Sotheby’s to auction more than 300 works of Chinese art

Proceeds from the auctions will fully benefit an Irving Acquisition Fund established to diversify the museum’s Asian art collection. (Sotheby pic)

Over 300 lots of Chinese art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art will be offered this September during Sotheby’s Asia Week auctions.

The artworks, ranging from Imperial Qianlong-period jades to Buddhist sculptures, were gifted to the museum by the late philanthropists Florence and Herbert Irving.

Over the years, the couple maintained a fruitful relationship with the Metropolitan of Art, which dedicated its entire Asian Art wing to the Irvings.

The philanthropists donated more than 1,300 artefacts to the museum’s Department of Asian Art in 2015 for its centennial. At the time, they agreed that the Met could sell any of their donated works as long as proceeds supported future acquisitions.

Therefore, proceeds from the auctions will fully benefit an Irving Acquisition Fund established to diversify the museum’s Asian art collection.

As Artnet News points out, Sotheby’s estimates that the full collection will fetch between US$2.6 million and US$3.8 million.

Most of the works will be offered on September 14, as part of Sotheby’s Asian Art sale. Some 120 pieces will be included in another auction, set on September 10, which will be dedicated to the Irving Collection.

“Our sales are representative of the Irvings’ exceptional taste in Chinese art, which features a strong emphasis on organic materials and works hewn from nature, as well as extraordinary Chinese jades produced during the reign of the Qianlong emperor,” Angela McAteer, Head of Sotheby’s Chinese works of art Department in New York, said in a statement.

The dedicated sale will be led by a hand-carved jade brush pot from the Qing dynasty of the Qianlong period. The spinach-green vessel features carvings of “immortals” surrounded by symbolic elements, such as a deer and Chinese medicinal herb lingzhi.

The brush pot, which carries an estimate between US$500,000 and US$700,000, was formerly in the collection of late English connoisseur Alfred Morrison, which kept it at his country house of Fonthill.

Last March, a similar piece from the Qing dynasty sold for an astonishing US$2.9 million during a live auction at Christie’s New York, surpassing its pre-sale estimate of US$1.5 million.

Other highlights of the sale include a rare jade “Quail and Millet” boulder sculpture, estimated between US$150,000 and US$250,000; a white and apple-green jadeite table screen, estimated between US$80,000 and US$120,000; as well as a jade Buddhist sculpture, estimated between US$100,000 and US$150,000.

Items from Sotheby’s Asia Week auctions will be on view from September 6 in the auction house’s New York galleries.