Souren Melikian adds some further details to the Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art sales, solving the mystery of the runaway bidding on some of the lots in the Asia week sales. New buyers are piling into the Chinese market from the Mainland pursuing works with Imperial connections and important provenance like that of Arthur Sackler, even if the best of Sackler’s collections are long since in museums. Of course, in Melikian’s universe the new collectors are all dupes with more money than sense even when they’re being advised by first-tier dealers:N
So keen are the new buyers that they miss no sale, however humble. On Sept. 14, at the very moment when the Sackler objects were coming up at Christie’s, Doyle, the neighborhood auction house on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, was holding its own modest sale of Chinese art. To the bewilderment of the dealers I spoke to, a white vase with molded patterns from the Jiajing period (1796-1820), expected to be knocked down between $30,000 and 50,000, ascended to $590,000 plus the sale charge. The winner was the Hong Kong dealer Bryan Chow, who only made rare appearances in New York until this year. At that price, he cannot have been buying for stock, but only for a new collector not bothered by the late period shunned by traditional connoisseurs, who regard it as repetitive and decadent.
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, realized $550,000. True, Doyle’s expert questioned the validity of the reign mark and cataloged the vase as a 19th-century work. Experienced dealers, on the other hand, did not share these doubts. Giuseppe Eskenazi of London, the world leader in Chinese art, says that the blue and white vase is perfectly genuine, if not of special merit. It might, perhaps, have justified a $30,000 to $40,000 estimate. Intriguingly, the winner of the bidding match was William Chak, a renowned Hong Kong dealer who is highly knowledgeable about 18th-century porcelain, which he personally collects. Mr. Chak was presumably acting as an agent for a client determined to have his way, regardless of cost.
New Chinese Buyers Redefine the Market (New York Times)