Highlights of 2014 on ChineseArt.co.uk

As 2014 drew to a close, we selected some highlights of the year in the world of Chinese art here in the UK as reported on ChineseArt.co.uk.



In January, we launched our now popular series of Unusual Chines Art Images. This magnificent oil painting (1910) by Matilda Auchinschloss Brownall of a viewer at The Morgan Collection in New York was featured as one of our early images.

January brought in The Year of the Horse.

lr scroll ,horse, pen & ink

Details of this painting (artist unknown) from Chinese Art in Scotland



Xiao Wei and Yi Fei Li symbolise the new wave of adventurous fashion photography in modern China. Picture by Barrett Sweeger for Cream Magazine.



March saw the tragic and mysterious loss of Malaysian airlines flight MH270 on a March 8 flight out of Singapore. There was a party of 19 Chinese artists, relatives and supporters on board, pictured above at their exhibition in the city state.


liu yiian and wife today

Shanghai businessman Liu Yiqian opens his third private museum in the city and shells out US$33.6 million for a tiny chicken cup

chicken cup press


Lucy Liu Olympic Fashion shoot 2008

We featured this stunning image of actress and model Lucy Liu, shot in 2008, Olympic Games year, for Harper’s Bazaar


£427,250 moment of sale

record breaking charger

A record £427,250 for Edinburgh auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull when they sold this blue and white charger, estimated at £2-3,000.


fio sangdeboeuf bowl

The Fiorentini collection of 30 pieces of porcelain was exposed for sale at Bonham’s, Edinburgh and took £105,000. This sang-de-boeuf bowl was knocked down for £11,250.


chen web8

Shanghai-based Chinese sculptor Chen Dapeng appoints Paul Harris Asia Arts as his agents in the UK in advance of a series of exhibitions.


ai weiwei

Major UK exhibition for Ai Weiwei at Blenheim Palace



The 17th Asian Art in London event opens. Our picture from an exhibition mounted by Michael Goedhuis of outstanding ink and watercolour paintings by Yang Yanping.

B0014P 0138


woolley freys and cups freya

Woolley & Wallis Chinese expert Freya Yuan cradles the top selle, one of a pair of bowls which exceeded £420,000 from their £3.2m. November sale.


Royals Will and Kate visited New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. This was one Chinese picture they didn’t see . . .  Art critic Jerry Saltz posted it on Instagram and got booted off the site. We wonder why!


Brought Christmas, as ever, but this Santa Claus print from Andy Warhol, offered by Artron in online auction, failed to find an owner.


. . . and on to 2015. Happy New Year everyone!

Woolley & Wallis report Asian Art 2014 ‘highlight’

Salisbury auctioneers Woolley & Wallis, who are renowned as skilful operators in the Asian market, with two 2-day sales a year, have just issued their 2014 Report. Chairman Paul Viney avers ‘Jewellery and Asian Art provided most of the highlights’ in a year in which the company achieved sales of £20,200,000 (premium inclusive). And, indeed, in their jewellery report they point out that ‘The amber market continues to accelerate, encouraged by the strength of the Chinese buyers.’

One of their strongest performers in November’s £3m. + Asian sale was a pair of 18th century Chinese Yongzheng doucai cups. Just 4.5cm. high they, nevertheless, sold to a Chinese buyer for £453,800 (premium incl.).

woolley freys and cups freya

Freya Yuan from Woolley & Wallis’ Asian department shows off one of the tiny top performers in the November 2014 sale.



Unusual Chinese art image 50 Cycling with Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei 'Forever Bicycles'

Ai Weiwei’s Forever Bicycles  Installation at the Tapei Fine Arts Museum Picture by The Toronto Star via Tumblr Orientally Yours

Ai Weiwei’s dramatic installation is made up of 1,200 stainless steel bicycles from the historic Chinese brand Yong Jiu (‘forever’) which has produced bicycles in Shanghai since 1940. Weiwei appears to be reflecting upon the social and environmental changes in today’s China as the once ubiquitous pushbikes are replaced by cars.

Santa’s Reserve Not Met!


There was bad news for Artnet, the online auctioneer, who failed to sell their seasonal Andy Warhol Santa Claus in the run-up to Christmas. Nevertheless, Santa was not discouraged and still made all his calls this Christmas night. If you want to brighten up Artnet’s Christmas, you could still fire off a bid . . . although you might be a little late to get it delivered by Santa Claus himself.


