15 Extraordinary Asian Art Highlights in New York

15 Extraordinary Asian Art Highlights in New York

Now on view at Sotheby's New York, exhibitions that showcase the incredible history of Asian art.
Now on view at Sotheby's New York, exhibitions that showcase the incredible history of Asian art.

T his March, Sotheby's is bringing the mesmerizing world of Asian Art to New York. Join us as we showcase the beauty of tradition and innovation in our galleries and auction floor on York Avenue.

The sale week will encompass five live auctions, beginning with the Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art auction and The Virginia & Ravi Akhoury Collection. The week will be followed by an important sale of two Ming Imperial bronze masterpieces from the Bodhimanda Foundation, closing out with hundreds of best-in-class objects from our Chinese Art and Indian & Himalayan Art auctions.

Also on display this week will be the selling exhibition of Foundations of Abstraction: Paintings From the Estate of C. C. Wang and exhibition of the Eminent People of the Qing Dynasty: An Exhibition of Imperial Portraits from the Collection of Dora Wong—all now on public view through 20 March.

Read on for a look at 15 highlights from the hundreds of works coming to auction.

The Virginia & Ravi Akhoury Collection

Francis Newton Souza’s ‘House with Trees’

House with Trees is among the finest examples of Francis Newton Souza’s late-1950s landscapes. Painted in 1958, the current lot dates to a period of immense creativity in Souza’s career. It was produced during the early years of his international commercial success and is charged with the fervor of an artist embarking upon a lifelong commitment to the power of the image. The composition possesses a subtle elegance and beauty not often associated with the painter’s work.

Jehangir Sabavala’s ‘Un Coin du Vieux Antibes’

An ebullient depiction of the old town of Antibes on the French Côte d’Azur, Un Coin du Vieux Antibes is a rare example of Jehangir Sabavala’s early artistic practice in France. The painting was exhibited at Sabavala’s first solo show, held in 1951 at the Taj Mahal Hotel, Bombay, where his father was a manager and the artist was living at the time. It was painted on the spot in the south of France, and another very similar composition of the town is part of the famed art collection of the Taj.

Kattingeri Krishna Hebbar’s ‘Untitled’

An early proponent of Indian Modernism, Kattingeri Krishna Hebbar was a true master of color and form. In Untitled from 1958, two women sit within a village scene. The vessels beside them allude to the labor of rural life that Hebbar greatly respected. The women and their surroundings are rendered through in-filled planes and angular lines, quintessential of Hebbar’s 1950s practice.

Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art

This Modern and Contemporary South Asian auction comprises exceptional works by the Subcontinent’s most celebrated creators such as Sayed Haider Raza, Akbar Padamsee and Bhupen Khakhar.

Sayed Haider Raza’s ‘Kallisté’

“Kallisté is a tour de force in the oeuvre of Sayed Haider Raza. It is a masterwork of his 1950s practice and paintings of this period, size and caliber very rarely come up at auction. We are honored to be offering this exceptional work following a historic year for the artist.”
- Manjari Sihare Sutin, Head of Sale, Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art, New York

Kallisté, a masterpiece by Sayed Haider Raza, and exudes the sentiment of the painting’s title - Greek for 'most beautiful'. The brilliant brazen hues of this 1959 canvas are articulated in a wondrous frenzy, thick with impasto and executed with intense color and expressive brushstrokes. Unseen for over five decades, the painting is a discovery piece, which now comes to market for the first time.

Akbar Padamsee’s ‘Head’

Painted in 1962, Head is a stylized portrait profoundly evocative of Akbar Padamsee’s iconic 1950s Prophet series. This painting blurs the conventional decadal divisions of Padamsee’s practice, and is a testament to the inventive and experimental nature of this modern master.

Bhupen Khakhar’s ‘Hatha Yogi’

Hatha Yogi is among Bhupen Khakhar’s most renowned works. The painting was exhibited at the iconic show at Kumar Gallery, New Delhi in 1978, “Six Who Declined to Show in the Triennale,” and almost 40 years later, it was shown once more, at the landmark retrospective at Tate Modern, London and Deutsche Bank KunstHalle, Berlin: “You Can’t Please All.”

Wrathful Deities: Masterworks from the Bodhimanda Foundation

Sotheby's is proud to present two monumental early Ming Imperial bronze masterpieces from the Bodhimanda Foundation, showcasing the distinctive Yuan-inspired style of the Imperial Ming workshops.

Figure of Kapaladhara Hevajra

This gilt-bronze sculpture of Hevajra, a tantric Buddhist deity, and his consort Nairatmya, is a rare and significant Ming dynasty commission. With intricate details including jewelry, skull crowns and a skull bowl in each hand, it symbolizes spiritual power. Its large size suggests it was made for a temple in China, showcasing the fusion of Tibetan Buddhism and Chinese imperial patronage. This masterpiece exemplifies the rich artistic exchange between Tibet and China during this period.

