New Chinese Collectors Power $30 Million London Auction

Collection Of 66 Jade Pieces More Than Doubles Estimates As Chinese And Asian Buyers Keep Buying

This early Qianlong era vase sold for over $160,000 (Image: Bonhams)

This early Qianlong era vase sold for over $160,000 (Image: Bonhams)

With Christie’s Hong Kong spring auctions less than two weeks away, Chinese collectors look as if they’re still very much in the buying mood. This weekend at a Bonhams auction of Chinese ceramics and artwork in London, Chinese collectors — mostly from mainland China — continued their global spending spree, going well above estimates and pushing the auction to a total of $30.1 million. As we saw at Sotheby’s recent Spring Auctions in Hong Kong, estimates go out the door when Chinese collectors set their minds on certain items, particularly those from particular Chinese historical periods (the Qianlong era is popular among mainlanders), and this Bonhams auction has likely given the Hong Kong auction world a boost in optimism ahead of the auctions that are set to take place there later this month.

According to Bloomberg, the Bonhams sale was notable for the prices at which high-quality jade works sold, with the 66 carvings up for bidding ultimately selling for double their pre-sale estimates. As the article points out, 35 of the jade pieces at auction came from the collection of a single English collector of white jade — always a hit with Chinese collectors, who are more trusting of the authenticity and quality of works held for years by a single foreign collector than they are of works held by domestic Chinese collectors. (Or, to an extent, auction houses.)

From the Bloomberg article:

The top price [for a lot at the Bonhams auction] was 580,000 pounds, paid for an 18th-century vase and cover carved with a relief of bats, that had a low estimate of 30,000 pounds.

“These are pieces which are comparable or identical to pieces that are housed in the Palace Museum, Beijing,” Colin Sheaf, Bonhams’s director of Asian art, said after the sale. “Hence the excitement and enthusiasm in the auction room.”

Bonhams’s London salesroom, like Christie’s International’s and Sotheby’s during in the week, was crowded with Asian traders. Newly rich Chinese are keen to acquire high quality objects of their heritage, especially when they are imperial items from established Western collections, dealers say.

At one point in Bonhams’s sale of the jade collection, a woman shouted “One hundred thousand!”, when the bidding on an 18th-century white jade box in the form of a magpie had reached just 30,000 pounds, said Sheaf in an e-mail. The piece went on to sell for 300,000 pounds.

“The Chinese like to buy at auction,” said the London- based dealer Ben Janssens in an interview. “They enjoy the competitive element.”

Despite no individual lot selling for more than 1 million pounds, the three auction houses all exceeded their presale estimates and the totals at the equivalent sales last year.

“Compared to six months ago, when perhaps individual objects were representing a large proportion of a sale total, the results now show renewed buoyancy across all areas,” Robert Bradlow, Sotheby’s London-based director of Chinese ceramics and works of art, said in an e-mail.

Look for Chinese collectors to continue to dominate certain Chinese art segments, particularly antiquities and jade, at the upcoming Christie’s auctions in Hong Kong (May 28-June 2) — and keep an eye on Jing Daily as we highlight our “Lots to Watch” at Christie’s and other auction houses — over the next week.

Categories

Art & Auction, Culture