Strong bidding from a packed saleroom gave Bonhams New Bond Street top honours in Asian Art Week with its main Fine Chinese Art Sale achieving £8.6 million, well ahead of its nearest rival.
The sale was the latest proof that the Chinese art market continues to flourish. Just a week ago Bonhams unveiled its new Hong Kong saleroom which will provide the best selling space in that city. But in London at Bonhams new £30m headquarters yesterday (15.5.14) more than 150 enthusiastic bidders lead to a 70 per cent sold rate, and the two top lots sold in Asian Art Week. A sale of Japanese art at £1.5m and a Chinese Art sale at the Knightsbridge saleroom which made £1.7m, brings Bonhams Asian Art Week sale total to £11.8m.
Colin Sheaf, Chairman of Bonhams Asia, commenting after the sale said: "This was our second sale in the new building and it continues to attract attention as a fantastic selling space that provides museum-like facilities to show off the art to best effect. This definitely helped to make the sale the great success that it was. Despite the size of our new main saleroom it was completely filled with standing room only. The result is once again proof that Bonhams is attracting the most outstanding Chinese works from all over the world. Our bank of 14 telephone bidders and the internet played a key part in this sale. Some 86% was bought by buyers were from Asia with Hong Kong private and mainland Chinese dealers dominating the sale all the way through. We now look forward to our largest ever series of sales in Hong Kong from 17 – 26 May, that takes place in our brand new saleroom on the 20th floor of 1n Pacific Place."
Top lot in the London sale was the mysterious white jade 'hinge-fitting' with its six-character Qianlong Imperial mark which sold for £494,500 against a pre-sale estimate of £200,000 to £300,000.
The precisely constructed elements of a white jade hinge-fitting made for the Qianlong Emperor (reign 1736-1795), might have served to remind him of his duty to be scrupulous and precise in his own rule.
Scholars still do not know the precise meaning of this culturally intriguing object. Bearing a Qianlong six-character fang gu mark and of the period the pure white stone is of exceptional clarity, unusually carved with two rectangular hollowed tubes, each of the wider sides carved in mirror image to suggest an archaistic mask.
The hinge-fitting embodies much of the artistic and historical pre-occupations of the Qianlong period. Carved from exceptionally fine and lustrous white stone, with even the minor flaws most cleverly incorporated into the scrollwork, the thinly hollowed supremely challenging yet technically flawless piece is representative of the highest skill of the 18th century craftsman. Furthermore it falls into a group of jade pieces carved with the Qianlong fanggu mark, specifically carved with archaistic designs inspired by archaic bronzes to reflect the concerns of the Qianlong Emperor with drawing moral strength and righteousness from the examples of the ancients.
A very rare pale green jade 18th/19th century figure of Buddha sold for £482,500. Jade generally performed well in the sale as did a very rare monumental gilt-lacquer porcelain figure of Buddha from the Qing Dynasty.
A beautiful and rare large 17th century huanghuali tapered cabinet made £242,500.
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