Andy Warhol (American, 1928–1987)

Santa Claus (from Myths), 1971
Lot ID: 105650
Screenprint with diamond dust on Lenox Museum Board  38 х 38 in. (96.52 x 96.52 cm.)   Signed and numbered AP 28/30 in pencil

Edition of 200 (plus 30 artist’s proofs) Foundry/Publisher Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, Inc., New York

Estimate: 20,000—25,000 USD                                                                                   Number of Bids: 1 (reserve not met)

A Merry Christmas to All Our Readers

A very Merry Christmas to all our readers – to the hundreds of thousands of you from all over the world who check into this site every month. It has been a great year here at ChineseArt.co.uk – look out for our review of the year 2014 which will be posted between Christmas and New Year!

Visitors walk past a giant snow sculpture ahead of the 30th Harbin Ice and Snow Festival in Harbin

The Harbin International Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival starts on January 5 2015. This seasonal picture was taken at this year’s Festival.

Sadberk Hanim Museum is Turkey’s unknown Chinese porcelain exhibit

Everybody has heard of the Topkapi Saray collection of Chinese porcelain in Istanbul but few are aware of the Sadberk Hanim Museum . . .  the what, you may ask? Indeed, situated in a an elegant private house on The Bosphorus, rather nearer the Black Sea than the cosmopolitan Turkish city of Istanbul (formerly fabled Constantinople), it is Turkey’s very first private museum, built on a fabulous fortune.

Recently, we were able to visit and look at the remarkable collection of Chinese export porcelain held there. Altogether, there are around 180 pieces of Chinese porcelain. The areas of collecting are particularly strong in kraak ware, early celadon, blue and white  and famille verte.

Sadberk Hanim museum exhibits gv web

A general view of some of the 180 Chinese exhibits at The Sadberk Hanim Museum, Istanbul   Photo Paul Harris

Vehbi Koç Foundation’s Sadberk Hanım Museum is indeed Turkey’s first private museum intended to exhibit the private collection of Sadberk Koç, the wife of Vehbi Koç. The Museum was opened on 14 October 1980 at a building called the Azaryan Mansion in Sarıyer-Büyükdere.

Sadberk Hanim Museum web

The Azaryan Mansion which houses the Sadberk Hanim Museum

The Azaryan Mansion was built at the end of the 19th century and was purchased by the Koç family in 1950. It was used as the family’s summer retreat until they decided to convert the building into a museum in 1978. Between 1978-80, the building was subjected to a restoration project by Sedat Hakkı Eldem and was converted into a museum. The Koc family is probably best known internationally as the owners of the Beko white goods empire.

The museum’s collection initially consisted of the private collection of Sadberk Koç, which included traditional costumes, embroidery, silver artefacts with “tuğra” and porcelain and suchlike artefacts, and in due course was augmented with donations and purchases. Following the demise of Hüseyin Kocabaş, one of the greatest collectors of Turkey, his collection was also added to the Sadberk Hanım Museum’s Collection. In 1983, Vehbi Koç Foundation decided to purchase the neighbouring mansion that is believed to have been built around the beginning of the 20th century to accommodate the Hüseyin Kocabaş Collection and the mansion’s facade was restored in the original style. Sadberg Hanim blue & white 16-17c web

16th & 17th century blue and white porcelain  Photo Paul Harris

Whilst at the time of its foundation Sadberk Hanım Museum contained 3.000 pieces, at present, the inventory has reached more than 18.000 artefacts in its collection. Archaeological relics belonging to Anatolian civilisation from 6th millennium B.C. till the end of the Byzantines are housed in the Sevgi Gönül Building. Islamic artefacts with Ottoman emphasis, European, Far Eastern and Near Eastern artefacts that were produced for the Ottomans, woven textiles from the Ottoman era, garments and embroideries are being exhibited in the Azaryan Building. The important collection of Chinese porcelain reflects both the influence of the Silk Road trading links over the centuries as well as the well developed taste of the Ottoman Sultans.

Kraak porcelain ware 16-17c web Kraak porcelain ware at the Sadberk Hanim Museum  Photo Paul Harris

Taiwan artist Yi-Chun Lo tackles global political issues with banana peel

Taiwanese artist Yi-Chun Lo’s provocative and accomplished installations, made from banana peels, address such issues as welfare strikes, Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution and the historical exploitation of banana plantation workers.

Yi-Chun Lo standing in her installation "Banana Justice at CAI. Image courtesy the artist.

Yi-Chun Lo standing beside her installation “Banana Justice” at CAI in Massachusets. Image courtesy Yi-Chun Lo

Yi-Chun Lo (b. 1985, Taipei), received her MFA in Sculpture in 2007 from the National Taiwan University of the Arts. Since then, she has exhibited her work widely in Taiwan. More recently, she has travelled to other countries such as Japan, India and the United States with grants from the Taiwan government’s Ministry of Culture as an artist in residence, to produce site-specific works and expand her artistic practice to community and environmental art projects.

