Posts Tagged ‘auction’


November 2, 2012 Leave a comment
An article in the September 2012 Orientations Magazine prompts me to write this Blog.How safe is it to trust us experts?  After all, most of us experts have handled Asian art, dealt with Asian art, bought and sold Asian art, learned about Asian for a long time and live with it on a daily basis. What the client sometimes does not realize and perhaps not every appraiser explains this- as an appraiser I do not necessarily authenticate. A piece probably cannot be appraised without  authentication and in many cases  authentication  is relatively easy. But ever so often I am asked to appraise a piece  or a collection where I have to go back to my books and where I have to consult with a museum curator, another appraiser, a specialized dealer or a collector about authenticity.  It could be a piece I am not so familiar with, something I have not studied before,  or  a piece I would like to have a second opinion about.  This has to be done to render due diligence  and it may take time. And as an appraiser I have to be able to defend my conclusions as to value in court, if necessary.

Back to the article The Case of the Bogus Burial Suit,” written by  Bao Pu and Renee Chiang, founders of  New Century Press, and collectors of early jade. The authors tell us about a jade burial suit made up of thousands of polished pieces of jade like we have seen in one or the other Chinese exhibit, that had been dated to the Han period  (206 B.C. to 220 A. D.) and appraised at RMB2.4 billion. A bank was overly impressed by this suit and its owner and loaned RMB 600million to the owner  for a real estate project. The owner squandered RMB60million before the court started investigating and put him in jail after the “maker” of the jade suit confessed having been hired by the owner to produce the suit.

The authors go on to write about a Han period jade object that sold at Beijing Zhongjia International Auctions for RMB220 million. The price was outrageously high for a piece that was widely regarded as a fake. Experts defended the authenticity including the jade expert at  the Palace Museum.  This put the spotlight back on the jade suit and on the experts who had  authenticated the piece –  five   highly regarded Chinese experts, including the world’s most highly respected jade expert in the world – Yang Boda.  Journalists from the Beijing News looked over some 350 volumes of court documents trying to solve the puzzle – how could  five experts mistakenly authenticate a piece.  The investigative report by the Beijing News found that   Shi Shuqing , former Vice Chairman of the National Committee of Cultural Relics, now deceased,  was the only one who had actually inspected the piece and the other experts had agreed with his opinion without inspecting the piece –  out of respect.

It turns out that the successful bidder of the Han period jade object has yet to pay up.  The Chinese antiquity market has often puzzled  Westerners  but it is even more confusing for an appraiser and the client  who trusts us appraisers.  Showing me an item or sending me a photo might be sufficient to render an opinion but in many cases I cannot render an opinion without  studying the piece and having access to previous ownership records.

Let me know if this is confusing!

Titles From the C.T. Loo Library Will Be Featured at Christie’s Upcoming Auction

It is always exciting if as an appraiser or dealer, one comes across a piece with C. T. Loo (1880-1957) provenance. He was one of the first and probably the most well known art dealer from China who established his business in Europe. His helped put together several major private and museum collections. He also acted as a consultant to Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller in the early part of the 20th century. I recently came across an article by Yiyou Wang who researched the Rockefeller Archive Center Research Reports Online. Mr. Wang related that there was always fierce and secretive competition between art dealers. Before the 1930s, the well known Duveen brothers were major suppliers of Chinese ceramics to American collectors. Eventually, C. T. Loo took over and procured many pieces.Maybe we can learn more about the man C. T. Loo by learning about the books he kept.

Christie’s auction house is presenting “In Pursuit of Knowledge: A Collection of Asian Art Reference Books” at 20 Rockefeller Plaza, New York City, commencing at 10:00 a.m. on 13 September (lots 801-929). This Asian art book sale with primarily a Chinese focus, features more than 120 titles which are useful in the study of Asian art, as well as for unearthing the history of collecting in the 20th century. These volumes are from private collections, and offer the opportunity to come across scarcely found and out of print Asian art catalogues, references, academic journals, etc. Price estimates range from $ 500- $ 15,000.

In addition to volumes owned by C.T. Loo, a highlight of this auction include eleven titles showing the private collection of George Eumorfopoulos (1863-1939) — one of the founders of the Oriental Ceramics Society in London. Six of the titles are authored by R. L. Hobson, bearing the title “The George Eumorfopoulos Collection: Catalogue of the Chinese, Corean, and Persian Pottery,” which are estimated to be priced around $ 6,000-$ 8,000. The other five titles are authored by Laurence Binyon, with the title of “The George Eumorfopoulos Collection: Catalogue of the Chinese, Corean, and Siamese Paintings,” which are estimated to be priced around $ 3,000-$ 5,000.

