The Economist reveals a bit about how the Asian market for ceramics and works of art functions in this re-cap of the London sales earlier this May. Those sales were particularly strong, pre-saging this week’s sale in Hong Kong. :
“It’s a clear sign of a deepening market, a sign of confidence that we’ve observed in our auctions from Sydney to San Francisco,” said Colin Sheaf, Bonham’s deputy chairman and director of Asian art.
But the important thing to remember in the Asian market is that buyers seek out works with provenance either in the form of a trustworthy previous owner or a similar object existing in an important collection. Here’s how it works:
Three areas were particularly successful: rhinoceros-horn libation cups, ancient jade and grand imperial ceramics and cloisonné. Seventeen rhinoceros cups were offered for sale across the three auction houses. More precious than gold in China in the 16th century, rhinoceros was carved by only the most skilled artisans and has always been sought after. Prices have been going steadily up over the past half-decade as Chinese collectors have begun pitching in to an area traditionally the preserve of Americans, British, Germans and Swiss buyers. A year ago Thomas Fok, a Hong-Kong-based Chinese-American businessman, held the first auction devoted exclusively to horn carvings when he consigned 30 pieces to Christie’s in Hong Kong. Mr Fok has been collecting and writing about these works for more than three decades, but decided he would focus on expanding his charitable foundation, which helps poor children in north-western China.
Mr Fok is a collector whom others follow. When Sotheby’s this month offered a work very similar to one he still owns, bidders leapt in. A skilfully carved piece in a warm honey tone, it is of a scholar, hunched over a gnarled tree, deep in thought as he holds his head propped on his folded arms. Estimated at £20,000-30,000, the horn finally sold for £145,250 (including taxes and commissions) to an anonymous telephone bidder, believed to be from China.
Art.view: Piling In (Economist.com)