NEW YORK (AFP) - Upcoming auctions in New York will put a multi-million-dollar stamp on Asia's art explosion, a far cry from the recent past when treasures fell into tourists' hands for a song. Sales by rivals Christie's and Sotheby's both next week and in December feature everything from delicate and ancient Chinese vases to boundary-breaking, contemporary installations. And if Asian art is still emerging into the big time, the prices are already there. Consider "Figures in a Landscape," a diminutive 1964 oil painting by South Korea's most famous modern artist Park Sookeun on sale at Christie's this Thursday. The evocative scene of four tiny figures under gaunt winter trees was bought for just 20 dollars (14 euros) by a US visitor to Seoul in the 1960s. Next week, Christie's expects to get 400,000-500,000 dollars (283,000-353,000 euros) " or more. "I think hopefully it will go for about 700,000 dollars (495,000 euros)," said Christie's Korea specialist Heakyum Kim. "Korean art is not as well known as Japanese, Chinese or Indian, but it's starting to get recognized." Another work on sale Thursday and brimming with star power is "Reflective Love," a print by revered 18th century Japanese artist Kitagawa Utamaro. Gingerly removing a protective cover, Christie's expert Katsura Yamaguchi revealed a young woman in a kimono resting her chin on her right hand. Price tag: 1.5 million dollars (million euros). "Since a Picasso print makes a million, then why not Utamaro?" he asked, adding nervously: "If you sneeze, please do turn away." Chinese ceramics, one of the most recognizable and celebrated Asian art forms, will be out in strength in the upcoming auctions. Christie's hopes to raise 22 to 28 million dollars (15-20 million euros) from ceramics and Chinese classical paintings in New York on Wednesday next week and in Hong Kong in December. Showstoppers include an early Ming white vase priced at 600,000 to 800,000 dollars (424,000-565,000 euros) in New York, and a rare Qing Imperial pink vase decorated with butterflies in Hong Kong " price not advertised. Buddha sculptures, Japanese screens, Indian thangkas and other traditional pillars of the Asian art market will all be on offer at Christie's from Monday to Wednesday. But Christie's and Sotheby's, which holds its own Asian sale in New York next week, are also hoping to catch a growing wave of enthusiasm for contemporary works. Yamini Mehta, at Christie's, said India's art scene is exploding. "It's an exciting time to be working this field. Indian art is coming into its own," she said. So are the prices. A work by Subodh Gupta is listed for auction at Christie's on Tuesday at 600,000 to 800,000 dollars (424,000-565,000 euros). It consists of a large heart-shaped frame crammed with shiny stainless steel cups and pots. An even less traditional installation is "Eye of the Storm" by China's Yang Jiechang, which Sotheby's is auctioning Wednesday at an estimated 400,000 to 600,000 dollars (283,000-424,000 euros). For that money, the buyer will get a large, real tangle of dead tree branches and a painting of a Chinese forest behind. Sotheby's also offers top Indian artist Tyeb Mehta's "Falling figure with Bird," a nightmarish painting estimated at one to 1.5 million dollars (707,000 to a million euros). But the biggest winner next week is likely to be the so-far unidentified owner of "Figures in a Landscape." Americans visiting or stationed in South Korea in the 1950s and 1960s had trouble finding souvenirs. But they could "pick up art works for maybe 10, 15 dollars (7-11 euros)," Kim told AFP. "The man who bought this has had it in his house for 40 years, having no idea of its true value. It was hanging in the bedroom of his seven year old daughter," Kim recounted. "The little girl said, 'Why are you taking away my picture?' "We said, we will take a little picture and in return you can get a great big one"