When the doors are opened to I.M. Chait’s elegant Manhattan gallery space during Asia Week New York (March 16-24), the management and staff of the family-owned southern California firm expect to welcome many old friends to their preview and March 21 auction of Important Chinese Ceramics & Asian Works of Art.
The company’s venerable founder and auctioneer Isadore “I.M.” Chait, who is celebrating his 45th year as a specialist dealer of Asian art, takes pride in the fact that collectors who bought from him decades ago are still amongst his active clientele.
“What is particularly interesting about the Asian market is the cycle of buying, holding and selling,” Chait said. “We’ve noticed that pieces purchased five to fifteen years ago in Hong Kong or New York auctions are now resurfacing. It has been an ongoing practice for some Chinese art collectors to buy an object, put it in their collection, then 10 or 20 years later, put it up for sale at the same venue and buy something else they like.”
But what is changing, Chait said, is that nowadays there are so many private museums establishing or adding to their Asian collections, that many rare pieces are being removed from the cycle. “They’re going into institutional collections and staying there. This is one factor that is driving auction prices upward,” Chait said.
There are many rare and exotic artworks in the 300+ lot March 21 auction that Chait predicts will attract intense interest. Topping the list is a marked 15th century Ming Xuande Period porcelain sprinkler of Islamic shape. Chait explained that, at the height of its manufacture, Chinese porcelain often went to Middle Eastern potentates, hence the distinctive bulbous style with graduated cylindrical spout.
“Anything from the 15th century is exceedingly rare. This sprinkler comes from a major collection that was started 35 to 40 years ago. The only reason this piece is being sold is because the consignor is fortunate enough to have another one in their collection,” Chait said.
An estimate of $250,000-$350,000 for the sprinkler is conservative when measured against recent comparables. “At a show one or two years ago we saw an example that sold for half a million dollars,” Chait said. “It showed up a few months later in a Chinese auction with a million-dollar estimate.”
Another highlight with a six-figure estimate is the Yuan Dynasty blue and white porcelain bowl with expectations of reaching $120,000-$150,000. The bowl comes to auction with outstanding provenance, having once been part of the renowned T.T. Tsui Museum of Art Collection in Hong Kong.
An estate collection local to the auctioneer’s Beverly Hills gallery was the source for an important spinach jade brushpot that Chait describes as “one of the most exquisitely carved brushpots we’ve ever seen.” Under its base is a label – possibly from the 1960s/’70s – from the London auction house Spink & Son.
Chait noted that the object is deeply and intricately carved from a single piece of jade, a method that requires great artistic skill. The carver’s technique masterfully rendered a three-dimensional,“layered” effect to the piece. The presale estimate has been set at $40,000-$50,000.
The rich cobalt hue of lapis lazuli is the immediate focal point of a Qianlong table screen from an old Shanghai collection. According to Chait, it may have Imperial provenance.
“Most table screens of this type are made of wood. Lapis is more rare,” he said. The lot is estimated at $35,000-$40,000.
Additional objects of exceptional quality are still arriving for consignment to Chait’s Asia Week auction, including a collection of 70 extremely fine 20th-century netsukes, most being of ivory and all by important carvers. The collection was purchased at auctions and from top dealers in the 1990s, bearing out Isadore Chait’s theory about a 20-year buying-and-reselling cycle.
Chait’s Asia Week auction is the firm’s most important sale of the year. Each object selected for inclusion in this year’s premier event was personally selected and vetted by Isadore Chait and comes with the company’s guarantee of authenticity. Mr. Chait is an internationally acknowledged expert in both Oriental sculpture and gemology. He is a recommended appraiser to many museums and educational institutions, including the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Norton Simon Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
All auction items will be available to preview daily from March 16-20, 10 am. to 5 pm. (10 am. till noon on auction day) at I.M. Chait’s gallery on the 6th floor of the historic Fuller Building, 595 Madison Ave. at 57th St., New York, NY 10022. A West Coast preview will take place from Feb. 27-March 4, from 11 am. to 5 pm. or by appointment, at I.M. Chait’s flagship gallery located at 9330 Civic Center Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210.
The March 21 Asia Week New York auction will commence at 2 pm. Eastern Time at the Fuller Building gallery, with all forms of bidding available, including live via the Internet through LiveAuctioneers.
Four of I.M. Chait’s staff (chait.com) are fluent in Mandarin and will be on hand to greet Asian visitors to the New York gallery space and to assist Chinese-speaking bidders over the phone during the auction.