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An Idiot's Guide:
Collect Like A Connoisseur 

The Great "hanga" Wave. Popular Unpinion on The State of the Japanese Woodblock Print Market.

Updated: Jan 15

An Edo Gallery Blog



The actual world record setting "Great Wave" by Hokusai sold during Christie's Japanese Sale NY 2023 (All images were taken by the author)
The actual world record setting "Great Wave" by Hokusai sold during Christie's Japanese Sale NY 2023 (All images were taken by the author)


If you are a follower of auction results, then you most likely have a good idea of the recent hammer prices witnessed in auction houses from New York to Tokoyo.

Christies worker's take telephone bids on the Great Wave
Telephone bidder's: The final action came down to two on the telephone Christies NY 2003


Let's start by mentioning the fact that prices for Japanese woodblock prints have been going up at an incredible rate. Take for example the world record price of one point one million dollars(+hammer) at the Christie's NY Japanese sale Sept 22, 2020 by a "Great Wave" from the artist Katsushika Hokusai. A cool 1.3 million dollars after auction fees.

The auctioneer who took the winning bid by telephone. 2023
The auctioneer who took the winning bid by telephone. 2023


Fast forward a mere three years during another Christie's NY sale a mediocre impression of the "Great Wave" realized a price of $2.8 million dollars, doubling the price set on Sept. 2020 in less than three years!

Our print expert Geoffrey Oliver bears witness as the action crosses $2 million(Author).
Our print expert Geoffrey Oliver bears witness as the action crosses $2 million(Author).


During this same time period the world of Japanese woodblock prints would also bear witness to what was seemingly a fluke at the time; a "Zojoji Temple" by the artist Hasui selling for $75,000 hammer at Christie's once again. The auction house at Christie's NY went on to set a new World record for the artist Hasui at $80,000 hammer for a first edition of Hasui's last known print.

The hammer price 2.25 million + 500k commission = $2.8 mil.
The hammer price 2.25 million + 500k commission = $2.8 mil.


Another notable mention is the world record hammer price realized by a surimono depicting a downward swimming carp embellished with metallic pigments.


So what's the point? Well, besides the doubling of a world record price in a mere 3 years. The overall prices of Shin hanga and Sosaku hanga prints have also been sky rocketing. Will these prices hold up at the upcoming sales this Fall during Asia week? Or will the recent wave of record prices grind to a halt? With the economy in focus and the world going crazy about inflation, people are looking for new places to park their money. The Japanese art world maybe primed for a new wave of record prices this fall.



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