Increasingly international in outlook, UK-based auctioneers Bonhams (www.bonhams.com) look to the future of the China market with confidence. Speaking today with chineseart.co.uk at their Beijing HQ in the city’s exclusive Chang An Club, which houses many top businesses like the Porsche motor company, Bonhams’ China representative, Ms Yu Hongyu, said, “The boom here is far from over. The market may have slowed a little but the economy still allows new people to get into the market. People are still getting rich. That includes many young people who are making their money both online and offline.”
Paul Harris pictured with Ms Yu Hongyu, Bonhams’ China representative, today at Beijing’s Chang An Club. Picture Sulee Harris
Yu Hongyu set up Bonhams’ office in China one and a half years ago. It is not the company’s intention to set up as auctioneers in China itself. “There is a well established network of small local auction houses here, as well as Sotheby’s and Christie’s who are running occasional auctions.”
Instead, she sees it as her role to identify the growing number of Chinese collectors and bring to their attention the Bonhams’ sales which might be of interest to them. Inevitably, that means the company’s important Hong Kong sales and, later this month, she is organising previews in both Shanghai and Beijing of the company’s upcoming Hong Kong May auctions, which range from Fine and Rare Wines, Cognac and Single Malt Whiskies to Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, Chinese Paintings & Calligraphy, as well as Classical, Modern and Contemporary Ink.
Although the Chinese economy has experienced a slowdown, Yu Hongyu says there is always a market in China for “good pieces”. There is a lot of new money about in China. “The acquisition of a good piece of art is a way of saying there is more to life than simply making money’.”
In the Chinese lexicon it all about face. A person who appreciates culture and art demonstrates that he or she is a person of real substance far beyond the narrow constructs of an ability to make money.
A magnificent and important large green jade carving of a water buffalo dating from 17/18th century and believed to be of Imperial origin heads Bonhams autumn sales in Hong Kong on November 27th. It is estimated to sell for HK$12,000,000-15,000,000 (£1m to £1.2m). Previously it was held in two important British collections and has been handled by esteemed London dealer Sydney Moss.
The handsome buffalo carved from an exceptionally large stone of rich celadon tone, lies placidly on its stomach with four legs bent underneath and its head turned to the left to gaze straight ahead with docile eyes.
Experts believe the buffalo was taken at the sack of the Summer Palace during the Boxer Rebellion in 1898 – 1900, when the Chinese violently rebelled against the Western presence and influence in their country.
Colin Sheaf, Bonhams UK and Asia Chairman, said: “Large jade animal figures are some of the most remarkable products of Imperial Chinese nephrite carving, laboriously created three centuries ago. This buffalo stands comparison with the best models that have come to auction in a generation.”
This important jade work from the renowned collections of Lt.Col. M.A. Johnson, Somerset de Chair and Jorge de Brito, is a remarkable feat of Chinese jade carving, achieving the astonishing combination of grace, strength, gentleness, majesty, naturalness and timelessness. Carved from a single block of richly-toned jade.
It is very likely that it once graced one of the imperial palaces based on the provenance of similar beasts known to have adorned these royal homes.
Jade has traditionally been association with immortality and spiritual power. It is not until the Song period that jade was more generally used as a material for sculpting the creatures of daily life, and whose use was not restricted to assisting in the afterlife. Such small jade carvings tend to have softer, more appealing and realistic features, and often a sense of playfulness.
The buffalo underpinned rice production and the rural economy and, as such, is emblematic of agriculture and spring time, and represents strength, endurance, hard work, prosperity and tranquillity.
Another aspect of the buffalo is its guardian function, stemming from the legend of the Emperor Yu of the Xia dynasty casting an iron ox to subdue floods. This connection was most notably represented in the huge bronze ox commissioned by the Qianlong Emperor in 1755 and placed gazing out over the Kunming Lake at the Summer Palace. Depicted in jade rather than bronze, with an eternally placid yet watchful expression, the present lot surely also observes and protects its owner. In its size and presence, it is a culmination of Chinese jade sculptural traditions, combining practical, spiritual and protective elements to a far greater extent than other buffalo carvings.
The sale of this single lot is accompanied by a handsome stand-alone hardback catalogue chronicling its history and background. It will probably become a collector’s item itself in the fullness of time!
