Record sale for Japanese department

25th November 2021

Asian Art week at Woolley and Wallis got off to a flying start with a record sale total for the Japanese Art department.

The auction of 222 lots covered most areas of Japanese art from porcelain to netsuke, and traditional prints to Japanese film posters, finishing with a premium-inclusive total of £445,000.

Specialist, Alexandra Aguilar, who established the department in 2018, is positive about the current upwards trend in prices. “These results show that the market for Japanese art strong. There is a real demand for contemporary artworks (such as the Takashi Murakami ‘Doraemon’ prints) and for good-quality pieces showcasing the best of Japanese craftsmanship.”

The latter was exemplified by a late 17th century lacquer cabinet made for the Dutch market (lot 1046), which exceeded expectations to sell for £131,250 – a European dealer beating off bidding from the UK trade and interest from a major London museum. A large and rare porcelain koro modelled as an elephant (lot 1052) also drew considerable interest, selling for £30,000 against a starting price of £1,000, while two traditional woodblock prints from the Edo period sold for £25,000 and £31,250 respectively (lots 1134 and 1135).

Despite the significant prices achieved, the auction provided a wide range of pre-sale estimates, opening it up to a broad range of collectors. A small collection of wood netsukes ranged from the low hundreds to several thousands, and the ceramics market varies widely.

“Unlike some other markets (such as Fine Chinese Art), Japanese Art is still accessible in terms of prices, so we are seeing a new generation of collectors coming into this market,” continued Aguilar. “This is a very exciting time for Japanese art and I strongly believe it is the right moment to invest. I would personally turn towards woodblock prints, as there is a real variety in terms of style and they can be bought at a wide range of prices.”

Entries are now being invited for the next Japanese Art auction on 17th May 2022.

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