Asian Art Exceeds Expectations at Clars’ May Sale

May 16, 2008

OAKLAND, Calif.—A painting by Chinese artist He Kongde was the highlight of Clars Auction Gallery’s May 3-4 auction, realizing $98,400(all prices include buyer’s premium). The painting rounded out a strong auction with sales totaling just under $1 million, in which Asian artworks, both antique and contemporary were clearly the standouts. As with all Clars auctions, auction catalog preview and Internet bidding were offered by

He Kongde (1925-2003) was a professionally trained painter and member of China’s People’s Liberation Army. His 1970 propagandist painting, Gutian Meeting (lot 6501), depicts a defining moment in the history of the Chinese Communist Party. He Kongde painted at least three versions of the composition, one of which was featured in the 1972 Chinese National Exhibition. Clars’s 1970 version was pictured in an article on the artist in the September, 2002 issue of China’s Art Observation magazine. On Sunday, the painting sold to a collector after a lively round of bidding that drove the price far above its original $20,000-$40,000 estimate.

Another contemporary Chinese painting, Portrait of a Man (lot 6499) by Chen Danqing (1953 - ) drew significant interest this weekend. Part of the artist’s <i>Tibetan Series</i>, the painting sold for $52,650, and added to the collection of strong records Clars has developed for Chen Danqing; in February, the gallery sold two other paintings from this series for record-breaking prices.

Antique Asian art objects also realized very strong prices this weekend. A Chinese solid gilt-bronze figure of Buddha Shakyamuni in the style of the Late Northern Wei dynasty (lot 6568) fetched $87,400. The piece was part of the Mrs. Christian R. Holmes Collection, and bears a label to that effect. Mrs. Holmes was a noted philanthropist and collector of ancient Chinese bronzes and art objects, many of which now belong to the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Other Buddhist bronze figures offered this weekend included a Laotian figure of the Buddha from the Luang Phrabaang period (lot 6555), and a Sino-Tibetan gilt figure of Maitreya as a bodhisattva from the Qing dynasty (lot 6565). The bronzes sold for $8,190 each.

This weekend, Clars was also pleased to offer a rare Confirmation register from the short-lived Mission Santa Gertrudis in Baja California (lot 6436). Chronicling a period from 1755-1768, the register is one of only a very few known to exist from this mission, which ministered to the Cochimi Indian tribe. Needless to say, the sale of such an item attracted the interest of a number of California-based organizations and the piece ultimately sold to for $17,550.

Traditional antiques, jewelry and artworks fared well during Clars’s May sale, as well. A 20th-century Ormolu mounted Rococo clock (lot 6430) realized $12,870, while a pair of upholstered, mahogany framed Frits Hennigsen Danish armchairs (lot 6382), ca. 1940, fetched $9,945. A lady’s platinum Rolex Oyster wristwatch with mother of pearl face and diamond dial and bezel (lot 7020) sold for $14,040, and a pair of framed William Keith landscapes (lot 6389) realized $9,360.

Clars’s next auction will be June 7-8, and will feature a strong collection of California Impressionist art, Asian art and art objects, as well as furniture, decoratives and fine estate jewelry.

To view the fully illustrated catalog, with prices realized, visit

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