Asian Art

Art Market Review

Issue 3, Spring/Summer 2011

Page 5

Asian art continues to appeal to collectors wherever it is offered. It is one area of the global market where demand for high quality objects outstrips supply to the extent that buyers will sometimes back their own instincts over those of the professionals. This has resulted in spectacular prices.

A rare pair of famille rose teapots, for example,which had lain unrecognized in a house in Scotland,were sold for £1,300,000 at Bonhams Asian art sale in London in May. The same sale saw a jade ruyi scepter of the Qianlong era, which had come from a collection in Spain, sell for £1,308,000 and a 14th century BC archaic bronze wine vessel from the Sinclair collection for £1,196,00. In all the sale was worth £16,487,360.

Earlier in May, the second part of the Edward Wrangham collection of Japanese art realized over £1,500,000 million in the highly specialized market of inro. Although Japanese art has not 'recovered' from the boom years of the 1980s, the Wrangham collection was world famous and collectors and museums were keen to take this one-off opportunity to acquire objects from such a significant source. The collection recorded a 100% selling rate and the finest examples sold for over £100,000. Hong Kong remains a vital trading post for the mainland China market which supplied 75% of the buyers in Bonhams spring sales in May which reached the coveted HK20 million dollar mark for the first time.

In the process, it also became the first auction house to achieve an unprecedented third sell out sale in a row in a single category. This was for Part III of the sale of Snuff Bottles from the Mary and George Bloch collection in which HK$4,200,000 was paid for the top lot, an 18th century bottle manufactured in the Beijing Palace workshops. This sale attracted buyers, not only from mainland China but also from Taipei, Singapore, London, California and Hong Kong itself.

Jades from the John and Berthe Ford Collection formed the core of the Fine Chinese Works of Art sale in which a mid Qing dynasty yellow jade incense burner sold for HK$8,380,000 and a Qianlong period white jade landscape vase and cover made HK$4,500,000. The sale in total made over HK$48,000,000. Results for Asian art sales in the USA have mirrored those in the rest of the world. The Fine Asian art sale in San Francisco in June, for example, saw US1,500,000 dollars paid for a rare pair of huanghuali continuous yoke back armchairs showing that the passion of Chinese buyers for collecting their heritage is not confined to jade and porcelain. The same sale also saw two carved ivory sets of the Eighteen Luohan late Qing Dynasty sell for US$660,000 and US$460,000 respectively. The sale in total made over US$11m and over 80% of the lots were sold across a range of interests and prices.

Earlier in the year in New York the March sale of the Linda Riddell Hoffman Collection of Chinese snuff bottles was 100% sold out. A sale total of US$1,700,000 contained some exceptional results in a collecting area where Bonhams is rapidly becoming a world leader. A very rare and unusual enameled white glass snuff bottle from the Imperial Palace workshops, for example, was sold for US$250,000.