The worldwide hunt for Chinese Works of Art has gravitated toward the UK ever since the discovery of a Qianlong vase in a London suburb last year. The Guardian describes the scene:
Chinese art collectors are now buying antiques in UK auction houses at an unprecedented rate, transforming trade across the country as millionaires trawl low-profile stocks for stunning treasures. Regional sellers, who used to strive to reach an annual turnover of a few million pounds and hardly ever sold anything for more than £1m, have never seen anything like it, as single items go under the hammer for as much as auction houses once made in a whole year. Ivan Macquisten, editor of the industry weekly Antiques Trade Gazette, told the Observer the “staggering amounts of money” were a “phenomenon”.
Woolley & Wallis, whose saleroom is in Salisbury, saw revenue almost double in 2010 to nearly £28m. More than £19m of that was attributable to Chinese buyers alone. Annual results for the leading provincial auction houses – which are due to be published by the ATG this week – tell the same story.
Tennants, of Leyburn in North Yorkshire, enjoyed almost £14m in sales, while Duke’s of Dorchester raked in almost £12m – more than double its 2009 figure. Sworders, of Stansted Mountfitchet in Essex, estimates that 20% of its entire sales – £7.08m, a new house record – are down to the Chinese trade.