The number of rich Chinese collectors has considerably increased over the past few years, in tandem with China’s emergence as the number one global economic power. As a result, it is one of the most dynamic markets today in terms of both antique pieces and contemporary art.
Created in 2010, the Asian art department is now headed by Sophie Perrine, assisted by Richard des Noëttes, and by Agathe Thomas in Lyon.
Four high-quality sales are staged each year at the Drouot saleroom, in Neuilly-sur-Seine and in Lyon, where fine results and exciting surprises are par for the course!
Naturally, classic works still mainly involve porcelains, such as a 19th century aquarium with a dragon decoration sold for €39,000, a rare moulded porcelain opium pipe knocked down for €29,000, and two double gourd vases sold for €18,000 and €14,000 respectively; jades, with a 18th/19th century white openwork jade perfume burner which fetched €17,000 and a small 18th century fibula sold for €3,000, and bronzes, with a 19th century perfume burner sold for €14,500, a 17th century Buddhist divinity for €24,000 and a Tibetan gilt bronze mandala for €50,000.
Antique Chinese furniture from the Ming dynasty (16th-17th century) is much sought after by a highly intellectual clientele enamoured of the scholarly spirit and noble materials. Recently, a pair of armchairs in precious huanghuali wood with horseshoe backs sold for €72,000, and a small kang (scholar’s table) fetched €18,500.
In contrast with Chinese art, where the main collectors are Asian, the art of Japan is mainly sought after by Europeans – but it also garners impressive results. A rare tsuba ornamented with a Christian cross sold for €2500; this fine naginata (16th century) transformed into a wakisashi fetched €3,000, while this boxwood netsuke of a man with outstretched arm went for €3,000, and this pair of 18th century lacquered chests went for €13,800.
Exciting surprises include a 19th century horn bead court necklace, which fetched €6,000 after an estimate of €500; a rare late 19th century porcelain opium pipe estimated at €1,000, which sold for €29,000; this woven robe with a red background estimated at €200, which fetched €10,500; a 17th century double gourd vase estimated at €3,000, which garnered €18,000; a 19th century jade group estimated at €200 which sold for €13,000, and a 19th century wooden archer’s ring, which fetched €44,000 after an estimate of €300.
In 2008, Claude Aguttes decided to go in a new direction, and launched into the ethnic arts with the sale of 14 November 2008, featuring the objects of Mr Loewenguth, collected in Gabon between 1922 and 1930. One year later, he decided to sell the Devez-Bergogne collection. This relatively closed and restricted sector was a distinct gamble on the future.
The department received a shot in the arm with the sale of the Jean-Jacques Mandel collection on 6 October 2014. For over 30 years, this qualified anthropologist had crisscrossed Africa and several other continents collecting voodoo and ethno-psychiatric objects, some of which were presented at the Musée du Quai Branly in the exhibition “Les Maitres du désordre” in 2012.
Two rare Ivory Coast Guro and Guro-Bete masks from the Daloa region, a cultural zone of the Cacao in the western most part of the Ivory Coast, crushed their estimates by making a total of €73,000 between them, then going to prestigious European collections.