Top result for a museum-quality hanging scroll

Auction 1226 Asian Art on June 6 2023

A hanging scroll of the highest quality in the extremely successful Asian Art auction at Lempertz in Cologne showed how much top pieces enliven this collecting field. Overall, the total hammer price exceeded the estimates by 115 percent, with Southeast Asian and Thai art particularly in demand where almost 94 percent of lots changed hands.

A Chinese hanging scroll with Gu An’s (1289-1365) motif of ‘Bamboo on rocks’ (lot 233) realised 315,000 euro. An inscription gave the date of the second year of the Zhigeng era, i.e., 1342 in our timeline. Chinese art tradition respects a perfect copy as a masterpiece, and bidders, especially from Asia, saw even more in this ink drawing on silk. Nine telephone bidders took part, with a bidder from Hong Kong prevailing against persistent competition from Singapore and Beijing. Their bids lifted the result to 315,000 euro.

The scroll belonged to the Voretzsch Collection which Lempertz sold in two parts, in this auction and the one held on 9 December 2022. Ernst Arthur Voretzsch was a diplomat working in Hong Kong, Singapore and Hankou between 1906 and 1916, and elsewhere. It was there that he gathered his collection of Chinese art, with a focus on paintings and bronzes, and, as in common in Asian collections, made title plates for his collection. On these were noted the name of the artist and the motif, some with the additional identifier ‘K’ and a number. This indicates the catalogue number under which the scroll is mentioned in the ‘Guide to an Exhibition of Chinese Paintings’ at the Kunstindustriemusset in Oslo. ‘Bamboo on Rocks’ bears the number 42.

Lempertz’ offer included a total of 15 paintings, all of which were sold bar one.

Exquisite colour woodcut prints from the collection of Kurt Meissner (1885-1976), executive of the Deutschen Gesellschaft für Natur und Völkerkunde Ostasiens also featured in the auction. Most sought-after was an Orihon album of 93 sheets with surimono and egoyomi of various formats (lot 308). Estimated at 6000 euro, the album reached 126,000 euro, and with it a top price for Japanese works on paper. It now moves to the successful bidder in Paris. Nine out the ten lots from this collection were successfully moved on.

A lacquered and gilded Buddha Dipankara (lot 132) also sold for six figures, with a result of 113,400 euro. Dipankara represents the past in the trio of Buddha representing the past, present and future. From old Austrian private property, the Buddha will go to Beijing after the auction.

Under the patronage of the Dalai Lama, a collection was offered for sale that had been donated to the Tibet House Frankfurt am Main from the estate of a Hamburg couple (lots 66-99). With a combined estimate of 52,000 euro, they went on to fetch 91,400 euro. The most popular piece of this collection was a Bodhisattva Avalokiteschvara (lot 69) which easily doubled its estimate of 6000 to sell for 15,750 euro. The proceeds will be doated to the SEE Learning Project (Social, Emotional and Ethical Learning, under the direction of Professor Lobsang Tenzin Negi, Emory University, Atlanata, Georgia, USA), as well as to support further Tibetan cultural and integration projects of the Tibet House Cultural Foundation.

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Jan Bykowski
Press and public relations