Presently, Yi-Chun Lo is an artist-in-residence at Contemporary Arts International (CAI) in Acton, Massachusetts. During this residency, Yi-Chun has created her artwork entirely from dried banana peels that she has collected at local markets and shops while interacting with the local community. She deals with global issues like those of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and the exploitation of Third World workers, like those in the banana industry highlighting the view that is the duty of the artist to get involved in complex social and political issues.

Record claimed for cinnabar lacquer box sold at Rosebery’s

Roseberys’ 10 December 10 fine art auction saw a rare and impressive 18th century cinnabar lacquer quatrefoil box and cover sell for £30,600.

Chinese Red Cinnabar Lacquer Box and Cover

Roseberys Asian Art specialist Peter Greenway said: “We knew the quality of the materials and high level of craftsmanship used to create this stunning example would suggest that it was created for an Emperor, but the price achieved for this piece confirms [sic,] it must have been made for the Imperial court. It is extremely rare to see a piece of cinnabar of this size and quality from the Qinglong period, and the realised price exceeded any other UK record that we are aware of.”

The highly decorative box measures 27.2cm diameter and is decorated on the lid with figures in a landscape, seated and on looking figures all enclosed within floral panels. The base panels are decorated with deer, herons and other auspicious animals, all enclosed within continuous geometric pattern.  Inside the box a gold four character mark read “Precious Music Box” and on the base it had a six character Qinglong mark. 

Sent for sale from a Dorset manor house the box had been unseen since the 1920s and had remained the property of a family with strong diplomatic connections. Four telephone lines and strong absentee bidding saw the box ultimately sell on the telephone to an oversees buyer.

From the same manor house an extremely rare cloisonné hat box with zitan hardwood stand and cover sold to a different international buyer for £20,400 (it had been anticipated before the sale that it would, in fact, be the headline item). Beautifully decorated and an attractive example of some exceptional cloisonné work, the box is decorated with a central flower enclosed within bands of stylised scrolling foliage, bats and clouds. As with many other examples of Chinese artwork from the period bats are included to symbolise happiness, joy and good fortune, and the clouds are an auspicious symbol meaning longevity in good fortune.


Small but perfectly formed, Chinese snuff bottles are taking off . . .

Schnupfer_corrected The snuff box in Europe

Snuff was discovered at the end of the 15th century by Christopher Columbus and his fellow adventurers as they roamed the western side of the Atlantic. But snuff took a while to take off in China. The earliest recorded date on a Chinese snuff bottle is 1644 but they would really take off in the 18th century..While 17th-century Europeans stored their powdered tobacoo in boxes, the humidity in much of China (and the lack of pockets in Chinese garments) necessitated a handheld, airtight repository — and thus the snuff bottle was born.

These tiny vessels were the focus of “Small Delights: Chinese Snuff Bottles,” a yearlong show at The Metropolitan Museum of Art earlier this year. Some of the most sought-after examples exhibited came from the imperial workshops of the Qianlong emperor, a noted patron of the arts.

They were never particularly valued. Indeed. upon meeting a friend or acquaintance in the street it was customary to extend one’s arm (your supply of stuff being secreted in the sleeve) and snuff bottles and contents were duly exchanged.

However, that appears to be changing significantly. Three or four years ago it was relatively easy to pick up interesting Chinese snuff bottles for around £50, sometimes even less. If you hoped to ride a snuff bottle bottle boom, there can be little doubt you are too late.

Several provincial sales this autumn have highlighted the increasing value of Chinese snuff bottles. Two we have been at – Woolley & Wallis in November and Lyon & Turnbull earlier this month – evidenced vastly increased prices for these alluring small objects. To a certain extent, provenance at both auctions played a part although Mary Stewart, the romantic novelist whose collection was dispersed at L&T, was hardly renowned before her death at a world-class Chinese collector. However, she did have good dealers lurking in the background. At the Woolley & Wallis sale some snuff bottle lots got up to 20 times their estimates.

A sale last week online, however, underlines what might confidently be termed an emergent trend. Even more sensational results were achieved by Berlin-based Auctionata.

With intense bidding for every single item, ‘Exceptional Snuff Bottles from a Spanish Collection’ was Auctionata’s first auction to sell out entirely, leading to an impressive overall result of € 161,652 (incl. buyer’s premium).

The auction presented 64 snuff bottles from a private collection in Spain. The small, yet artfully crafted vessels attracted bidders with their impressive diversity of designs and precious materials such as agate, jade, overlay glass and porcelain.