An illustrated catalogue of Chinese Imperial Prince Gong’s spectacular collection (1821-1850) will also be featured at Christie’s auction. This auction catalogue displaying Prince Gong’s magnificent belongings, was published in early March of 1913 and is estimated to sell between $ 4,000-$ 6,000. (Gong is Romanized as “Kung” in Wade-Giles Chinese.)

With an estimated selling price between $ 8,000-$ 10,000, a catalogue entitled “Catalogue of Chinese Pottery and Porcelain,” displays Sir Percival David’s (1892- 1964) private collection of Chinese ceramics. Documented by R. L. Hobson, and published in 1934, David’s collection was thought to be one of the most substantial private collections of his time.

Another prized volume at Christie’s auction, will be the “Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Chinese Art” (1935-1936). This catalogue features the most prestigious Chinese art exhibitions, collections, and works — documented from royal, national (Chinese), and private hands — borrowed from various nations worldwide. The estimated price range for this volume is $ 1,000-$ 2,000.

I am curious to see the outcome of this auction, as there are several intriguing books listed that are virtually unobtainable today!

An online article by Artdaily which discusses Christie’s upcoming auction may be found here:

This is a link for Christie’s online article about the Asian art reference book auction:


Elisabeth and Natasha


February 7, 2012 Leave a comment
I thought you might find the following interesting. We have talked about this before – in the mid 80’s I believe.
The Wall Street Journal reported in a recent  article that wealthy people are more and more inclined to invest in art as an alternative to traditional financial investment. I am not sure what is meant by “wealthy” people.  The article states that Christie’s sales were up 14% in 2011 to $ 4.9 billion and included $ 808.6 million in private sales.  To what extent is this true for Asian art?  We have certainly encountered some very serious buyers, mainly from China but how much of this can be categorized as  investing I cannot say. The market is out of balance  with the highest prices going for Chinese paintings – this leaves Chinese bronzes relatively underpriced and perhaps a good investment. Dealers and buyers at the recent  FAA (Fine Art Asia  Fair, the Asian answer to Maastricht’s TEFAF -European Fine Art Fair in The Netherlands)   in Hong Kong held in October 2011  seemed to have felt that way.
 The WSJ  went on to say :
(Excerpted from WSJ and Appraisers Workshop/Todd Sigety,

Steven Murphy, chief executive of the privately held Christie’s, said collectors and investors alike see art as a potentially safe haven for their cash at a time when the broader financial outlook remains volatile: “Everyone is doubling down on art,” he said. “That’s why our market is so strong now.”

Overall, art values rose 10.2% last year, according to art-market analyst Michael Moses, whose New York firm Beautiful Asset Advisors runs indexes that track shifts in the sale prices of thousands of artworks that have sold at auction more than once over the years.

The pace of art buying varies around the world, though. Collectors in the U.S. shopped cautiously last year, with Christie’s sales in America dropping 3%, to $1.9 billion, from the year before. Its sales also were down 64% in Dubai, to $18.6 million. On the other hand, European collectors—particularly those from Italy and Switzerland—stepped up their bidding. Christie’s sales in Europe totaled $2.2 billion, up 29% from 2010.

Christie’s greatest triumph came from Roy Lichtenstein, whose 1961 comicbook-style painting of a young man staring through a peephole, “I Can See the Whole Room…and There’s Nobody in It!,” sold for $43.2 million in November, setting a new record for the Pop artist.

Sotheby’s fared even better with Clyfford Still’s jagged abstract, “1949-A-No. 1,” which sold for $61.7 million in November.

Both houses seized on collectors’ wider interest in contemporary art, a category that includes works created since 1949. The style is particularly popular with newly wealthy, younger buyers who want art made by their generational peers.




September 15, 2011 Leave a comment
I neglected  to report  on one of my favorite fields  – SEA art by native as well as western artists who have settled in SEA- 20th century artists from Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia –  if Chinese paintings are too expensive for you, you may want to follow SEA art auctions  taking place in Hong Kong and Singapore. I can remember when an Affandi was not out of the question for a regular budget – now you would have to buy  his ink on paper drawings if you want to find something under $ 10,000/20,000.  And what about Theo Meier, Rudolf Bonnet, Walter Spies, Ari Smitt? The last Ari Smitt I appraised about four years ago, a large floral acrylic was approximately  $ 14,000 – but no more!   
Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merpres was always more expensive but in the recent Christie’s  Hong Kong auction on May 30th,  a  painting titled  Temple Festival in Bali went for  US $ 989,450; his works  sold in the $ 300,000 to $ 400,000 range some five years ago. But not all paintings are readily sold.  It took me some time to broker a painting by the Philippine painter Tabuena but it was easy to sell a Fernando Amorsolo. 
There is an art market for artists from Cambodia and Thailand, right now mainly handled through dealers and prices have steadily gone up. While there is a large expatriate artist community in Bali, it is mainly  ethnic Thai and Cambodian painters. I have clients who wish to sell their Thai paintings from the 1960’s/1970’s and I will probably work on this soon!
A client asked me who commanded higher prices, the expats or the local artists? There are several artists like Affandi, and the eccentric  Indian artist Maqbool Fida Husain (although he died a Quatari national on June 9, 2011) who command very high prices – but not in comparison with Chinese artists.  I would say that with some exceptions, the expat artists sell for less at the moment. 
Christie’s has two sales for South Asian, Indian and SEA art. 1. South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art, September 13, 2011 in NYC, including quite a few Jamini Roy, some not too expensive, M.F. Husain ($ 300,000-$ 500,000), Souza (including several very interesting ink on paper drawings estimated under $ 3,000; and 2. Indian and Southeast Asian Art, September 13, 2011, NYC. I selected a few items that appealed to me……

