Christie's brings fine Japanese and Korean art to New York

With August nearing its end, Christie's is stirring after the summer quiet season and flexing its gavel arm ready for a series of autumn auctions. One of the first, and most exciting for investors, is their sale of Japanese and Korean Art featuring Arts of the Meiji Period.

Featuring 250 lots in total, the Japanese section of the sale will include enamel arts of the Meiji Period, screens, and bronze works, and the Korean section will offer a private collection of traditional Korean paintings, ceramics and paintings by Korean modern and contemporary artists.

Specifically, the Japanese section will include 50 works of art from the Meiji Period (1867-1912).  Leading the section is a lacquer book cabinet (or shodana), which is signed Heian Zohiko Sakusei. The lavish cabinet is a special commission, and the art is believed to be the work of the seventh-generation Nishimura Hikobei.  

Japanese Meiji bookcase or Shodana
Japanese Meiji bookcase or Shodana

The elaborate decoration and imagery of musicians and exotic dances with bugaku drums and curtained enclosures evokes the classical novel of court life, Lady Murasaki's Tale of Genji.  

The palace is shown at the top of the cabinet, the pond and boat with musicians on the bottom, while the young butterfly dancers appear on poem squares on the side of the cabinet, and the piece is listed at $350,000-450,000.

Additional highlights of the Arts of the Meiji Period include a large cloisonné-enamel vase and a pair of inlaid-bronze vases.  The cloisonné-enamel vase of the 1890s is an exquisite masterpiece made in the workshop of Namikawa Yasuyuki of Kyoto, one of the most famous cloisonné-enamel artists of Japan and it is estimated at $300,000-400,000.

The initials of an unidentified Western client, G.P., which is located on the exterior of the enamel foot, and the relatively large size confirm its status as a private order.

A pair of monumental inlaid-bronze vases, attributed to Suzuki Chokichi (1848-1919) are believed to have been commissioned by Albert Mosse, a German lawyer who lived in Tokyo from 1886 until 1890.  They are expected to achieve an estimate of $250,000-300,000.

The vases were made by the Kiryu Kosho Kaisha, a state-endorsed art trading company promoting Japanese craft industries.  Suzuki Chokichi, renowned for his realistic ornamental sculpture, was the director of the metal-casting division of the company.

Meiji Lantern
Momoyama period ornate hanging lantern

The sale will also include a massive, reticulated gilt-bronze hanging lantern, Momoyama Period (late 16th-early 17th century).  Few such hexagonal lanterns have survived and this is an exceptionally fine and important example, valued at $300,000-400,000.

Both classic and contemporary Korean Art is on offer in that section of the auction.

Consigned by a private collector is an eight-panel silk screen commemorating the royal celebration banquet of the 50th birthday of Emperor Gojong, Joseon Dynasty (1901), a hero of Korean nationalism.

Possibly the last example of a Korean royal celebratory banquet (jinyeon) screen ever produced, and with seating arrangement, food, drinks, musical instruments, flowers, costumes, etc on the panels, it is estimated at $300,000-350,000.

An impressive selection of porcelains offered in the sale includes  a large blue and white porcelain water dropper in the form of a seated mythical lion (Haetae), created in the Joseon Dynasty.

The sale also offers over 40 works from The Jerry Lee Musslewhite Collection of Korean Art. The American collector assembled one of the largest collections of Joseon Buddhist paintings outside of Korea such as Assembled Deities, 1812, a hanging silk scroll (estimated at $15,000-20,000) and  Kshitigarbha with the Ten King of Hell, 1775,  a framed, ink and gold on silk painting listed at $10,000-15,000.

The contemporary art section includes Kim Tchah-sup's Hands, 2009, which is expected to bring $60,000 - 80,000 in the sale, which takes place in New York on September 15.


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