Sotheby’s to Offer Chinese Art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Florence & Herbert Irving Gift
Sotheby’s to Offer
300+ Chinese Works of Art
Originally Gifted by Florence & Herbert Irving
To The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
HIGHLIGHTING SOTHEBY’S ASIA WEEK AUCTIONS
THIS SEPTEMBER IN NEW YORK
Full Proceeds to Benefit an Irving Acquisition Fund
To Further Enhance the Museum’s Holdings of Asian Art
Auctions to Feature
Imperial Qianlong Period Jades, Buddhist Sculpture, Porcelain, Paintings and Objects for the Scholar’s Studio
A Finely Carved Large Spinach-Green Jade ‘Immortals’ Brushpot,
Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period
ASIA WEEK EXHIBITIONS OPEN 6 SEPTEMBER
IN SOTHEBY’S NEW YORK GALLERIES
NEW YORK, 19 August 2019 – Sotheby’s is honored to offer 300+ Chinese works of art originally gifted by philanthropists and renowned Asian art collectors Florence and Herbert Irving to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as a highlight of our Asia Week sale series in September 2019.
In March 2015, The Met announced the gift of 1,275 Asian works of art from Florence and Herbert Irving – a donation that fundamentally transformed the holdings of the museum’s Department of Asian Art, on the occasion of its centennial. At the time of their gift, the Irvings realized that a full assessment of their collection would take time, and that there would undoubtedly be many pieces that would unnecessarily duplicate works already in the collection. For that reason, they agreed that The Met could sell any of the works in their gift so long as the proceeds would go towards future acquisitions. The present sale is a fulfillment of that visionary goal.
The full proceeds of Sotheby’s sales will go into an Irving acquisition fund, to be used by The Met’s Department of Asian Art to continue the Irving legacy by seeking out artworks to further enhance the comprehensive nature of the institution’s holdings of Asian art.
Sotheby’s will present over 120+ archaic to Qing dynasty jades along with porcelain, sculptures and objects for the scholar’s studio in a dedicated sale on 10 September, titled Chinese Art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Florence and Herbert Irving Gift. The auction is led by a finely carved spinach-green jade brushpot, formerly in the collection of Alfred Morrison and kept at Fonthill, his famed English country house (estimate $500/700,000). Additional objects from the Irving Gift will be offered in the Saturday at Sotheby’s: Asian Art auction on 14 September.
Public exhibitions for all of Sotheby’s Asia Week auctions will open on 6 September in our New York galleries.
Angela McAteer, Head of Sotheby’s Chinese Works of Art Department in New York, commented: “It is a privilege to work with The Met this autumn to help bring these exceptional works to collectors worldwide. Our sales are representative of the Irvings’ exceptional taste in Chinese art, which features a strong emphasis on organic materials and works hewn from nature, as well as extraordinary Chinese jades produced during the reign of the Qianlong emperor.”
Maxwell K. Hearn, Douglas Dillon Chairman of the Department of Asian Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, said: "Florence and Herbert Irving were visionary and passionate collectors whose devotion and generosity have dramatically transformed the Museum’s holdings. We are deeply grateful that their gifts will enable us to continue to enhance The Met’s collection.”
FLORENCE & HERBERT IRVING
Herbert and Florence Irving’s passion for Asian art began in the Asian galleries of the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York. Initially their interest was focused on lacquer, and their first piece happened to be a Qianlong-period brush pot. Soon their wide-ranging art collection encompassed art not only from China, but also from Japan, Korea, India and Southeast Asia. As serious, scholarly collectors, they developed a close relationship with The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where they held an important exhibition of their lacquer collection. The Met became in the end the home for many of their masterpieces.
The Irvings’ extensive relationship with The Met includes: Florence’s election as a museum Trustee in 1990, and election as a Trustee Emerita in 1996; the 1991 opening of the spectacular exhibition East Asian Lacquer from the Collection of Florence and Herbert Irving; the 1994 opening of the Florence and Herbert Irving Galleries for South and Southeast Asian Art, which gave The Met the most extensive display space for these arts anywhere outside Asia; the 1997 opening of the Florence and Herbert Irving Galleries for Chinese Decorative Arts, which added 3,000 square feet to the Asian Wing; their 2011 endowment of the position of Florence and Herbert Irving Curator of the Arts of South and Southeast Asia, which is currently held by John Guy; and their 2015 gift.
The Irvings’ 2015 gift of almost 1,300 works of art encompasses all of the major cultures of East and South Asia and virtually every medium explored by Asian craftsmen over five millennia. Areas of particular strength are Chinese, Japanese, and Korean lacquers, South Asian sculpture, Chinese jades and hardstones, scholars’ objects of ivory, rhinoceros horn, bamboo, wood, and metalwork, Japanese ceramics, and Chinese and Japanese painting. Taken together, this transformative gift fills gaps and extends the Met’s existing strengths in ways that will further elevate the Museum’s stature as one of the world’s premier collections of Asian art.
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