From Thursday, June 2nd through Saturday, June 4th, Skinner, Inc. auctioned off more than 1,700 lots of Asian art. The sale grossed over $6 million, making it the second most profitable auction for the company since it was founded roughly four decades ago. Skinner offered a variety of art objects, from paintings, to a Quran page, to daggers. These works hailed from many parts of the Asian continent. China, India, Japan, Korea, and Tibet were among the regions represented.
The auction was divided into three sessions, the first taking place on Thursday evening and then next two on Friday and Saturday mornings. An eighteenth century Kesi dragon robe previously owned by Pu Yi, the last Emperor of China, brought $22,515. A white jade double-gourd vase and cover, measuring only seven and one quarter inches, sold for $142,200. Other highlights included a rhinoceros horn libation cup, carved in the eighteenth century, a pair of covered jars, also from the eighteenth century, and a fan painting by Wu Changshuo, dated 1917. These items grossed $250,000, $292,000, and $34,365, respectively.
The piece featured on the cover of the catalog that accompanied this sale, an eighteenth century bamboo brush pot, measuring six inches high and nearly five inches in diameter, auctioned for $539,500. In the catalog, the work is described as “finely and elaborately carved with Immortals in a mountainous landscape, with gnarled pines and rocky outcrops”. With an estimate of $800-$1,200, the pot sold for well over four hundred times its predicted high price.
Approximately 94% of the lots offered sold, with the majority of the bids coming from buyers in China. In a post-sale press release, Skinner’s Director of Asian Works of Art, James Callahan, offered his evaluation of the sale. He is quoted as saying, “Everything sold uniformly well in this auction. When you consider that the top lot came in at $539,500, and only seven other lots exceeded the $100,000 mark, you can appreciate the incredible demand that exists for this material.” Commenting on the Asian art market more generally, Callahan asserted, “This sale is testament to the fact that the market is not only hot, but sees no sign of cooling. It’s really the case of a limited supply in an unlimited market.”
Skinner’s offices and galleries are located in Boston and Marlborough, Massachusetts. They specialize in a variety of collecting fields ranging in both subject matter and time period. In addition to paintings and sculpture, they offer auction and appraisal services for furniture, jewelry, textiles, musical instruments, fine wine, and antique motor vehicles. Although auctions are their primary events, Skinner also hosts lectures, receptions, and other educational programs throughout the year. Their next event, which is free and open to the public, is a European decorative arts lecture and reception on Friday, July 8th. It will coincide with a preview of items being sold in the European Furniture and Decorative Arts sale, which is scheduled for the following day at 10 a.m. Lecture and sale will both be held at the Boston location.