The surprise of the Asia Week sales in New York was not that items were won by Asian private buyers seeking to bring home artefacts of their past, especially Imperial artefacts. The shock came from the prices that those buyers were willing to pay. Lots soar over auction estimates because more than one collector has a strong desire for the item. The Economist did a little math and shows that there were at least a score of Asian private buyers with the means and the passion to propel the bidding:
Of the top 20 lots sold at Christie’s on September 14th and 15th, 15 were carried off by Asian buyers, six of them private bidders. At Sotheby’s later the same week, private collectors from Asia were even bolder, taking 12 of the top 20 lots. Only one lot was sold to a Western buyer: a 17th-century Buddhist painting of a multi-headed and multi-armed figure, it had been consigned by a Japanese family that acquired the picture before the second world war. It was bought by a private European collector prepared to pay $530,500, far above its top estimate of $150,000.
Homeward Bound (Economist)