Lieutenant Colonel Maurice Alan Johnson (born in 1909, commissioned into the army in 1930 reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1953, served with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps)
Sold at Sotheby’s London, 29 May 1962, lot 139
Sydney L.Moss Ltd., London
Somerset de Chair (1911-1995), sold at Sotheby’s London, 27 November 1973, lot 54
Jorge de Brito (1927-2006)
When Armand Hammer was due to meet with China’s premier, Deng Xiaoping, in the late 1980s, he did not have to think long about what would constitute a suitable gift. He took with him an early work by Chen Yifei, a young Chinese artist he had discovered in New York, who was (most untraditionally for a young Chinese artist in those days) painting in oil on canvas.
Now Bonhams will be selling another work by this artist – a massive 10ft by 6ft oil depicting two elegant ladies – at its sale of Chinese Classical and Modern Chinese Works of Art on November 17th in Hong Kong for an estimated HK$ 12,000,000 to 14,000,000 (£900,000 to £1m). The painting titled Two Reclining Beauties was bought by the current owner directly from the artist’s studio, brokered by legendary London dealers Marlborough Fine Art. This is the first time that it has been seen on the auction market.
The artist Chen Yifei marked the emergence of a radical new direction in the commercial market for Chinese art, painting Western-taste subjects in an oil medium which had not hitherto been at all popular in China.
Chen Yifei has never looked back from the patronage of a famous American collector, and his most expensive work sold two years ago for US$8m.
Armand Hammer (1898–1990) was a hugely successful American entrepreneur, most closely associated with Occidental Petroleum, a company he ran for decades. He was also well known for his art collecting and his philanthropy and his close ties to the Soviet Union.
Hammer’s business interests around the world and his “citizen diplomacy” helped him cultivate a wide network of friends and acquaintances.
Colin Sheaf, Bonhams Asia Chairman, comments: “Since 2007 we have dramatically increased range and quality of the finest Chinese art we offer in Hong Kong. By securing for sale this exceptional oil painting, a masterpiece by one of China’s most innovative and successful painters of the last fifty years, we demonstrate once again that Bonhams’ scholarship, marketing, sale presentation, and record prices are all very reassuring to top consignors around the world.”
The first sale of six auctions in Bonhams new Auction Gallery at Admiralty in Hong Kong culminated in a sale of Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art which saw an unprecedented price achieved for a unique Imperial Ming lacquer scholars object.
A most beautiful early Ming cinnabar lacquer scroll rest sold for £stg 408,042
A unique large cinnabar double-scroll rectangular carved stand, formerly used as a scroll rest, set a new record for any piece of Chinese lacquer sold at Bonhams. Active bidding from collectors and dealers in Asia, Europe and America led to the estimates being greatly exceeded when an Asian buyer in the saleroom secured this great rarity for HK$5,320,000 (£ sterling £408,042). It was consigned from the Kaisendo Museum, located in Kaminoyama city in Yamagata prefecture in Japan. The scroll-rest was followed by a remarkable pair of carved cinnabar lacquer ‘one hundred boys’ rectangular boxes and covers, also intended for the scholar’s desk, sold together to preserve them as an exceptionally rare matched stationery and inkstone box. They also substantially exceeded their estimates to sell for HK$3,160,000. The final lot from the Kaisendo Museum, a rare three-colour lacquer circular ‘Pavilion’ box and cover, sold for HK$937,500.
These three lots from the Kaisendo Museum represented the highlights in a large auction which also saw strong prices for fine examples of jade carvings and Imperial porcelain.
The sale of Classical and Modern Chinese Ink Paintings achieved the highest total for this category Bonhams Hong Kong has ever achieved since it opened in 2007. This auction saw top prices for paintings by 20th Century masters including the exceptional study of ‘A Pair of Songbirds Perched Amidst Red Leaves’ by Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), which was bought by a new bidder to Bonhams for a record price of HK$9,040,000 (£693,365).
Classical calligraphy included an exceptional rarity by the famous Ming dynasty artist Wen Zhengming (1470-1559) which recounts a famous Ming fictional story, ‘The Tale of the Old Drunkard Pavilion’, and went to a new private buyer for HK$7,840,000. A full audience showed the Chinese paintings market remains very strong at the top level.
The first sale at the new Bonhams Hong Kong Auction Gallery on 17 May got off to a good start.
The saleroom was packed with Contemporary Art collectors based in Asia and keen bidding in the room and on the telephone drove the sale to a successful conclusion with 84% sold by value. The top lot, an iconic oil on canvas triptych ‘Red, Yellow and Blue’ by famed contemporary Chinese artist Liu Ye sold at the high estimate for HK$6,040,000 (US$780,000) to a Taiwanese collector.
