The largest private collection of Asian art ever to come up at auction will go on sale at Christie’s in March 2015. The auction’s 2,000 lots were amassed by the late Robert Hatfield Ellsworth. A prominent American dealer. Ellsworth passed away in August 2014; the collector was the first American art dealer to visit mainland China in the 1970s. He later became an honorary Chinese citizen in recognition of his work in cultural preservation and was later named an honorary consultant and curator of the Beijing History Museum.
Ellsworth is also credited with shaping important collections of Asian art; which include those of John D. Rockefeller III and the financier Christian Humann.
One of the Ellsworth’s most important contributions was in pioneering the Western collection of modern Chinese paintings. The collector championed 19th and 20th century works that were previously ignored by critics. Ellsworth went further; and even managed to convince Western art historians that Chinese painting did not simply die out after the 1800s.
Ellsworth’s collection includes Chinese furniture, Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian art, as well as modern Chinese paintings. It will be sold in both online and in live auctions over a five-day period in March 2015 at Christie’s New York. This will also include a sale of English and European furniture and decorative arts from Ellsworth’s home in New York City.
The auction’s highlights will tour Asia, beginning with a stop in Hong Kong on November 21.
The collector told the Independent that when he died his collection would “be sold in a consecutive seven-day sale. The last lot will be a single item, the finest piece of jade in the world—which I wear on my finger.”