Christie’s Restructures Classical Asian Sales to Focus on the Arts of India
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Christie’s Restructures Classical Asian Sales to Focus on the Arts of India

By ABBY SCHULTZ
Mon, Aug 28, 2023 8:45amGrey Clock 4 min

Christie’s will feature classical Indian art created from the third century through the beginning of the 20th century in a standalone sale for the first time this September.

The online auction is a break with the traditional approach of including Indian, Himalayan, and Southeast Asian art in one sale and responds to collectors of modern and contemporary Indian art who are “interested in following art history backwards,” finding links in the art of recent time to the faraway past, says Tristan Bruck, head of sale.

The previous model better suited “an old-fashioned collector who was buying works in all three sub-niches,” Bruck says. “A collector who bought Indian paintings, for instance, was likely to also go out and buy a Tibetan thangka (or tapestry).”

The Arts of India sale, open from 10 a.m. Sept. 13 to 9 a.m. Sept. 27, is paying particular attention to works that transition Indian art from the classical to the modern era, a period that until now hadn’t received close attention, he says.

Maqbool Fida Husain, Untitled (Naga), circa 1971
Christie’s Images Ltd. 2023

In the midst of the online offering, on the morning of Sept. 20, Christie’s also will hold a live sale in New York of mostly modern but also contemporary South Asian art, which is predominately from India in addition to Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.

Christie’s expectation is that collectors who attend, or dial into the modern and contemporary sale via phone or online, might be intrigued to also take a look at the online sale, where earlier Indian works provide inspiration for colours, style, and themes by 20th-and 21st-century artists. The auction house will also display the works together in its Rockefeller Center galleries in New York.

Collectors “realize that this art wasn’t created in a vacuum,” says Nishad Avari, Christie’s head of South Asian modern and contemporary art. “There’s thousands of years of tradition that modern and contemporary artists in the region drew on and continue to draw from.”

Consider Maqbook Fida Husain’s Untitled (Naga), a massive work of five female figures and a serpent (or naga) painted around 1971. The painting portrays four of the women with breaks at the neck, hips, and knees, alluding to physical forms expressed in temple sculpture of the Gupta Empire from the fourth- to early sixth century, Avari says.

The painting, expected to achieve between US$700,000 and US$1 million, likely was created to commemorate the launch of a monograph of Husain’s work that was published by Harry N. Abrams, who acquired the painting, Christie’s said in a catalog note. Abrams, a vast collector who also published art and illustrated books about Old Masters through artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, had displayed the work in his offices and later in his family’s home for more than 50 years.

A very large and important Pichvai of Vishvarupa Amidst A Lotus Pond, India, Rajasthan, 18th-19th Centuries
Courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd. 2023

Going further back in time within the Arts of India sale is a Pichvai painting of Vishvarupa—a form of the god Krishna—painted in the 18th to 19th century. The work, originally a temple banner, is a traditional Indian form and concept, “but by the 19th century you can see artists are working with different types of perspective,” Bruck says. They are also using a more modern color palette, with vibrant pinks and blues, and the canvas is large—about six by eight feet.

“This could go in a gallery with the modern works, which are on these large canvases,” Bruck says. The painting “tells a great story alongside 20th-century work, being able to see the origin of a lot of these concepts.”

The Pichvai—a term that refers to devotional folk art paintings—is estimated to achieve at least US$120,000.

Another popular category are so-called company-school paintings that came out of India’s princely courts beginning with the imperial Mughal around 1600 through to the 19th century, when they were commissioned by British administrators, Bruck says.

Each court had its own style that may have been influenced by other courts and changed over time, he says. The works, often called miniature paintings because of the small, precise figures and scenes they depicted, were typically created in albums, or series, making them highly collectible.

Until recently, a group of collectors had focused solely on this sector somewhat in isolation, but Bruck says, Christie’s is seeing an “explosion of interest” in court painting albums, such as an illustration from the “Bharany” Ramayan series that is being offered in the upcoming sale.

A collector “can see what the other pages from that album have sold for and sort of put them together as an album in [their] mind and ideally collect more than one or try to get a few from the set,” Bruck says. The fact they exist within series also gives collectors confidence in what to pay, he adds.

Sayed Haider Raza, Rajasthan, 1983
Christie’s Images Ltd. 2023

The Bharany Ramayan work in the sale, titled The Monkey Army Intruding Upon a Demon’s Cave, from “Punjab Hills, Kangra or Guler, first generation after Nainsukh or Manaku,” from 1775-1780, is being offered for a minimum of US$80,000. A Patna court painting of a marriage procession at night, from around 1810 and painted in a more European style, is being offered for a minimum of US$10,000.

For many collectors, those price points are more accessible than, for example, the estimated US$250,000 they would pay for a work by Sayed Haider Raza, whose Rajasthan, 1983, is included in the modern and contemporary sale. The structure and primary-colour palette of Rajasthan, in fact, is intentionally drawn from court paintings, Avari says.

“The way in which their discrete sections, cells, in which he paints and the way in which he surrounds it with the red border is a direct reference to Pahari or Rajasthani (court) painting,” he says.

