Chinese art sales are a 'bull market'

Chinese auction buyers have never been so bullish, reports the New York Times.

"If you wonder how good the mood really is in China, forget the annual growth rate, the Shanghai Stock Exchange and the rest.

"Instead, look at what is happening in the auction market," says the leading news source.

Particularly remarkable is the part played by bidders "unfamiliar with the finer nuances of the art they are chasing and ... [its] aesthetic values."

The enthusiasm of new, less experienced bidders has led to hugely successful auctions like Christie's New York's September 14 and 15 sale.

Sales at the auction added up to $23,94m, despite a lack of great works - and "unmitigated triumph," says the New York Times.

Of the 115 lots in the sale, only three failed to sell. The article attributes this to the fact that the items were from the collection of Arthur M Sackler.

The Arthur M Sackler gallery closely resembles - both in architectural structure and its collection of archaic bronzes and porcelain - the Freer Gallery of Art, one of the greatest collections of Chinese art in the Western world.

Because most items from Sackler's collection are in the gallery, the few that are available to buy made Chinese buyers flock to the Christie's New York auction.

So, the "Sackler magic" sent pieces like a jade pendant, dated to the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), with a black cicada on a white peapod, soaring to $128,500, four times the estimate.

Elsewhere, a very fine but not unusual bronze food vessel of the 12th or 11th century B.C., which Christie's estimated to be worth $20,000-30,000, shot up to $362,500.

According to the New York Times, a similar effect led to other incredible sales in New York on the same day as the Christie's sale.

On September 14, another auction house on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, was holding its own modest sale of Chinese art...

To the amazement of its dealers, a white vase with molded patterns from the Jiajing period (1796-1820) sold for an astonishing $590,000, plus the sale charge.

It was estimated at between $30,000-50,000.

The winning bidder was Bryan Chow, a Hong Kong dealer who only made rare appearances in New York until this year.

It is speculated that Mr Chow must have been buying for a new collector, unbothered by the fact that most other collectors shun the late Jiajing period for its perceived decadence.

Blue vase chinese
Chinese blue and white vase from a similar period

Even more intriguingly, a blue and white vase with the Qianlong reign mark (1735-96), deemed by Doyle to be worth $2,000-3,000, realised $550,000.

The winner of the bidding match was William Chak, a renowned Hong Kong dealer with an extensive knowledge of 18th Century porcelain.

Mr. Chak was presumably acting as an agent for a client determined to have his way, regardless of cost, says the New York Times.

The unparalleled enthusiasm of Chinese buyers has also boosted markets for jewellery, stamps and wine and whisky.


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