Most awaited Asian art auction announced for Fall

From the 1950s on, the Alsdorfs were especially ardent patrons of The Art Institute of Chicago, gifting or lending hundreds of works to the museum, commencing in their earliest days of collecting.

By   |  Published: 26th Aug 2020  12:00 pm

New Delhi: One of the most anticipated Asian art auctions for the Fall season has been announced. Aptly titled ‘Sacred and Imperial: The James and Marilynn Alsdorf Collection’ the sale pays homage to the objects the Alsdorfs spent their lives supporting and collecting.

Christie’s announced final details of the sale of the private collection of James and Marilynn Alsdorf, which will be sold across two sessions on September 24, with a complementary online auction from September 4 to 29. The collection will be presented in an exhibition, open by appointment, starting September 16th during Asian Art Week at Christie’s New York.

Known for their generosity of spirit as significant arts patrons in their hometown of Chicago, James and Marilynn Alsdorf spent their 38-year marriage building a wide-ranging collection marked by both quality and diversity. For the Alsdorfs, collecting represented the opportunity for exploration, adventure and pursuit of beauty, extending from the art-filled rooms of their Chicago residence to China and India.

From the 1950s on, the Alsdorfs were especially ardent patrons of The Art Institute of Chicago, gifting or lending hundreds of works to the museum, commencing in their earliest days of collecting. A longtime trustee, Mrs. Alsdorf served for a time as president of the museum’s Women’s Board, while Mr. Alsdorf served as Chairman from 1975 to 1978. In 1997, Mrs. Alsdorf presented the AIC with 400 works of Indian, Himalayan, and Southeast Asian art, a transformative bequest celebrated by the landmark exhibition ‘A Collecting Odyssey: Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art from the James and Marilynn Alsdorf Collection’. Less than a decade later, Mrs. Alsdorf made yet another monumental gift when she supported the Renzo Piano-designed renovation of what are now the Alsdorf Galleries for Indian, Himalayan, and Southeast Asian Art.

Tina Zonars, Co-Chairman of Asian Art, Christie’s, remarks: “The Collection of James and Marilynn Alsdorf represents a notable achievement in the history of American connoisseurship. Steadily acquired throughout the latter half of the 20th century by two of Chicago’s most important civic and cultural patrons, the collection is unparalleled in its breadth and quality, illuminating the remarkable feats of human artistry across time and geography. This collection affords the rare opportunity to acquire museum-quality works with the esteemed provenance of two of America’s leading collectors of Asian art.”

Bridget Alsdorf, the couple’s granddaughter, recalls: “As a couple, my grandparents were the picture of elegance. They had impeccable taste, but to their family and many friends they were known for their warmth, wit, and humor. Studying and collecting art was their all-consuming passion, and it took them all over the world. Their spirit of adventure was unique; they went places that few collectors at the time were curious and confident enough to explore. They were not strategic in their collecting, instead, they were guided by what fascinated them and gave them pleasure, by knowledge and instinct.”

The Alsdorfs’ Collecting History

Married in 1952, the couple quickly discovered a shared passion for cultural exploration and collecting, which for them was not a hobby but a way of life. Together they shared the odyssey of life-long global discovery through generous contributions to the arts community of Chicago and beyond. During their first trip to India in 1968, they met former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Minister of Cultural Affairs, Andr� Malraux, close friend of the dealer Robert Rousset, from whom they had acquired their first work of art in 1955. The Alsdorfs’ love of Indian, Southeast Asian and Himalayan art informed their early collection in the 1960s.

After her husband’s passing in 1990, Marilynn Alsdorf became known as “the queen of the Chicago arts community.” In 1997, she donated 400 Indian, Himalayan, and Southeast Asian works to the Art Institute of Chicago, and in 2006, a subsequent donation made possible the Renzo Piano-designed renovation of what is now the Alsdorf Galleries for Indian, Himalayan, and Southeast Asian Art.

Part I: Masterpieces of Asian Art (Lots 801-823)

Part I offers a curated cross-section of 24 of the best examples across the Alsdorfs’ most collected categories spanning South Indian bronzes, Qing dynasty porcelain, Chinese painting, and Chinese and Japanese works of art. Featured lots include A Rare and Magnificent Bronze Figure of Shiva Tripuravijaya, South India, Tamil Nadu, Chola Period, circa 1050 ($1,000,000-1,500,000); A Very Rare and Important Marble Head of Buddha, China, Sui Dynasty, AD 550-618 ($500,000-700,000)

Part II: Asian Art and European Decorative Arts (Lots 825-1049)

Part II of the sale features Chinese works of art, Chinese paintings, Indian, Himalayan, and Southeast Asian works of Art, Japanese works of art, and a selection of decorative arts. From among the Indian, Southeast Asian and Himalayan art, highlights include A Gilt-bronze Figure of Amoghapasha Lokeshvara ($20,000-30,000). Highlights from the decorative arts include An Italian Gilt-Bronze, Porphyry, Lapis Lazuli and Hardstone-Mounted Collector’s Cabinet, 19th century ($8,000-12,000); and A Silk and Metallic Thread ‘Phoenix’ Carpet, China, Qing Dynasty, ($2,000-3,000).