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Auction Report on Okame (Katchen) : views on a Masanao attribution

A forum for discussions on INS-sponsor auctions from future and past.
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Clive
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Re: Auction Report on Okame (Katchen) : views on a Masanao attribution

Postby Clive » Thu Jan 05, 2017 1:13 am

The piece isn't in my possession Vlad but with its new owner who is visiting relatives a mile from my home, hence why have had a good chance to study it at length recently. I also had it in my studio to clean some old dried wax out of a few nooks and crannies but it was its owner who took the pics I posted. It's really is a fabulous netsuke.

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Vlad
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Re: Auction Report on Okame (Katchen) : views on a Masanao attribution

Postby Vlad » Thu Jan 05, 2017 2:15 am

Clive wrote:The piece isn't in my procession Vlad but with its new owner who is visiting relatives a mile from my home, hence why have had a good chance to study it at length recently. I also had it in my studio to clean some old dried wax out of a few nooks and crannies but it was its owner who took the pics I posted. It's really is a fabulous netsuke.

Thank you, Clive. I envy both you and him grossly! More him than you, of course, no offense! ;)
"Man sieht nur, was man weiß" - "One sees only what one knows". Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

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Re: Auction Report on Okame (Katchen) : views on a Masanao attribution

Postby OliMos » Thu Jan 05, 2017 5:24 pm

Neil, I do disagree with classing Masanao as a brand and placing those things under a Masanao-Studio heading. I think things being classified as studio/workshop production for the whole gamut of his manufacture mostly applies to contemporary artists like Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Ai Weiwei where everything is worked on by a team directed by the artist's vision. The distinction most dealers in the London antiques trade (western, tribal and asian) want to make is between the master's hand, studio work and outright fake. To put them all under a branded studio name seems to me to be an apologist argument for a work that isn't quite there but close enough. I don't think the netsuke world is ready for that. When it's great let's call it the master's hand, when it's not quite there let’s call it studio work.

The Amagatsu or Hoko doll is an interesting comparison to make, I know you’ve held both of Joe’s, and they are an interesting comparison from one another as well. There is at least one super one, a couple I think are later and a few late 20thC fakes, at least one of which is really bad. There is a fascinating story of skulduggery to tell in regards to that group, but it can’t be told until a couple more people have passed on. Clive’s 2nd pic (the close up front shot) makes them look quite similar but actually the amagatsu doll is much milkier in tone, or “surface”. I don’t think they are of comparable date.

Clive, I DO have some understanding of the difference between polish, stain, dye and patina. I think the issue you have with my sentence was that I said surface, and you wanted me to use much more technical language specifying different treatments to the surface. I’ve now shown the sentence to a few other people to see if they understood what I meant, and they all did, every single one. You have more specific criteria that you want to see in an auction report, I think; but I’m not writing the report as a technical breakdown for you. I wouldn’t dare. I’m writing it for the journal readership, most of whom don’t access the forum and have a back and forth amongst one another, before, during and after the sale, to shed some light on what went on, what was special and what was surprising. That you don’t think I’m authoritative is no skin off my nose. You can think what you like.

There is no obsession, not from me anyway, to shoot down someone’s considered attribution. If the urge to attribute everything to some big name didn’t exist, fewer attributions would be shot down. I have no idea who originally suggested it was by Masanao. If it was you I’m sorry to disagree. I was just told some thought it to be attributable to Masanao and I thought that a useful thing to point out in the report because that may have had an effect on the final price. But I can’t just say some thought it by Masanao and leave it because that’s not my opinion.

Regarding the tiger and cub, I think it’s quite different to discuss attribution to an unsigned work and the blemish of a spurious signature on what would have otherwise been a more desirable netsuke. I did pursue it modestly (my paddle rose) but didn’t go further because it’s less saleable if you have to apologise for a spurious signature, and if I had won it I wouldn’t have tried to sell it without explaining my thoughts on authorship.

Vlad, when I wrote the article the first draft went into more depth and I cut it down to make it more readable and manageable. That’s one of the problems with striking a balance when writing it. Originally I had been talking primarily about its Tomotadaness. The Hindson example shows super strength and bulk and the composition is less constrained by the waves. Both are excellent netsuke, the Hindson further from Tomotada than the Katchen. Sorry if in removing verbiage I also removed a necessary nuance of meaning.

