Furniture treasures to be auctioned

Author: HKFA.ORG | Time:2017-03-08

Christie's auction house will sell a major collection of Chinese furniture during its Asian Art Week in March, with premium pieces expected to fetch at least $1 million each.
Items from the Marie Theresa L. Virata Collection of Asian Art will be offered on March 16 at Christie's in New York.
The collection, primarily furniture, was acquired through the joint efforts of more than three generations of the Virata family of the Philippines.
Virata was the wife of prominent economist Leonides Sarao Virata, who helped rebuild the Philippines after World War II and served as secretary of the Department of Commerce and Industry. Virata's children, Luis and Giovanna, as well as her daughter-in-law Elizabeth also contributed to the collection.
Christie's billed it as the "most significant collection of Asian art" for the pieces' ownership histories and the rarity of the items. They include a pair of 17th-century huanghuali armchairs, which are expected to go for $600,000 to $800,000, and a rare zitan luohan monk's bed from the 18th century, which is expected to sell for $2 million to $3 million. Huanghuali furniture is made from fragrant rosewood; zitan is red sandalwood.


"The big draw for this collection is the extraordinary furniture collection," said Michelle Cheng, a specialist in Chinese art at Christie's.
"I think one of the things that really stands out to me about this collection is the Viratas were, if you will, nerdy collectors. They weren't just interested in collecting the best examples of Chinese furniture they could find. They were also very interested in the collecting history.
"... They didn't want to just have a table, they wanted a table that Christian Humann owned. They didn't want a pair of chairs, they wanted a pair of chairs that Gustav Ecke owned. They were very invested in who these individuals were, the historical aspects of collecting Chinese art," she said.
Ecke was a German art historian best known for his book Chinese Domestic Furniture, published in 1944. Humann was a European aristocrat and investment banker in New York whose art collection was purchased by the US art dealer Robert Ellsworth, known for Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) furniture.
About a dozen pieces from the collection were part of a Hong Kong tour in November, and Cheng said that the auction house received a great deal of interest from Chinese collectors attracted both by items' prices and rarity.


"The estimates are very attractively priced. ... We have several pieces that you can't find elsewhere, and several that are the best examples of their type," she said.
"So I think if you are someone who is a serious collector of Chinese furniture and you're looking to acquire something at a very high level, this is a collection you would have your eye on," she added.
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