When collectors can see the court paintings that inspired a modern work they own, and they can acquire them for far less, “why not hang them side-by-side?” Avari says.



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New York Watch Auctions Record Uptick in Sales in the Face of Market Slowdown
By LAURIE KAHLE
Mon, Jun 24, 2024 4 min

Luxury watch collectors showed ongoing strong demand for Patek Philippe, growing interest in modern watches and a preference for larger case sizes and leather straps at the June watch sales in New York, according to an analysis of the major auctions.

Independent and neo-vintage categories, meanwhile, experienced declines in total sales and average prices, said the report from  EveryWatch, a global online platform for watch information. Overall, the New York auctions achieved total sales of US$52.27 million, a 9.87% increase from the previous year, on the sale of 470 lots, reflecting a 37% increase in volume. Unsold rates ticked down a few points to 5.31%, according to the platform’s analysis.

EveryWatch gathered data from official auction results for sales held in New York from June 5 to 10 at Christie’s, Phillips, and Sotheby’s. Limited to watch sales exclusively, each auction’s data was reviewed and compiled for several categories, including total lots, sales and sold rates, highest prices achieved, performance against estimates, sales trends in case materials and sizes as well as dial colors, and more. The resulting analysis provides a detailed overview of market trends and performance.

The Charles Frodsham Pocket watch sold at Phillips for $433,400.

“We still see a strong thirst for rare, interesting, and exceptional watches, modern and vintage alike, despite a little slow down in the market overall,” says Paul Altieri, founder and CEO of the California-based pre-owned online watch dealer BobsWatches.com, in an email. “The results show that there is still a lot of money floating around out there in the economy looking for quality assets.”

Patek Philippe came out on top with more than US$17.68 million on the sale of 122 lots. It also claimed the top lot: Sylvester Stallone’s Patek Philippe GrandMaster Chime 6300G-010, still in the sealed factory packaging, which sold at Sotheby’s for US$5.4 million, much to the dismay of the brand’s president, Thierry Stern . The London-based industry news website WatchPro estimates the flip made the actor as much as US$2 million in just a few years.

At Christie’s, the top lot was a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM56-02 AO Tourbillon Sapphire
Richard Mille

“As we have seen before and again in the recent Sotheby’s sale, provenance can really drive prices higher than market value with regards to the Sylvester Stallone Panerai watches and his standard Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1a offered,” Altieri says.

Patek Philippe claimed half of the top 10 lots, while Rolex and Richard Mille claimed two each, and Philippe Dufour claimed the No. 3 slot with a 1999 Duality, which sold at Phillips for about US$2.1 million.

“In-line with EveryWatch’s observation of the market’s strong preference for strap watches, the top lot of our auction was a Philippe Dufour Duality,” says Paul Boutros, Phillips’ deputy chairman and head of watches, Americas, in an email. “The only known example with two dials and hand sets, and presented on a leather strap, it achieved a result of over US$2 million—well above its high estimate of US$1.6 million.”

In all, four watches surpassed the US$1 million mark, down from seven in 2023. At Christie’s, the top lot was a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM56-02 AO Tourbillon Sapphire, the most expensive watch sold at Christie’s in New York. That sale also saw a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM52-01 CA-FQ Tourbillon Skull Model go for US$1.26 million to an online buyer.

Rolex expert Altieri was surprised one of the brand’s timepieces did not crack the US$1 million threshold but notes that a rare Rolex Daytona 6239 in yellow gold with a “Paul Newman John Player Special” dial came close at US$952,500 in the Phillips sale.

The Crown did rank second in terms of brand clout, achieving sales of US$8.95 million with 110 lots. However, both Patek Philippe and Rolex experienced a sales decline by 8.55% and 2.46%, respectively. The independent brand Richard Mille, with US$6.71 million in sales, marked a 912% increase from the previous year with 15 lots, up from 5 lots in 2023.

The results underscored recent reports of prices falling on the secondary market for specific coveted models from Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet. The summary points out that five top models produced high sales but with a fall in average prices.

The Rolex Daytona topped the list with 42 appearances, averaging US$132,053, a 41% average price decrease. Patek Philippe’s Nautilus, with two of the top five watches, made 26 appearances with an average price of US$111,198, a 26% average price decrease. Patek Philippe’s Perpetual Calendar followed with 23 appearances and a US$231,877 average price, signifying a fall of 43%, and Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak had 22 appearances and an average price of US$105,673, a 10% decrease. The Rolex Day Date is the only watch in the top five that tracks an increase in average price, which at US$72,459 clocked a 92% increase over last year.

In terms of categories, modern watches (2005 and newer) led the market with US$30 million in total sales from 226 lots, representing a 53.54% increase in sales and a 3.78% increase in average sales price over 2023. Vintage watches (pre-1985) logged a modest 6.22% increase in total sales and an 89.89% increase in total lots to 169.

However, the average price was down across vintage, independent, and neo-vintage (1990-2005) watches. Independent brands saw sales fall 24.10% to US$8.47 million and average prices falling 42.17%, while neo-vintage watches experienced the largest decline in sales and lots, with total sales falling 44.7% to US$8.25 million, and average sales price falling 35.73% to US$111,000.

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