Any concerns about the health of the Chinese art market were put to rest at Bonhams yesterday. (16.5.13)
Colin Sheaf, Bonhams Deputy Chairman and Head of Asian Art, commented: "Last year we were concerned that the political transition in China would impact on the art market. This sale comprehensively demonstrates that the Chinese art market is back to form with record prices."
Bonhams Fine Chinese art sale in New Bond Street, London saw standing room only and brisk bidding which took the sale to over £11.5 million with some enthusiastic bidders increasing bids by £100,000 or more at a time. Besides the huge interest in the saleroom for the 420 works in the sale, there were bids from around the world via the Internet, as well as bids from a bank of 15 telephones.
An earlier Chinese art sale at Bonhams Knightsbridge, London saleroom on Monday 13th May made £1.2 million, producing a total of over £12.7 million for Chinese art at Bonhams this week.
The Bond Street sale included Imperial porcelain, sculpture, Buddhist gilt bronzes and vessels, jade carvings, scrolls, screens, furniture and paintings – but without doubt the Imperial porcelain dominated with paintings by Lin Fengmian also achieving remarkable prices.
The top item in the sale, lot 39, a very rare blue and white garlic-head joined 'lotus' bottle vase from the Qianlong reign period (1736-95) which made £679,650. The decoration of lotus blossoms growing from the same stem which adorns the vase is extremely rare. There is only one other comparable example from the Qianlong period. The auspicious motif traditionally commemorates prosperous marriage and the rarity of this feature would suggest that the vase was a special imperial commission.
A magnificent and rare blue and white moonflask of the Qianlong period, lot 40, was sold for £421,250. The moonflask is the only second known example found of its kind and is a remarkable 18th Century survivor. This stunning vase came from an English private collection, having been acquired by the owner's grandfather, in the late 19th or early 20th century.The moonflask is inspired in form and decoration by early Ming Dynasty examples which the Palace Museum in Beijing has on show in the Forbidden City.
Another stunning work, Lot 69, a very rare doucai and gilt baluster vase sold for £325,250.
Asaph Hyman, Director of Chinese Art at Bonhams, said after the sale: "We are delighted that connoisseurs of Chinese art from all over the world recognized the beauty and the rarity of what was on offer today and this was reflected in the very strong prices achieved."
Two paintings by Lin Fengmian (1900 -1991), a painter considered a pioneer of modern Chinese painting best known for blending Chinese and Western painting styles, did outstandingly well, each one selling for £421,250. With the exception of one image, they were part of a group of Fengmian pictures from one English family, a member of whom was a student of Fengmians. In total the group of 12 Lin Fengmian paintings made £1.8m
Lin Fengmian was painting with the vision of the 20th-century, while contemporary Chinese artists lagged behind. But much of Lin's art was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. For years until he was allowed to leave China, he was tortured and persecuted for being an intellectual and an artist.'
The Lin Fengmian picture, Lot 254 Opera scene', an ink and color on paper, sold for £421,250. The painting portrays a scene from the Beijing Opera 'Southern Heaven's Gate'. The story takes place during the Ming Dynasty when a high minister was ensnared in an ambush by his political rival, the powerful eunuch Wei Zhongxian.
Lot 255 'Seated Lady with Flowers', made with ink and color on paper, purchased in Shanghai by the owner's father while he was working for the Shell Oil Company, circa 1952, also sold for £421,250.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
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 www.bonhams.com