Two bronze sculptures ‘Single Whip Dip’ and ‘Taichi Series’ by Taiwanese modern master Ju Ming sold for HK$1,720,000 and HK$1,060,000 respectively to a Hong Kong collector.
Bonhams is the world’s third largest international fine art auction house.
Six stunning brushpots which made fortunes Re-blogged from the-saleroom.com
The brushpot that sold for £150,000 at Sworders of Stansted Mountfitchet on April 29.
A £150,000 bid secured a very large ‘Hundred Boys’ Zitan brushpot at Sworders of Stansted Mountfitchet on April 29. It was a stunning five-times-top-estimate price.
Rarity, craftsmanship, subject matter, material, artist, marks, seals, period and Imperial connections are all factors that can affect desirability and price. An Imperial piece from the Emperor’s personal collection created by a leading artist at the zenith of production during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor (1736-95), carved in spinach green or white jade is about as good as it gets, although rare pieces in other materials have been known to outstrip even these.
Here are five outstanding prices for brush pots in recent years. 6½in (16.5cm) high Chinese underglaze blue porcelain brush pot, attributed to Wang Bu (1898-1968). Sold for $480,000 (£325,000) on February 17, 2012, by Clars of Oakland, California.
6½in (16.5cm) high Kangxi (1662-1722) carved ‘landscape’ bitong, or brushpot, made in China by Gu Jue, one of the most famous artists of the period. Sold for £360,000 ($554,400), May 23, 2012, by Woolley & Wallis of Salisbury, England.
5in (12.25cm) high Qianlong (1736-95) finely carved and pierced white jade brushpot imbued with auspicious symbols of pine and bamboo. Sold for £430,000 ($662,200), November 11, 2013, by Christie’s, King Street, London.
6¼in (16cm) high Qianlong (1736-95) Yixing stoneware slip-decorated brushpot, signed Yang Jichu. Sold for HK$5.6m/$666,500 (£430,000), May 27, 2012, by Bonhams Hong Kong.
Extremely rare 4¾in (12cm) high mark and period Qianlong (1736-95) seal famille rose heaven and earth revolving brushpot constructed in three parts. Sold for $1.7m (£1.13m), March 20, 2012, Sotheby’s New York.
London-based Auctioneers Bonhams demonstrated its commitment to the burgeoning Chinese market by opening it own purpose-built Auction Gallery on May 8 in Hong Kong.
Site of the new auction gallery Bonhams, Hong Kong
The gavel fell for the first time in the new Gallery, wielded by British Consul-General for Hong Kong & Macao Caroline Wilson. The guest of honour was welcomed by Robert Brooks, Group Chairman and the Directors of Bonhams Asia.
Her Excellency the Consul General offered a warm welcome. “It’s great to be able to combine art, business, culture, retail and make history in one event. The Bonhams dedicated saleroom is a huge vote of confidence in Hong Kong and the Chinese, regional and global marketplace it represents. Bonhams has already voted with its feet in opening offices in Beijing, Taipei, Tokyo and Singapore. With this permanent auction space I am sure you will revolutionise auctioneering in Hong Kong and the region.”
Addressing the large audience of collectors, dealers and art world luminaries, Bonhams chairman Robert Brooks, commented: “Bonhams has been holding auctions in Hong Kong since 2007, and these have been very successful. Since 2001, the company has undergone a massive international expansion. Bonhams now operates in 27 countries and on five continents.
“Like the other auction houses here we have been using temporary hotel settings for our auctions. Those days are over. These premises are our first purpose built auction rooms outside UK and the USA and it’s no coincidence that we have chosen Hong Kong as the location.
“We also believe the time is right to make another major change. As you know, at the moment, sales in Hong Kong take place in two short bursts of activity – in Spring and Autumn. We’re going to alter that. So, overall, Bonhams will be offering more sales, more often and in more collecting areas than our rivals. This is how the auction business operates in the rest of the world. We think that’s how it should operate here.”
The Gallery designed by award winning UK architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands sets a new standard for auctioning art in the Asia region, and includes unprecedented technical features to provide uniquely flexible open space immediately adaptable to accommodate auctions, lectures, private previews and public events in one of Hong Kong’s most prestigious buildings.
“These state of the art premises remind us of the influence that the British art auctioneering tradition has had on Hong Kong and Asia. Few exported British brands have been so influential internationally as the 18th century British art auction brand, commented Brooks.”
The first series of international fine art auctions in the new premises will run from 13 to 26 May.