$3.11 Million Realised at Asian Art Auction

By: Tess McLean


highest price achieved – $807,500 for “Mountainous River Landscape”

Seasoned auctioneers Duncan McLean and Stephen Ranger had their work cut out for them at Waddington’s December 2, 2013 auction of Asian Art. A full auction room, online bidders and a staff of ten to handle telephone bids contributed to the often frenzied bidding action and sky-high prices at the Toronto auction company’s gallery. The final sale total of $3.11 million, including commission, is a record high for an Asian Art auction in Canada. With a 73% sold rate, the auction more than doubled its $1.05 million to $1.49 million pre-sale estimate, and beat Waddington’s previous high of $2.4 million for an Asian Art sale in December of 2010.

Based on the level of pre-auction interest, Waddington’s Asian Art Specialist Anthony Wu had anticipated that some of the close to 400 items offered might exceed their estimates, but the evening’s success surpassed all expectations. Chinese porcelain, painting and jade carvings were particularly strong, as well as South Asian miniatures and Himalayan bronzes.

Highlights – Japanese and South Asian Section:

  • The first highlight of the evening was lot 16, a Japanese Rare Ko-Imari Wine Jar with Figure of Bacchus from the Edo Period. The pre-sale estimate of $3,000 / 4,000 was blown away by a final hammer price of $28,800.
  • Similarly, lot 32, an exquisitely articulated silver Japanese Jizai (fully articulated) Okimono of a Dragon from the Meiji Period sold for over twice its estimate at $57,600. The dragon was consigned by descendents of the prominent Toronto Adamson-Cawthra family.
  • For South Asian works of art, lot 38, a Mughal School Miniature of Rustam Saves Bizhan from the Well, dating from the 16th/17th Century sold for $71,500 against an estimate of $3000 / 4000. This work, along with fourteen other miniatures, was originally from the estate of Theodore Allen Heinrich (1910-1980), a former director of the ROM and an art history professor.
  • In total they brought in over $140,000, much to the delight of the Toronto owner who purchased them from Waddington’s during the 1980’s!

Highlights – Chinese Works:

It was the Chinese works of art that had the auction room buzzing.

  • Anthony Wu was hard pressed to define his favourite moment of the auction with so many successful outcomes, but clearly was pleased with the $347,500 realized for lot 226, a spectacular Chinese Pale Celadon Jade Ruyi Scepter from the Jiaqing Period. It was the impeccable provenance, perfect condition and rarity of the piece Wu credits for the price. “Buyers are much more discerning now” Wu said, “Our clients are looking for higher quality, unique items that are new to the market. The owners of the scepter were beyond ecstatic as they were watching the bidding over the Internet.
  • The highest price realized of the evening was $807,500 for lot 253, “Mountainous River Landscape”, an ink and colour scroll painting, dated 1963. Meticulous in his research and pointedly cautious in his attributions, Anthony Wu catalogued the work as “After Fu Baoshi”, who is considered perhaps the most original figure painter and landscapist of China’s modern period. After an intense ten-minute telephone battle amongst four phone bidders, the eventual winner came from China. This is the second offering of Chinese paintings from the distinguished collection of Dr. David T.W. Lin offered by Waddington’s; the first portion was sold in June 2013.
  • The winner of the Fu Baoshi also purchased from the Dr David Lin collection, lot 254 (“Cliff with Two Boats” in the Style of Li Keran) for $140,500 and lot 256 (“Palm Branch and Two Birds” by Guan Shanyue) for $43,200.

Anthony Wu says it is not surprising that most of the buyers were from East Asia and New York, but noted that the majority of the pieces in the auction were from six different notable Canadian collections.

“We are already assembling our spring auction of Asian Art” Wu said from his downtown Toronto office, amidst the packing as the art is prepared to be shipped to new owners. “We proved once again that top international prices can be achieved here in Canada.It is hugely exciting – and satisfying – to experience such growth in this market and to be responsible for Canada’s most significant auctions of Asian Art.”

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