mountainous landscape, was painted circa 1940 by a descendant of the Qing imperial lineage, and a distinguished teacher in his own right.

A wedding album dated 1927 consisting of paintings and calligraphy on nine leaves  by a group of important artists including Sanyu, Liu Huaisu and Qian Shoutie, achieved a handsome winning bid of $118,750. The album was a wedding present for two significant cultural figures from the Republic period Shanghainese literary beau monde — the poet Shao Xunmei and his first cousin, the heiress Sheng Peiyu.

The seventy three snuff bottles on offer sold solidly, with nearly 90 percent finding buyers.  Inside painted snuff bottles performed extremely well and the several white jade bottles received very impressive results.  Other white jade objects were also in demand, with a carved white jade necklace from the Republic period selling for $62,500, over 20 times its high estimate.

As with recent Chinese art sales, participants in the auction were overwhelmingly from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Dessa Goddard, Vice President and Director of Asian Works of Art at Bonhams in North America commented, “We’re delighted with today’s results. The enthusiasm generated at the preview translated into consistent and strong bidding throughout the day and demonstrates the continuing buoyancy of the Chinese art market.”

Bonhams’ next Chinese art sale in New York will take place in March of 2015.