Not surprisingly, since early last year, small domestic auction houses in Tokyo have been opening or reopening, and this May saw a fairly decent stack of catalogues in various fields. Such houses were: AJC; Est-Ouest Auctions; J-Cap; and Shinwa Art Auction. The huge success of the Contemporary Asian Art auction at Christie’s helped boost this rise.
Sale categories ranged from wine to coins, ceramics, jewelry, furniture, and modern through contemporary art. Unfortunately, Fine Art bidders saw the usual suspects – Laurencins, Yoshitomo Nara drawings, lithographs and numerous other multiples. The sales results also seemed a little unstable, with a range of 70 to 90 percent of the lots selling, but Shinwa still managed to mark a (somewhat unbelivable) hammer price of 310,000,000 JPY ($2,583,000) for a 1963 Picasso oil, which had been estimated at 60,000,000 to 80,000,000 JPY ($500,000 – $667,000).
It will be worth keeping an eye on the auctions in Japan for the next few seasons. People should be reminded that Mr. Yutaka Mino, former head of the Kanazawa 21st Century, moved onto a loftier and perhaps more suitable position at Sotheby’s HQ earlier this year, where he may help to lay new, more solid foundations in the somewhat marshy grounds of the auctioning world.