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Asia Week’s $280 Million in Art Spotlights 500,000-Pearl Canopy

The 19th-century Indian canopy,
The 19th-century Indian canopy, "Pearl Canopy of Baroda," features 200 diamonds, at least 500,000 pearls, and 700 rubies, emeralds and sapphires set in gold. It sold for $2.3 million, below the estimate of $3 million to $5 million. Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg

March 21 (Bloomberg) -- Two 17th-century Japanese folding screens on sale in New York this week offer a view untouched by earthquake and tsunami.

“Waves and Rocks,” attributed to Hasegawa Togaku, depicts frothy waters pounding steep rock formations. It was executed with ink on gold leaf and carries an asking price of $1 million to $1.3 million.

Offered by Leighton R. Longhi Inc. Oriental Fine Arts gallery as part of an exhibition organized by the Japanese Art Dealers Association, it’s one of the highlights of Asia Week. New York’s biggest annual gathering of Asian art has almost 135 dealers and five auction houses selling more than $280 million of art -- according to Bloomberg calculations -- spanning 5,000 years.

“People are coming in droves,” said Carlton Rochell, chairman of the planning committee for Asia Week New York 2011.

More than 100 collectors from China are planning to attend Sotheby’s auctions, said Henry Howard-Snyed, vice chairman of Asian art.

“There’s a perception among Chinese collectors that America is a treasure trove of fresh property,” said Michael Plummer, a principal of New York-based Artvest Partners LLC. “It’s very prestigious, has good provenance and there’s a better chance that the works are authentic because they have been in the same hands for years.”

Plummer didn’t expect the turmoil in the Middle East or the devastation in Japan to affect turnout.

“The stock market responds immediately to world events,” he said. “Historically, the art market responds six months to a year later.”

Jade Vessel

Here are some highlights:

Sotheby’s, five sales: Among 33 lots consigned by the descendants of Robert Elliot Tod, the standout is an 18th-century cylindrical pot for brushes made from a single piece of celadon jade and carved in deep relief with a scene of boys playing in a garden. It has an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000.

The auction house expects to sell as much as $45 million, double its tally of a year ago. The top item is a glittering 19th-century Indian canopy, featuring 200 diamonds, at least 500,000 pearls, and 700 rubies, emeralds and sapphires set in gold. The estimate is $3 million to $5 million.

Christie’s International, six sales: Among the top lots is a pair of 400-year-old Japanese folding screens, with a high estimate of $4 million. Titled “Southern Barbarians Come to Trade,” each 12-foot-wide screen comprises six panels. The barbarians are Portuguese. The auctioneer expects a tally of about $64 million, up from $60 million last spring.

Bonhams Donation

Bonhams, two sales: Here, too, the spotlight is on a pair of screens, these attributed to Sakai Hoitsu (1761-1821) and depicting blue and white iris blossoms. The presale estimate is $60,000 to $80,000. The auction house, which expects to raise $3 million, will donate 5 percent of the buyer’s premiums from its international Japanese sales this spring to the relief efforts in Japan.

Eskenazi: The London-based gallery, which has set up shop temporarily on the ground floor of the Ukrainian Institute of America, is offering a 23-pound jade water buffalo. The 17th-century Chinese beast has an asking price of $1.5 million.

Sebastian Izzard LLC Asian Art: Also at the Ukrainian Institute of America, this gallery has an early-19th-century silk scroll by Katsushika Hokusai that features a geisha cradling a kitten in the folds of her robes. The work is offered for more than $500,000. The artist is best known for his print “The Great Wave at Kanagawa.”

Sydney L. Moss: The star at this London-based outfit, showing at Alexandre Gallery in the Fuller Building, is the fierce Japanese warrior-monk Benkei. The lacquered, 12-inch-tall sculpture features wood inlay by Ogawa Haritsu, known as Ritsuo (1663-1747). The figure sports ornate armor and holds a gold conch shell to his lips. He will come to your house for no less than $500,000.

(Katya Kazakina is a reporter for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the reporter of this story: Katya Kazakina in New York at kkazakina@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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