It seemed like the sale of the century when Shanghai taxi driver turned billionaire, 52 year-old Liu Yiqian, spent over US$36million on a tiny 500 year-old chicken cup at a Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong in July 2014. Those who thought he was mad, felt their fears confirmed when he paid for it ( with 24 separate swipes of his Amex card) and promptly sat down and drank tea from it.
It seemed like an awful lot of money: he beat London art dealer Eskenazi to the post. But in Shanghai three weeks ago, we picked up word on the street that he has made all the $36m. back already. Apparently, he licensed reproduction of the chicken bowl and more than 100,000 have been produced in Jingdezhen, the porcelain city. They sell at around $50-60 a piece, complete with elegant box and are, indeed, selling like hotcakes! There is also a rather more expensive replica at around $1,000. He presented one of the replicas to the UK’s Prince William on his visit to Shanghai recently.
The production quality is really quite good and it has caught on with Chinese who can’t quite afford the real thing but would like to grace their coffee table with something associated with great wealth. There is also a rather more expensive reproduction for the better heeled.
Two views of the reproduction chicken bowl, above