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2013/03/21

Highlights of Chinese Artwork at Christie's NY Asian Art Week

-Wow. Half a million for a vase? 

A stunning yellow vase sets the theme for the 2013 Asian Art Week at Christie's New York.

[Michael Bass, Christie's Chinese Works of Art Department Co-Head]:
"This is a really wonderful piece. It's one of only two known...This piece comes from the Springfield Art Museum."

Michael Bass is the co-head of the Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Department. He talks about its unique qualities.

[Michael Bass, Christie's Chinese Works of Art Department Co-Head]:
"It dates to the Qianlong period. We know this because on the base of it, it's inscribed with the mark of the Qianlong Emperor, in seal script."

[Michael Bass, Christie's Chinese Works of Art Department Co-Head]:
"This one shows a very rare combination of yellow glaze, which of course, yellow is the imperial color. And it's combined here with under-glaze blue cobalt decoration. So a very rare combination, probably very difficult to achieve since it was not used very often." They further decorated the yellow glaze area with incised design with dragons...So you've the front-faced dragon, kind of confronting this flaming pearl right here. And over here, is a side-facing dragon striding and looking at the flamed pearl."

The vase is expected to fetch more than its estimated value of $500,000 US dollars. It is part of the Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art collection on offer on the last two days of Asian Art Week.

[Noah Kupferman, Christie's Chinese Works of Art Department Co-Head]:
"We have four sales and five catalogues. You walked by through the lobby gallery the Lizzardro Collection of finely carved jade and Chinese works of art. ... Then we'll be moving into our private single owner sale collection of snuff bottles, the Schonfeld Collection, and then we have our Parts One and Two of Chinese works of art."

This bronze wine container is also expected to be popular with buyers.

[Michael Bass, Christie's Department Chinese Works of Art Co-Head]: "This bronze vessel which is called a fangyi. It dates to the Late Shang Dynasty 12th to 11th century BC. .. This was one of the vessel shapes that were used by the aristocracy in worship to the ancestors... So they made offering of food and wine. And this is a wine vessel—to contain wine. It dates to the period when the Shang capital is in Anyang. It's considered the high point of Shang casting."

Bronze was the most precious metal of the period.

[Michael Bass, Christie's Department Chinese Works of Art Co-Head]:
"Bronze was the commodity of the elite, the royalty that would use them for ritual sacrifices."

The vessel is estimated to fetch between $800,000 and 1.2 million dollars. Bass says this is a reasonable price.

[Michael Bass, Christie's Department Chinese Works of Art Co-Head]:
"You know this is one of the elite vessel shapes. ... The proportion of the pieces is just very elegant, very strong. It has beautiful size, a very interesting shape, very fine casting with these mysterious masks on there. You can see these masks with the two eyes, the horns. It's like the upper jaw and the horns of the mask. It's called the Taotie mask, which is thought to ward off evil."

Another highlight is this glass vase.

[Michael Bass, Christie's Department Chinese Works of Art Co-Head]:
"It's really an exceptional rare vase. (0:28s) We know that this vase dates to the Qianlong period because it's inscribed on the base with the mark of the Qianlong Emperor."

It shows what top artisans could do during that period.

[Michael Bass, Christie's Department Chinese Works of Art Co-Head]:
"This piece was made in the Imperial Glass Works. It chose a very difficult technique of creating such as a piece. You'd have to blow the vase, and then you'd have to apply the colors in located areas, and cover around it to produce these designs in a cameo-like effect. ... And so, very difficult, you couldn't make any mistakes with this kind of material."

Bass explains the significance in the use of motifs.

[Michael Bass, Christie's Department Chinese Works of Art Co-Head]:
"This piece was carved with archaistic dragons, and scrolling dragons along here. And again, archaistic designs herald the past. The Qing Emperors would kind of refer to these pieces to kind of legitimize their association with ruling China because they're actually Manchurians, and not Han Chinese. So you see a lot of archaistic decorations at this time."

The sale also includes Chinese Jade pieces and a collection of Qing Dynasty snuff bottles. Christie's is the world's leading art business, with total sales in 2011 amounting to almost Six billion US dollars.


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