Fine auction of Japanese art at Christie’s

September 5, 2011 Leave a comment

I am happy to report  a very fine auction of Japanese art at Christie’s on 14 September 2011 in New York. While there are splendid and most expensive lots like this color woodblock print by Sharaku with an estimate of $ 600,000 to $ 800,000, there are a number of pieces to consider  with an estimate under $ 5,000.This lacquer four-case  inro has an estimate of $ 2,000 to $ 3,000  and dates from the Edo period. Sales for Japanese pieces  have been not as strong as those for Chinese art but this is changing. 


Since I blogged on several occasions about the high prices Chinese buyers and their agents are paying for  things Chinese, I thought I should bring this article to your attention in its entirety. It explains  the what  and why and where about China’s participation and dominance in the international art market.


Go to and click on Bookshop and you will find Asian art auction catalogues from major auction houses, and a few books. This is from my overflowing library of auction catalogues, —-  and books that I have bought twice……..

Qi Baishi painting soars to record $65m at Chinese auction

Qi Baishi (1864-1957)  is well known for  rendering his subjects – from toys, to animals, to vegetables, in a  whimsical and playful manner. I remember when his watercolors went for $ 6,000.  I just came across this auction record! 

Qi Baishi painting soars to record $65m at Chinese auction

An ink wash painting by Qi Baishi (1864-1957) set an auction record of 425 million yuan (US$65.4 million) for Chinese art at the Guardian Spring Auction in Beijing on Sunday night. The sale totaled 1 billion yuan (US$649 million).

“A Long Life, A Peaceful World,” depicting an eagle on a pine branch, was presented by the artist to military and political leader Chiang Kai-shek for his 60th birthday.

Measuring 100 by 266 centimetres (three by 8.5 feet), the 1940s painting, flanked by two calligraphy scrolls, secured the second highest price paid for art in mainland China. More than a year ago, an 11th c. calligraphy scroll by Song Dynasty master Huang Tingjian sold for 436.8m ($64m) yuan at China’s Poly Auctions.

The starting bid was 88 million yuan (US$13.54 million) with the price realized after an intense 50 rounds of bidding over 30 minutes.

Qi Bashi was a prolific, largely self-taught 20th c. artist whose work is highly sought-after in China’s booming art market

Qi Bashi’s work sold for a record $65 million at Guardian Auctions in Beijing.

Sotheby’s Sale of the Mei Yun Tang Collection of Paintings by Chang Dai-Chien Totals $87.3 Million

 I am showing this article verbatim as it appeared in the newspaper —- because it illustrates the Chinese art market scene- Chinese paintings/Chinese collectors,  and shows how important provenance always is.
Sotheby’s Sale of the Mei Yun Tang Collection of Paintings by Chang Dai-Chien Totals $87.3 Million

Sotheby’s Hong Kong achieves HK$4.28 billion/US$549 million in the first half of 2011. More than doubling the sale total of the first half of 2010. Photo: Sotheby’s

HONG KONG.- Sotheby’s Hong Kong concluded the sale of The Mei Yun Tang Collection of Paintings by Chang Dai-chien today with a triumphant total of HK$680 million / US$87.3 million, against a pre-sale estimate of HK$130 million / US$16.7 million. All the 25 masterpieces on offer were sold in just over an hour, and the top lot of the sale, Lotus and Mandarin Ducks sold for HK$191 million / US$24.5 million, setting the auction record for the artist. 

In a saleroom filled to capacity, bidders in the room and on the telephone competed fiercely for the works offered. Bidding for Lotus and Mandarin Ducks, the top lot of the sale, started at HK$10 million and concluded after approximately 30 bids when a telephone bidder defeated a rival in the room with an offering of HK$191 million / US$24.5 million (Est. HK$20 million / US$2.56 million), setting an auction record for the artist. 