Clive, I’m sure this question of who should do it has vexed the editor and board for as long as there have been auction reports. Obviously, someone whose job or calling it is to closely inspect everything at auction has to be first choice. It is an impossibility to separate my personal likes and dislikes from what is ideally an objective overview. What you then end up with is a listing of the results without critical analysis. That is one way to go with the INSJ auction report, but people have to decide if that’s what they want. I didn’t put myself forward for this, but was asked to and I accepted. What I’ve tried to do is write the sort of report I’d like to see, how I think a critical rundown of some of the interesting netsuke and results should be. There are plenty of other ways to do it. A purely scientific and technical run down is one way to go, but I wouldn’t be the guy to do it and if I tried it that way you’d have a lot more to say about me attempting to do that without having an extensive background in chemical analysis of stain as opposed to dye, etc.

If you’d rather see a non-dealer write it I suggest making your thoughts clear to Linda and the board, and I’m sure if enough people feel that way they’ll make a change. But I think I’ll pull out of this forum discourse at this point. I’ve spent more time today thinking about this and responding to it than I have actually doing my job, and that can’t continue. We are really busy. Good luck with the ongoing debate.

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Re: Auction Report on Okame (Katchen) : views on a Masanao attribution

Postby Vlad » Thu Jan 05, 2017 6:01 pm

Thank you, Oli. Everything in your post below was quite good and almost convincing until I got to the last paragraph...
I thought this type of exchange with establishing personal credibility and educating your potential and current pool of customers to be a part of your work, and was naïve enough to think it to be a significant part. Sorry, some of us also have some work to do to buy some more netsuke somewhere...
Last edited by Vlad on Thu Jan 05, 2017 11:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.
"Man sieht nur, was man weiß" - "One sees only what one knows". Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

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Clive
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Re: Auction Report on Okame (Katchen) : views on a Masanao attribution

Postby Clive » Thu Jan 05, 2017 9:44 pm

OliMos wrote:Clive, I DO have some understanding of the difference between polish, stain, dye and patina. I think the issue you have with my sentence was that I said surface, and you wanted me to use much more technical language specifying different treatments to the surface. I’ve now shown the sentence to a few other people to see if they understood what I meant, and they all did, every single one. You have more specific criteria that you want to see in an auction report, I think; but I’m not writing the report as a technical breakdown for you. I wouldn’t dare. I’m writing it for the journal readership, most of whom don’t access the forum and have a back and forth amongst one another, before, during and after the sale, to shed some light on what went on, what was special and what was surprising. That you don’t think I’m authoritative is no skin off my nose. You can think what you like.


I thought I have made it very clear what the issues are that I have with your sentence Oli.. but perhaps I didn't spell it out clearly enough.

FIRSTLY.. the sentence is gibberish. Unintelligible gobbledygook. Your reporting that a "few other people" claim to have understood what you really meant doesn't change what was actually published.

SECONDLY.. Even if we accept what you now say you intended the sentence to mean.. that's also complete nonsense. The effect created by the staining and the development of the netsuke's natural patina are NOT "interchangeable", appreciating the difference is absolutely fundamental to the way we correctly judge the age of a piece of old ivory and genuine patina is not a "treatment" applied to a carving by a carver.

And THIRDLY, for the record.. I have no "criteria" for what I would like to see in an auction report other than for it not to be BS or motivated by self interest. It has never in the past bothered me that most previous auction reviewers haven't explored the more technical aspects of the carvings being reviewed. Lets remember it was you who chose to use a nonsensical "technical" explanation to dismiss the suggestion that the carving was a Masanao. (Btw.. the suggestion that it might be a Masanao did not originate from me). If you had simply said.. "Hey.. my gut says it ain't a Masanao" then fair enough.. but you didn't.

