By: Sheila Gibson Stoodley
After a 15-year hiatus, the Arthur M. Sackler Collections Trust is sending some of its Chinese artworks to auction. A variety of items, including classical paintings and furnishings, Buddhist sculpture, bronze vessels, jades and Tang and Song ceramics, will comprise the 200 lots at Christie’s New York on March 18. The auction house expects Fine Chinese Art From the Arthur M. Sackler Collections to fetch roughly $4 million; a previous Sackler sale it held in December 1994 garnered $4.9 million.
Birds and Ducks, a group of four late-17th-century hanging scrolls by Bada Shanren, will headline the sale. The Chinese artist and former Zen monk, who was also known as Zhu Da, rendered the large (94- by 24.38-inch) paintings in ink on an unusual surface—satin. “It’s a difficult material to paint on because ink sits on satin. It’s not very absorbent,” says Liz Hammer, a Christie’s vice president and specialist in Chinese paintings. “Satin was a very expensive material. That’s why we think a government official, someone well-to-do, had to be the recipient of the paintings.” Christie’s believes the foursome could sell for more than $500,000.
Sackler, who died in 1987, was an American psychiatrist and collector of Asian art who established numerous medical and arts institutions, including galleries at the Smithsonian, Harvard University and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Christie’s representative Sung-Hee Park says the March event is the first of a series of sales through which the trust intends to “consolidate and redefine its holdings of art” and “fund appropriate acquisitions.” Sackler lots will appear in at least three other auctions that Christie’s will hold in New York and London this year. Ultimately the trust will disperse about 4,000 items from a collection whose total size it declines to specify.