Figure of Panjarnata Mahakala

This large gilt-bronze statue depicts Panjarnata Mahakala, a fierce Buddhist guardian deity, standing in a militant posture with intricate details including a skull crown, bone apron and skull bowl. Likely an imperial commission from the early Ming dynasty, it represents a fusion of Tibetan Buddhism and Chinese patronage. This masterpiece, among a select group of early Ming tantric bronzes, symbolizes spiritual authority and protection. Panjarnata Mahakala’s fearsome presence reflects the deity’s role as a protector and embodiment of esoteric Buddhist practices.

Chinese Art

Chinese Art is highlighted by an important and extremely rare Qianlong underglaze-red and blue ‘dragon’ tianqiuping, while also featuring works from important private and institutional collections.

A ‘Dragon and Cloud’ Vase

This magnificent underglaze-blue and copper-red vase epitomizes the Qianlong Emperor’s supreme authority as the Son of Heaven. Crafted under Tang Ying’s supervision, it merges Song dynasty dragon motifs with Ming blue and white porcelain, showcasing exceptional creativity. Only four other Qianlong tianqiuping of the same design appear to be recorded, including one in the Palace Museum, Beijing, and another in the Tsui Museum of Art, Hong Kong. Dragons symbolize imperial power, their depiction possibly inspired by Chen Rong’s Nine Dragons painting. Tianqiuping, with their celestial form, reflect Yongle prototypes.

A ‘Three Rams’ Vase

This superb vase, with a Yongzheng reign mark, reflects the emperor’s pursuit of perfection in porcelain. It exudes naturalism and archaic charm, closer to Song dynasty prototypes than typical Qianlong pieces. Its Ru-type glaze harks back to the esteemed Northern Song kilns. Modeled after ancient ritual bronzes, the design of three rams symbolizes good fortune and yang energy. The motif’s popularity persisted throughout the Qing dynasty, cherished by the Qianlong Emperor himself.

A ‘Dragon’ Seal Box and Cover

This exceptional box and cover, adorned with powerful dragons amidst swirling clouds, bears the inscription of Maoqindian (Hall of Great Diligence), a significant site within the Forbidden City. Used by emperors for official duties and scholarly pursuits, it housed imperial seals and precious artworks. The piece likely served as a seal paste box for authenticating calligraphy and paintings, a practice documented in court records. Depicting an older dragon imparting wisdom to a younger one, it symbolizes the relationship between the Jiaqing Emperor and his father, the Qianlong Emperor.

Indian & Himalayan Art

The highlight of Indian and Himalayan Art auction is a monumental silk brocade thangka of Mahakala, woven with a six-character reign mark of Yongle, under whose rule the masterpiece was created as a gift from the Imperial court to a Tibetan hierarch.

Figure of Mahachakra Vajrapani

The Figure of Mahachakra Vajrapani, known as Chag-dor Khor-chen in Tibetan, portrays the subduing of a snake, symbolizing his transformative power over negativity. His depiction emphasizes his meditational form, consuming venom to symbolize inner purification in Tantric Buddhism. The sculpture likely holds significance within the Gelugpa tradition, possibly linked to teachings passed down from Je Tsongkhapa's teacher. The artist adeptly captures Vajrapani's intense imagery with robust limbs, a commanding stance, and intricate details.

Relief Depicting the Dipankara Jakata

The Relief of Dipankara Jataka narrates the story of a past Buddha, Megha, deeply revered in Mahayana tradition of Gandhara. Megha, inspired by Buddha Dipankara's compassion, vows to become a Buddha himself. This finely carved frieze depicts key scenes, including Megha offering flowers, lying in reverence, and soaring beneath Buddha Dipankara's arm.

Thangka of Mahakala

This extraordinary masterpiece, the Thangka of Mahakala, likely a gift from the Yongle Emperor to a Tibetan lama, depicts Panjarnatha Mahakala on silk brocade. The artwork, with a distinctive Yongle mark, features wrathful deities on lotus bases amidst brilliant gold and color. Likely produced in Hangzhou, its creation required precise coordination and significant expense, reflecting the Yongle court's esteem for Tibetan hierarchs. Unlike others, this piece represents the Sakya Tradition's Panjarnata Mahakala, possibly commissioned for Tegchen Chogyal Kunga Tashi.

Foundations of Abstraction: Paintings From the Estate of C. C. Wang

Experience a selling exhibition of select works directly from the estate of the renowned Chinese artist C. C. Wang. A classically trained ink artist, C. C. Wang's career spanned seven decades, bringing him from Republican era Shanghai to postwar New York, where he was celebrated as a connoisseur, collector and taste-maker.

Wang Jiqian (C.C. Wang)'s 'Abstract Calligraphy'

Eminent People of the Qing Dynasty: An Exhibition of Imperial Portraits from the Collection of Dora Wong

We are pleased to present a unique exhibition of thirteen Chinese Imperial portraits, carefully collected over four decades by Dora Wong, a New York-based fashion designer. Little was known about this category when she started collecting, enabling her to acquire some of the most important Imperial portraits in private hands.

Asian Art

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