For nearly four hours, Auctioneer Philipp von Hutten and Auctionata’s Senior Specialist for Asian Art, Dr. Arne Sildatke, presented the small but fine artworks to 498 users from 28 different countries. Throughout the auction, bidders from China, Thailand, United Kingdom, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany engaged in heated bidding contests which resulted in hammer prices that surpassed the estimates by far. The most sought after object of the night was a shadow agate snuff bottle with a bird motif and a dark-brown and black grain and a stopper of gilt brass with filigree decoration and round turquoises from the Qing dynasty, which ultimately sold for € 15,600. Another highlight was a shadow agate snuff bottle with telief handles from Qing Dynasty in light brown with a dark brown to black veining which sold for € 11,400 (all prices including buyer’s premium).

The reasoning behind the increased demand for these small but usually perfectly formed objects is hardly difficult to divine. They represent eminently portable wealth. And there is, of course, a pent up demand for wealth which might be transferred across certain national borders without tiresome duties and taxes, and retained as an apparently unostentatious way of investing ones wealth.


Shadow Agate Snuff Bottle with Birds, Qing Dynasty

Agate, light brown with a dark brown to black veining. Stopper of gilt brass with filigree decoration and round turqouises and bone spoon. Height: 7 cm.

Sold for € 15,600 (incl. buyer’s premium)


Unusual Chinese art image 48 Cycling fun from The Zhiying Studio


A 1940s calendar posted from the Shanghai-based Zhiying Studio featured this cheerful young lady rather bizarrely riding a bicycle in high heels!  The Zhiying Studio was founded in 1923 and made advertisements, calendars, posters and trademark images. The principals invoved included many painters like Hang Zhiying (1900-47), Jin Xuecheng (1904-96) and Li Mubaai (1913-91). Hang Zhiying was a cult figure in the world of design in Shanghai and, accordingly, most of the output of the studio was signed ‘Zhiying’.

Chinese bidets, chamber pots and spittoons come out of the closet

book review typewriter   ‘Out of the Ordinary’

When we talk of Chinese export porcelain we tend to think of the finely worked grander items produced for a sophisticated Western taste: tea services, dinner sets, tureens and armorial plates are seen around relatively often. Everyday objects, fashioned in unusual shapes, like bidets, chamber pots, spittoons and barber’s bowls tend to surface rather less frequently. Now they are doing rather well: at auction only last week I noticed en export porcelain blue and white bidet (illustrated in this new publication) get £3,750. Now we have a detailed guide to these more unusual pieces from Jorge Welsh Books.

bidet L&T

Export porcelain bidet. £3,750 last week at Lyon & Turnbull

Chinese export porcelain was produced in an extraordinary range of shapes during the late 17th and 18th centuries, some of which are truly out of the ordinary. This lavish catalogue from Jorge Welsh, who is also hosting an exhibition in his Kensington Church Street gallery, focuses on the most unusual forms of porcelain, frequently ordered in smaller quantities and through private trade.

Most of these items were copied from Western prototypes made in metal, ceramics or glass, and can also be characterized by their functionality. This catalogue (in actuality a large format coffee table book) includes egg cups, strainers, cutlery handles, pudding moulds, custard pots, ladles, funnels, bulb pots, snuff boxes, cane handles, barber’s bowls and chamber pots, amongst others. The sheer variety of forms in this group is a testament to the significant reach of the porcelain trade as well as the remarkable adaptability of the Chinese potter.

Pair of Famille Rose Goose Tureens and Covers

A handsome pair of famille rose goose tureens at Jorge Welsh’s gallery

Commissioned according to the latest fashions, they also provide an insight into the scope of the European orders and the sophistication of contemporary consumer society in Europe at this time. The popularity of new, exotic and luxury products such as tea, coffee, chocolate and various spices, as well as some alcoholic beverages, stimulated new social practices and the need for numerous porcelain utensils. Also used for personal grooming, fashionable accoutrements and furnishing the home, Chinese porcelain permeated many of the more intimate aspects of daily life during this period.

The book is particularly well illustrated. If £100 seems a bit on the steep side, I do remember the advice given me years ago by an old China hand. ‘You should always lay aside 10% of your buying budget for reference books.’ They don’t depreciate in value, either. I have seen a shelf of sought after Chinese art reference books make as much as £10,000 at auction.


OUT OF THE ORDINARY  LIVING WITH CHINESE EXPORT PORCELAIN    Published by Jorge Welsh Books, London and Lisbon, October 2014

  • Language: English
  • Hardcover
  • ISBN 978-0-9573547-1-5
  • 23.5 × 29.7 cm
  • 344 pages, 351 colour illustrations
  • £100.00