Auction house gears up for week of Asian art sales

By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Precious jade, modern masterpieces, museum-quality furniture and rare ceramics and porcelain are among thousands of art objects on offer during Christie's Asia week sales in September.

The four days of auctions, which are estimated to take in in excess of $50 million, begin September 13 with the South Asian modern and contemporary art and the Indian and Southeast Asian art sales.

The Indian sale is led by a Maqbool Fida Husain's "Sprinkling Horses," a large oil-on-canvas painting estimated to sell for about $1 million.

The auctions conclude with a $19 million sale of rare Chinese ceramics and works of art.

In between, there will be sales of Japanese and Korean art, jade carvings, and property from the collection of Xu Hanqing, a prominent Chinese banker and government official who became known as an accomplished calligrapher.

Asian art, which officials say is a key driver in the global market, has seen strong activity in the past half-year, and the market -- and collectors' -- enthusiasm for Asian art has only grown.

Tina Zonars, Christie's international director of Chinese ceramics and works of art, said the auction house held high expectations for the series of sales featuring art from China, Japan, Korea, India, the Himalayas and South East Asia.

Its most recent Asian art week in March realized its highest total ever in New York, which she called a testament to the "remarkable strength of this market."

Christie's president of Asia, Francois Curiel, recently affirmed that its long-term strategy was to continually reinforce its presence in Asia.

Other highlights of the sales include Emperor Qianlong's Chunhua Ge Tie rubbing, two sets of boxes containing five albums each of rare ink-on-paper Chinese calligraphy, estimated to sell for about $1.2 million at the Xu Hanqing sale, which is expected to total some $7 million.

The two-day sale of Chinese ceramics and works of art is led by a Ming dynasty bronze figurine of Vairocana, expected to fetch $1 million to $1.5 million.

A large, rare white jade covered vase from the Quinlong/Jiaqing period is estimated at $750,000 to $1 million, while Kim Whanki's "Landscape in Blue," the top lot of the Korean art sale, carries a $2 million estimate.

Highlights from the sales will be on view at Christie's Rockefeller Center headquarters in New York for one week starting September 9.

Sotheby's Asian art sales are schedule for September 13-15.

(Reporting by Chris Michaud; editing by Bill Trott)

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