Wild Chinese bidders struck again late last week at Skinner as a slightly damaged Qianlong vase made $24.7m against much, much lower estimate ($150,000):
Judith Dowling, director of Asian works of art at Skinner, said the consensus among scholars is that the vase was ordered by the Qianlong Emperor and that it’s a sampler of various techniques that were used during the previous 200 years. The vase last appeared at auction in 1964 when it sold for $750, according to Skinner.
“It says a lot,” Dowling said. “In 1964, China was closed. There were not so many buyers of Chinese material in the U.S. Now the Chinese are taking back their material, buying it wherever they can find it.”
A similar vase is displayed at the Palace Museum in Beijing, according to the auction house. The estimate was conservative because the object had been damaged and included cracks and repairs.
“We put a very low, conservative estimate on it,” Dowling said. “Nothing like this had ever sold.”
Skinner brought the piece to New York on Sept. 12. ahead of the Asia Week’s start, where it was seen by visiting collectors and Hong Kong and Beijing. During the sale, the bidding started at $150,000 but very soon someone from the audience yelled “Five million,” Dowling said. “And then it took off.”