Bidding for Ancient Temple Amidst Clouds also opened at HK$10 million, followed within seconds by an offering on the phone of HK$60 million that took the whole room by surprise. The bidder on the phone successfully acquired the work for HK$67.86 million / US$8.7 million (Est. HK$20 million / US$2.56 million). 

Speaking of the sale, C.K. Cheung, Head of Sotheby’s Fine Chinese Paintings department, said: “With intense bidding wars and stunning prices achieved for numerous works in just over an hour, I believe today’s highly anticipated sale of The Mei Yun Tang Collection of Paintings by Chang Dai-chien has left a lasting impression on those present in the room. This is an extraordinary triumph in terms not only of its commercial success, but also in its demonstration of the artistic merits of The Mei Yun Tang Collection as well as the unwavering four-decade friendship between the artist and the collector. Sotheby’s has been extremely honoured to be entrusted with a sale of such importance and I am deeply grateful to the consignors for the support and trust they have shown to the Fine Chinese Paintings Department.” 

Kevin Ching, Chief Executive Officer, Sotheby’s Asia, comments on the sale, “Today’s sale of The Mei Yun Tang Collection of Paintings by Chang Dai-chien is Sotheby’s Asia’s first-ever standalone art sale in nearly 40 years and, therefore, an important milestone in the history of Sotheby’s Asia that reinforces our leadership in the Asian art market. The stunning result achieved today proves that impeccable provenance is key to strong participation and bidding interest regardless of the date of sale. Sotheby’s will continue to source the finest artworks from around the world, and we look forward to offering to collections more collections of such quality and importance on top of our regular spring and autumn auction series.”

Bonhams Achieve Blockbuster Sales of Chinese Art in Hong Kong Today with All Lots Sold

I am quoting this verbatim from
(Bonham’s Hong Kong sold rare snuff bottles, rare Shoushan carvings  and other rare  items for top prices.)
The top price was achieved by a pair of superbly decorated inlaid panels showing mythical landscapes, which sold to a Chinese buyer at HK$3.8 million(£302,440) (lot 275, estimate HK$600-800,000). Photo: Bonhams.
HONG KONG.- Bonhams Hong Kong secured another ‘Golden Gavel’ triumph today (25 May 2011) with the sale of the legendary Mary and George Bloch Collection of Chinese Snuff bottles: Part III. All 142 lots sold out for a total of HK$38,361,600 (£3,054,329). 

The blockbuster sale proves that the international market for the finest Chinese snuff bottles shows no sign of abating at the top level. The Island Shangri-La Hotel’s ballroom was filled to capacity today as bidders from Hong Kong, Beijing, Taipei, Singapore, London and California vied with bidders on the telephone to acquire the superb snuff bottles from the third selection of the world’s finest private collection, by far the best ever to come to the auction market. For the third time in this series of sales, every lot was successfully sold, maintaining Bonhams’ unique auction tradition in Hong Kong. 

Colin Sheaf, Chairman of Bonhams Asia and auctioneer of all three Golden Gavel sales in the series, commented: “Handling this collection is in every respect the peak of our auction business in Hong Kong. The bottles are superb examples to research and discuss with clients, selling them attracts a truly global response from collectors and dealers, and every sale has sold every single lot we have offered, often for world record prices. Nothing can more clearly demonstrate the strength of the global auction market for Chinese art, and the hungry demand from an unprecedentedly wide ranging circle of active buyers.” 

As anticipated, top price was paid for a gold-ground enamelled copper Imperial snuff bottle, manufactured in the Beijing Palace Workshops probably in the 1770s, which sold for HK$4.2 million (£334,323) to a private Asian buyer (lot 141, estimate in excess of HK$3.5 million). 

The collection of snuff bottles was not the only major single-owner collection that Bonhams Hong Kong was selling today. The Q Collection of Exquisite Soapstones had been sourced in the West, but sent to Hong Kong in the belief that it would particularly appeal to the new generation of ‘Shoushan stone’ buyers in mainland China and also in Taiwan. The stone originates from Fujian province, and many collectors of Fujianese family origin now live in Taiwan. Carved mostly in the 17th – 18 Century, these small but very carefully designed semi-votive images mostly depict Buddhist and Daoist mythical figures, and have long appealed to southern Chinese buyers. This time active bidders from London, the US, Singapore and even Thailand competed with more traditional South East Asian buyers, ensuring that almost all the top lots were sold at prices often exceeding their high estimates. 

The top price was achieved by a pair of superbly decorated inlaid panels showing mythical landscapes, which sold to a Chinese buyer at HK$3.8 million(£302,440) (lot 275, estimate HK$600-800,000). The sale achieved a total of HK$21.8 million(£1,735,118) and it is very unlikely that a collection of this quality and range of soapstone carving will ever again come to auction.