It’s happening again. Starting in 2011, Western auction houses saw a rise in runaway lots in their Chinese works of art sales. Chinese buyers were scouring the globe looking for works to re-patriate (or, at least, to return to Chinese ownership.) The price spikes eventually dissipated both through a more efficient market and a decline in Chinese purchasing power.
Surprisingly when Chinese capital controls are said to threaten Mainland buying, Bonhams has just seen two different lots get bid into prices orders of magnitude above the estimates. Here’s what Bonhams said:
A Set of Four Huanghuali Folding Chairs were sold for £5,296,500 at Bonhams Fine Chinese Art sale in London today (Thursday 9 November). The chairs are the only known version of this form and type, and are widely considered a masterpiece of Ming Dynasty furniture. They had been estimated at £100,000-150,000. In a packed saleroom, the bidding war finally came down to a tense battle between a bidder in the room and one on the phone with the chairs finally knocked down to the phone bidder.
The chairs came from the collection of the distinguished Italian diplomat, Marchese Taliani de Marchio. From 1938 to 1946, Taliani served as Ambassador to the National Chiang Kai-shek Government in Nanjing. Despite spending only eight years in China, Taliani was a shrewd and gifted connoisseur who assembled a collection of exceeding rare and important pieces that conveys the rich history of Chinese decorative arts.
An important and exceedingly rare pair of Huanghuali Tapering Cabinets from the Ming Dynasty from the same collection, estimated at £200,000-300,000, sold for £1,688,750.