Inaugural Auction of Japanese Works of Art at Bonhams NY in March

International fine arts auctioneers Bonhams will host its inaugural auction of Japanese art in New York City on 19 March 2008, featuring an auction of choice works from several private collections. The sale is scheduled during New York City’s Asia Week and an international pool of collectors is expected to vie for desirable examples of sword fittings and netsuke from two East coast collections and prints from the Yoshida Family collection of Tokyo.

jap.jpgThis first sale of Japanese art by Bonhams in New York is part of a plan for long-term growth of the international auctioneers’ sales of traditional, modern and contemporary Japanese art. Bonhams appointed two renowned specialists, Neil Davey and Suzannah Yip, formerly of Sotheby’s London, last July. This newly-assembled Bonhams team mounted a highly successful London auction of Japanese art during Asian Art in London Week in November 2007. Bonhams plans to hold Japanese art sales in New York twice each year coinciding with Asia Week in that city.

This first sale is described as a collaborative effort between the London and San Francisco offices, with many delightful lots expected to draw strong attention. The auction will be held in the 595 Madison Avenue gallery and will be followed in September by a major sale of Japanese art in the spectacular new Bonhams New York premises [see the Bonhams to Move related press release at ].

Having established itself with regular record-setting sales of Asian Works of Art held in the San Francisco galleries of Bonhams & Butterfields, Asian Art Dept. Director Dessa Goddard views this move with great excitement, “We are delighted to have Neil and Suzannah as part of our global team — with them as key experts, Bonhams will set the standards as an international auctioneer with a dedicated Japanese art department offering fine works of art for both the seasoned and new collector.”

“This offering on March 19th includes wonderful examples from two private collections and the second installment of prints from the Yoshida Family collection. In line with this long-term commitment to promoting Japanese art in New York, Bonhams is proud to be a Zeshin Leadership Committee sponsor of the Zeshin exhibition, The Genius of Japanese Lacquer, Masterworks of Shibata Zeshin, at New York’s Japan Society, which opens on March 21st,” said Goddard.

Sword fittings from an East Coast private collection comprise a large portion of the sale. Also on the block are spectacular pieces illustrated in several reference works from the Alexander Moslé Collection, offered for the first time in decades. A rare copper Namban tsuba is signed by Ichinomiya Tsunenao. It features dragons carved in relief with shishi and exotic birds. Designed with details in gold and enamel, it is engraved with European letters on the inner rim and dated 1759 (est. $4,000/4,500). A copper Edo period tsuba, attributed to the Umetada School and pierced in negative silhouette, is carved in sunken relief with a gourd vine and trailing tendrils (est. $3,000/3,500).

An ivory netsuke of a grazing horse, Late 18th/Early 19th century (est.$3/5,000) and a wood study of a tiger, Late 18th/early 19th century, by Tanaka Minko are part of a group of 30 netsuke from another East Coast collection to be offered in this session. An elegant ivory study of a nude beauty by the famous contemporary carver Ryushi (est. $4/6,000) from a West Coast collection will complement this group. A collection of 16 gold ojime should attract lively interest among collectors. One lot among the highlights features birds and pines by the artist Shogyoku (est. $5/7,000), another is a brilliant figural ojime of Daruma ($6/8,000).

Japanese bronzes and okimono are also featured in this select afternoon session. Highlights include a pair of Meiji Period damascene bronze vases by Komai. The slender ovoid vases display gold rings framing hunting scenes, one featuring a samurai in lavish costume poised with his pet falcon, the other depicts a warrior in brightly decorated hunting garb stalking game with his dog. Each is expertly rendered in relief and inlaid in gold, silver, shakudo and copper. The 10-inch high vases carry a pre-sale estimate of $35,000/50,000.

The first installment of Yoshida family prints and paintings were snapped up by collectors at Bonhams & Butterfields in San Francisco last June. Among the 68 lots to be included in the New York auction are two oil paintings by Hiroshi Yoshida (1876-1950): Udaipur Palace Gate, dated 1931 (est. $3/5,000), and Elephanta from the same year. Estimated at $3,000 to $5,000 is Numazaki Pasture, dated Showa 3 (1928), a rare oversize print, one of many superb examples of the works to be offered. A painting of New York by Fujio Yoshida (1887-1987) is one of the several watercolors in the sale, other works include those by Hodaka, Ayomi and Chizuko Yoshida rounding out the sale.

Bonhams New York, on the sixth floor of the Fuller Building at 595 Madison Avenue, will open for preview of the Japanese art sale on March 14, continuing daily through the 18th, the auction is to be held at 1pm on Wednesday, March 19. The illustrated catalog will be online for purchase and review in the weeks preceding the preview.