Kelly Crow was at the Fujita Museum sale of Chinese works of art that did so well last night. Many have wondered why the sale was so explosive. But the answer seems to lie in two places. The museum, unlike many consignors, was not eager to see estimates raised; and, the record of similar objects sold—which were nowhere near the level of quality of the Fujita works—could not support higher estimates.
In the field of Chinese Works of Art, because of the problems with authenticity and documentation, provenance adds tremendous value if the works come from a well-known, well-researched and well-respected collection. The Fujita Museum is one, judging from these results. Which explains that there were buyers lining up to get more than one of the 31 lots offered, as Crow narrates:
The mood in Christie’s was exuberant most of the night. When auctioneer Jussi Pylkkanen opened bidding on Li Gonglin’s scroll, “Treaty of Bianqiao,” he tried to kick-start bids at $500,000, but prices quickly escalated when a telephone bidder lobbed a $10 million bid. The room gasped, but other collectors joined in, and another anonymous phone bidder eventually won it for $17.6 million. Its estimate: $800,000 to $1 million.
Zhao Lingrang’s late 11th-century depiction of “Willows and Geese” sold for $27.1 million to the phone bidder who kept supercharging the event with $10 million bids. “Willows” was only expected to sell for up to $950,000.