Classical Chinese paintings attract new buyers at Bonhams New York

20 Mar 2013, Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy
Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy

Classical Chinese paintings attract new buyers at Bonhams New York

20 Mar 2013, Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy

NEW YORK — Bonhams auction of Chinese Paintings & Calligraphy on March 20, the final of four auctions held during Asia week, realized over $1.6 million with 118 offered lots, achieving notable results overall, and for classical Chinese paintings in particular. Competitive bidding was split evenly between attendees, phone bidders and online bidders. The majority of participants hailed from China and Hong Kong, although US-based clients made a strong showing as well. Many of the sale's top buyers were clients new to Bonhams, demonstrating the potential for continued growth in this culturally rich field.

"We're very pleased with the results of the sale," said Bruce MacLaren, Bonhams Chinese Department Specialist. "A wide variety of bidders were drawn to the sale by the excellent selection of classical paintings, the majority of which were fresh to the market. Our strong relationships with private collectors and institutions helped make this sale a success."

The top lot was an ink landscape by Wang Shimin (1592-1680) which brought $110,500. Dated 1648, this example by the 17th century orthodox master had been published in the Tokyo University survey of traditional Chinese paintings. A 15th century painting rendering of a Knickknack Peddler charmed viewers during the preview with its detailed rendered of an itinerant merchant's cart, and was sold for $86,500.

Pieces with interesting provenance also did very well. Formerly part of an imperial treasure box, an 18th century miniature ink landscape by Zhang Ruocheng (1722-1770) with imperial inscription by the Qianlong Emperor (1711-1799) brought $74,500 – nearly five times its pre-sale high estimate. A charming painting of a Scholar and his students, dating from the late 15th-early 16th centuries and once owned by the last emperor of Vietnam Bao Dai (reigned 1926-1945) realized $62,500.

"It's very rewarding to see classical Chinese painting performing well," commented Nicholas Rice, Junior Specialist in Bonhams Chinese Department. "The market is always responsive to quality and provenance, but the results at the March 20 auction show that beauty and tradition are also important factors."

20th century paintings also attracted strong bids with paintings by Pu Ru (1896-1963), Xie Zhiliu (1910-1997), and Huang Junbi (1898-1991) selling for prices well over their pre-sale high estimates. With over 80% of the lots finding buyers, Bonhams' second New York Chinese painting sale punctuated a strong week of Asian sales at the Madison Avenue gallery.

Bonhams next sale of Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy will take place on May 25 in Hong Kong.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to

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