:roll:
Last edited by Clive on Fri Jan 06, 2017 10:59 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Auction Report on Okame (Katchen) : views on a Masanao attribution

Postby AFNetsuke » Thu Jan 05, 2017 11:10 pm

Vlad, although this forum allows a more timely response than journal articles did in the past with the occasional letter to the editor (9 months elapse before the author's response is read), it really falls short of two people having a live conversation in which one can respond immediately with questions like "what do you mean by surface" and drill down to specifics. Unless we turn this into one giant Skype-fest I think we have to accept that not everything will be answered in the first reply or perhaps many subsequent replies. If I had clients waiting to discuss pieces I had for sale versus continuing a dialog here I think I'd pay the bills first so I don't blame Oli for terminating his discussion and still think that "What you then end up with is a listing of the results without critical analysis. That is one way to go with the INSJ auction report, but people have to decide if that’s what they want" is not worth publishing when we can see the auction results live or next day on line or next year. Which of our advanced collectors attend enough auctions around the world, handle enough pieces, discuss in depth with other collectors and dealers, can place things in historical context and give great descriptions is willing to step up and write auction reports? I can't name one.
Alan

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Vlad
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Re: Auction Report on Okame (Katchen) : views on a Masanao attribution

Postby Vlad » Thu Jan 05, 2017 11:33 pm

Sorry Alan, but I think you are responding to one of my resent PMs as I have not addressed any of it here at all. And even then I had nothing against Oli, or any other dealers, writing the reports for the Journal, but was only suggesting to stick to two simple rules :
1) presenting all pieces above a certain hummer price with no exceptions
2) saying only what you liked about those pieces leaving the rest to the readers imagination

Oh, and obviosly doing your homework and not comnenting on the aspects and in terrns requiring special background without having the latter. Professional courtesy on the Forum is always a bonus, of course.
But bottom line, I am pretty sure that whoever would've ended up buying that Okame out of those who did bid on it, eventually would've been selling it later as a true unsigned Masanao work... 8-)
Last edited by Vlad on Fri Jan 06, 2017 12:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
"Man sieht nur, was man weiß" - "One sees only what one knows". Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

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Vlad
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Re: Auction Report on Okame (Katchen) : views on a Masanao attribution

Postby Vlad » Thu Jan 05, 2017 11:55 pm

P.S. Just to further clarify, it would matter not only for the pieces, which make the price cut, but not covered by the reviewer at all for some personal preferences, or other reasons. It would also matter for some sleepers, misssed by both the bidding audience and the reviewer when later traded off. Currently, when selling a piece purchased at any of the major auctions, it is challenging to explain why it didn't make it to the INSJ review in either case... And the stronger the reviewer's reputation, the worse! ;)
"Man sieht nur, was man weiß" - "One sees only what one knows". Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

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Re: Auction Report on Okame (Katchen) : views on a Masanao attribution

Postby AFNetsuke » Fri Jan 06, 2017 2:52 am

I disagree that all pieces above a certain price level be reviewed. Collectible netsuke don't all have giant price tags and netsuke cover a broad spectrum. Writing about an outstanding ceramic or unsigned lacquer piece, etc that brought a fraction of the highest ones or even a $1000 piece of a rare subject makes sense to many of our members, including me.
The reviewer should only write what he liked about a piece? What!? Can't mention the lower than expected prices may have been effected by a defect not in the condition report or recarving or in comparison to other works by the same carver this one didn't measure up?
Leave the rest to the readers imagination? Oh, yes, they might learn something...
Alan

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Vlad
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Re: Auction Report on Okame (Katchen) : views on a Masanao attribution

Postby Vlad » Fri Jan 06, 2017 7:11 am

So are you suggesting ignoring pieces of a higher value, but discussing those of a lower one instead, Alan? Why? Aren't we supposed to learn the best from the bests regardless of what our own preferences, or means are?
The value is there for a reason. It is reflective of something besides just personal preferences, don't you think? You would like to hear about something in the under $1,000 range, and somebody else doesn't. Choosing objective criteria and following them is the only way to please the majority, and quality and rareness reflected in the price of a piece seems to be an objective criterion of public interest/demand to me. And I am not suggesting a particular limit once and for all. It should depend on the level of the auctioned pieces and the page space. If there was nothing better to write about, everything will do it...

And yes, a wise collector will learn from the good being said and from what wasn't said at all. We were talking about the INS members, and not just about general public here, weren't we? Or were you referring to somebody's abilities in particular?

Well, it's an 'open market' in the end. Whoever is in charge will be ultimately the one/group to decide, and the rest will just have a "take it, or leave it" choice, as with everything else.
Last edited by Vlad on Fri Jan 06, 2017 3:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Man sieht nur, was man weiß" - "One sees only what one knows". Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)


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