D uring 2022 the Japanese Art department presented a series of sales spanning fine woodblock prints, contemporary works of art, ceramics, illustrated books and rare photographs.
Our July sale Masters of the Woodblock: Important Japanese Prints included works formerly in the collection of Henri Vever (1854-1942), and previously sold in Sotheby’s London in the 1997 sale 'Highly Important Japanese Prints from the Henri Vever Collection: Final Part'. The 2022 sale achieved a total of £2,051,523 against a pre-sale estimate of £1.1 – £1.4 million, with a 92 percent sell-through rate. The top lot of the sale was an impression of Hokusai’s iconic Great Wave, realising £567,000, almost double the high estimate of £300,000. A world record price was achieved for a single print by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) - an early deluxe impression, in pristine condition, of Sudden Shower over Shin-Ohashi Bridge and Atake, selling for £138,600.
The Property from a Private Collection which comprised Japan: Art and Its Essence focused on contemporary artists firmly rooted in the traditions of their medium. The sale opened with an example of a large storage jar from the Muromachi period (15th century) and progressed with the thrown and moulded ceramic works by members of the Tsujimura family, including father Shiro and his two sons Kai and Yui. A further highlight of the sale was an indigo-dyed pineapple-fibre work by Fukumoto Shihoko (b.1945) titled Lake, which is currently being exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in ‘Kimono Style: The John C. Weber Collection’.
Landscape to City: A Collection of 20th Century Japanese Prints marked a definitive moment for the modern print market. The collection achieved £591,318, with over half the sale selling above the high estimate. A number of impressions from Hasui’s pre-earthquake period made record prices.
Another key moment for the department this year was the sale Books and Manuscripts from the Japan Society Library. Established with donations by Arthur Diósy (1858-1923) and Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929), the sale of the Japan Society Library presented a unique opportunity for enthusiasts of Japanese art and culture in Britain to acquire illustrated books, important documents and rare photographs on the history and development of the bilateral ties between Britain and Japan. The sale attracted lively bidding, with 61% of lots achieving a price above their high estimates.
'Our online sales have proved highly successful in attracting significant numbers of new collectors to the category'
'The department has curated innovative online sales during 2022 which have been very well received within the market, achieving strong results,' says Mark Hinton, Director & Head of Department. 'Our online sales have proved highly successful in attracting significant numbers of new collectors to the category. We have been greatly privileged throughout 2022 to have handled so many extraordinary objects and collections, including auctioning the historic library of The Japan Society, London. The Japanese woodblock print market continues to go from strength to strength and we look forward to building on this success and presenting further curated sales throughout 2023.'