Sotheby's Asia Week sale stars estimate-smashing $5.68m Chinese scroll

As Asia Week in New York has clearly demonstrated, the market for Chinese art is booming. Each of the world's major auction houses have recorded exceptional results, with pre-sale estimates tumbling, and bidding among collectors more competitive than ever.

Nowhere was this more evident than Thursday's (March 22) auction of Fine Classical Chinese Paintings at Sotheby's. Amidst an auction room packed with some of the world's top collectors, the event's pre-sale estimate of $9.8m-13.7m was quickly surpassed as it raced to a final result of $35.2m.

"Our total of $35.2m is more than double the pre-sale high estimate," said Iris Miao, head of the classical Chinese painting department at Sotheby's New York.

"Collectors and museums from across Asia and the US responded with enormous enthusiasm to this showcase of the finest Chinese paintings and calligraphy works dating from the 12th century to the 20th century, with collectors particularly seeking the most important pieces that came with notable provenance."

Topping the auction was "Calligraphy in Various Script Forms by the emperors of the Southern Song, 12th to 13th Century from an Important European Collection". This superb handscroll, made up from three separate fan leaves and one album leaf of poetry written by the first four emperors of the Southern Song dynasty, sold for $5.68m, 468% above its $1m estimate.

Sotheby's Asia Week scroll
A Southern Song dynasty scroll beat its estimate by 468%

It was followed by Wen Jia's "Thatched Cottage In The Southern Village" (Nancun Caotang Tu), a copy of an original work by the celebrated Yuan dynasty artist Wang Meng. Valued at $200,000-250,000, the work smashed its estimate to sell for $5.12m and set a new record for the artist's work.

In total, nine lots broke the $1m barrier. Of particular note was "Eagle Perching on the Pine" by Qi Baishi, which sold for $1.98m, continuing the trend which saw Baishi become the world's second top-selling artist in 2011.

Although the results were far beyond the pre-sale estimates, the success of the sale will come as no surprise to those with an eye on the art market.

The Mei Moses index, which tracks art market prices based on global auction sales, showed that the value of traditional Chinese art rose 20.6% in 2011 making it the market's best-performing category.

With numerous record prices established throughout the week, and bidding often reaching frenzied levels, the triumph of Asia Week is yet further evidence that China looks set to dominate the art market for years to come.

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