Asian Art in London celebrates in style in the wake of Her Majesty!

20171109_195543 Roger Keverne, AAL Chairman (right), looks pleased as he makes a point at the Asian Art in London 20th Anniversary Gala Party held in the British Museum’s Joseph Hutong Gallery on Thursday evening.  Photo Paul Harris.


The AAL Gala Party is normally a glittering affair and the 20th Birthday Party held on Thursday probably excelled itself. Around 450 celebrants crowded into the newly renovated and redesigned Joseph Hutong Gallery of Chinese and South Asian Art at London’s British Museum. This was very much a preview. The Gallery does not fully open to the public until December and just one rather important visitor sprang in ahead of AAL the day previously, HM Queen Elizabeth II (and rightly so!).

So the surroundings were impeccable, the exhibits on show stunning and, as usual, the champagne flowed in unlimited quantities, fully justifying the £70 ticket price! All was in sharp contrast to last year’s event which took place in a cafeteria atmosphere in Chinatown.

AAL Chairman Roger Keverne, who will resign in December, at which time the Board of AAL will vote on his successor, compered and, in association with Director Virginia Sykes-Wright, introduced this year’s winners of the AAL Awards. The auctioneer section was shared by Bonhams, one of The Big Three, and Chiswick Auctions, which is emerging as a cheeky challenger to the giants – it has just opened up in South Ken and, in the wake of Christie’s abandoning its operations there, has adopted the acronym CSK. Eat your heart out, Christies!

In the dealer category, there was a very popular award to Priestley & Ferraro. David Priestley took the award which came directly as a result of their stunning display of Early Chinese Carved Cinnabar Lacquer entitled The Deeper Picture and which ran through AAL in the lower floor of their premises in St James’s.


David Priestley clutches his well deserved Dealer Award at Thursday evening’s Asian Art in London 20th Birthday party. Pictured with Roger Keverne and the Editor of Apollo Magazine, Thomas Marks.    Photo Paul Harris

Bonhams offer Warhol’s Chairman Mao


Bonhams will lead the Post-War and Contemporary Art season with a spectacular Andy Warhol painting of Chairman Mao, estimated at £580,000-780,000, to be offered at New Bond Street on 29 June.

The stunning, densely-textured painting comes fresh to the market having originally been handled by the artist’s legendary dealer Leo Castelli in the 1970s. The distinctive coloration and clarity of composition makes this arguably the finest of the series ever to appear at auction. Renowned as one of Warhol’s most significant, signature images, the Mao paintings feature in many of the world’s most prestigious public and private collections worldwide.

Warhol was transfixed by the People’s Republic of China in 1971. ‘I have been reading so much about China,’ he said at the time. ‘The only picture they ever have is of Mao Zedong. It’s great. It looks like a silkscreen.’ Inspired, Warhol made his first picture of the communist leader the following year. The Mao series is based on a photograph taken from the cover of The Thoughts of Chairman Mao – otherwise known as the Little Red Book, of which almost a billion copies were printed in China, leading to an acute paper shortage during the Cultural Revolution. During the early seventies, Warhol used to carry the Little Red Book around in his pocket. Eric Shiner, director of the Andy Warhol museum, describes the artist as ‘smitten with communism – with everyone wearing the same clothes and reading the same books’.

In the early 1970s, after a decade of screenprinting, Warhol returned to painting. His Maos tend to be more painterly than his earlier pop art, developing from the relentless replication of the 60s into more personalised, one-off works combining silkscreens with gestural painted additions. This particular piece has unusually thick impasto, with expressive brushwork in subtle blue hues and a halo of vivid scarlet interrupting the almost blinding vibrancy of the acid green background.

‘It is one of the finest – if not the finest – example of Warhol’s small format Maos out there,’ said Ralph Taylor, Senior Director for the Bonhams Post-War & Contemporary Art department. ‘It’s an absolute classic, brilliantly executed, with sterling provenance. Collectors who target the very best will find much to admire with this painting.’

Works depicting Chairman Mao appear to be the subject of growing demand in China. Last month a rare porcelain statue came on the market and is currently beng offered by Chinese Art in Scotland ( for a six figure sum.

May auctions (26) Statue of Chairman Mao also on offer

Auctioneers Bonhams have confidence in China market

Increasingly international in outlook, UK-based auctioneers Bonhams ( look to the future of the China market with confidence. Speaking today with 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.

SONY DSC The Chang An Club building in the centre of Beijing houses Bonham’s China office. Picture Paul Harris

Christie’s open Shanghai base on historic Bund

It is becoming abundantly clear that all the major London auction houses are vying with each other to establish themselves in pole position in what they see as the lucrative Chinese market.

The main competitors presently are Sotheby’s and Christie’s and it is understood that Bonham’s, currently for sale on the market itself, will also likely join the race as soon as its future is determined having recently opened opulent new premises in Hong Kong’s Pacific Plaza.

This week, Christie’s have made some important announcements.

  • Christie’s Shanghai is opening its new home at a historical landmark building on the Bund
  • A new category of Chinese Contemporary Design to be featured at the Shanghai Autumn Auction on 24 October, in addition to Asian and Western 20th Century and Contemporary Art evening sale and a Prestigious Lifestyle sale
  • A ground breaking and cross-category private sales exhibition, The Art of The Horse, tours Shanghai and Hong Kong

One year after its ground-breaking inaugural sale in mainland China, Christie’s announces the opening of a new home and a multi-purpose art space at Shanghai’s historical Bund. To mark the occasion, Christie’s will present its Shanghai autumn auctions on 24 October featuring an evening sale of Asian and Western 20th Century and Contemporary Art, a Prestigious Lifestyle sale, and the launch of a new category of Chinese Contemporary Design. A private selling exhibition, The Art of The Horse, will be the opening exhibition at Christie’s Shanghai on 21 October, and tours to Hong Kong in November.

22 Bund at night frm M lr

Christie’s are establishing themselves on Shanghai’s historic Bund on the banks of the Huangpu River. Photo by Paul Harris

Located in the heart of The Bund, the historic commercial centre of the city graced by its most elegant buildings, Christie’s Shanghai is housed at the Ampire Building which was built in 1907 and has been part of the urban landscape over the past century. The combination of heritage and style is a perfect match for Christie’s.  Covering an area of nearly 1,000 square meters for exhibition galleries and offices, Christie’s Shanghai will serve as a convening place for collectors and art lovers by holding exhibitions, lectures, events, private sales, and embodies the same spirit of similar spaces developed by Christie’s in New York, London and Paris.

“Shanghai blends a fascinating history and a dynamic spirit, which makes it one of the great cultural centres in the world. The character and elegance of the classical building on the Bund, which has become Christie’s new ‘home’, is a perfect illustration of the uniqueness of this city. It will provide an ideal setting for us to continue developing our activities, with an expanded programme of auctions, exhibitions, lectures and events tailored to the interests of Chinese collectors,” said François Curiel, Chairman of Christie’s Asia Pacific.

Since setting up as the first international auction house in China in 1994 with a representative office, this latest landmark in Christie’s history demonstrates the auction house’s commitment to China and its art market.

Jinqing Cai, President of Christie’s China, said, “As we continue to expand in China, Christie’s new art space will allow us to accommodate the many activities that we have planned for China. Our mission is to become an integral part of the art community in China while promoting great works of art by Chinese artists and creative talents globally. The launch of our Chinese Contemporary Design category, for example, is also part of our plan to offer exciting initiatives to art lovers in China and worldwide. After being exhibited at Christie’s Paris, Hong Kong and New York, the collection will be offered at Christie’s Shanghai autumn auction.”