Chorleys well satisfied with delayed sale of Republican porcelain

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Lot 88  Pair of Meiping vases achieved £8,000 at Chorleys

Auctioneer Chorleys is reported to be well satisfied with the delayed sale (due to snow!) of Republic period, and earlier, porcelain which took place March 27 and which we wrote about earlier

The morning opened with the Asian section attracting frenetic bidding over the telephones, extra busy internet activity and a packed saleroom.  In particular, there was huge interest from China, the USA and the UK trade with most of the highest bids ending up via the internet.The Asian section offered an important local collection of Republic era porcelain with the highlight being Lot 75, a set of four rectangular porcelain plaques by Bi Botao (1885-1961) representing the four seasons.

Bi Botao was a member of the well-known group ‘The Eight Friends of Zhushan’.  Lot 75 Four Chinese porcelain rectangular plaques, signed and with one artist seal by Bi Botao (1885-1961), dated 1932, sold for £16,000. The group comprised the best porcelain artists of the period and revitalized the Chinese porcelain industry after the political unrest in 19th century China and the subsequent fall of the Qing dynasty.  The plaques, delicately painted with frogs, a spider, turtles and a snake respectively, were acquired from Peter Wain’s ‘Millenium List’, 1999 for £3,000 and sold at Chorley’s for £16,000.

From the same collection, Lot 83, a Chinese porcelain circular seal paste box, painted by Wang Yeting, fetched £4,000 against an estimate of £600-800 while Lot 88, a pair of Chinese porcelain Meiping vases, inscribed with a poem and symbols of immortality, realised £6,000.  Elsewhere in the oriental section, of excellent quality and highly decorative, Lot 16, a garniture of three Chinese famille verte vases from the Kangxi period, fetched £7,500.

After a strong end to 2014, what of 2015 in the Chinese art market?

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The month of December brought a string of successful Chinese art and antiques auctions throughout England. Interestingly, these results were entirely from what is often pejoratively termed ‘provincial auction houses’, who are sometimes located nearer the source of supply than your Christie’s or Sotheby’s. At the same time, disturbing rumours were coming out of China itself: sales were on the slide and the heat was going out of the market.

As we previously reported, December kicked off on the 2nd with Edinburgh-based auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull’s highly successful Asian Art sale at St Neots in Cambridgeshire. Their decision to move ‘nearer the smoke’ seemed to have been fully justified: an extraordinary £220,000 for a small, repaired Kangxi vase with a bit of provenance; £200,000 for an admittedly unusual Yonzheng celadon and blue charger; a pair of Yongzheng doucai bowls, £75,000; and an 18th or, maybe, 19th century carved wooden brush pot for £48,000.

L&T £280,000 vase fake Kangxi

Also on December 2, Anderson & Garland of Newcastle sold a collection of some 132 gouache on pith paper scenes of what would appear to be Imperial courtly life.  The 11 red paper-covered albums sold for £32,000 to a Chinese buyer in the UK.

anderson & garland2

The next day, December 3, at Hanson’s in Derbyshire, a collection of jades put together by Russian General Theodor Rubiec Masalski, who served in China and was a former military attaché in Beijing, fetched over £60,000.

Masalski collection sold by Hansons

The following day, December 4, Sussex auctioneers Tooveys exposed a relatively small but pretty Qianlong famille rose calligraphic vase with Imperial connections.  It had an extensive rivet repair to the neck and some losses but, nevertheless, sold on the hammer for £520,000 to a Chinese buyer in the room, who competed with bidders from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Canada and the UK who fought it out over nine telephone lines. This was the highest regional price of the year for an item of Chinese art in a provincial room.

tooveys 520,000 vase

Sherborne auctioneers Charterhouse rounded off this series of provincial Chinese auction successes on December 16 with the sale of a set of six Republic period porcelain panels for £140,000. In the famille verte and famille rose palettes, the Republic  (1911-49) porcelain panels were by an unidentified artist (single panel illustrated below). They were knocked down for £140,000. It is worth noting that Charterhouse had previously sold a set of four panels by Wang Yeting, one of the so-called Eight Friends of Zhushan, for £420,000 in February 2014.

charterhouse porcelain panels

These dramatic sale results for out-of-London auctions came against a background of shrinking sales in China. Dealers we know in Beijing are reporting difficulties in shifting stock. The blame is firmly laid at the door of tough Chinese leader Xi Jinping who, in his drive to halt endemic corruption in all public bodies, has put, literally, the fear of death into officials who would normally around this time of year be receiving gifts from businessmen reliant upon their support in the securing of contracts, and business generally.

Some commentators have predicted the collapse of the whole Chinese art market, also affected by lower financial growth and restrictions on bank lending. Such a collapse seems to us unlikely. However, there can be little doubt that the Chinese art and antique market is undergoing something of a natural correction: having expanded so fast and so dramatically, that was inevitable at some stage. There were a considerable number of nervous participants in the boom and they will doubtless be breathing a sigh of relief now.

However, we do not think that medium-term this state of affairs will be perpetuated. Certainly, the first half of 2015 looks set for a rather less dramatic sales scenario which may well impact on UK auction prices.  We think that things will improve during the second half of the year: there are too many vested interests in China to allow more than a temporary dent in the market. Soon, the buyers will re-emerge within China as they regain their courage and find their ways around tough new rules and Xi Jinping will, himself, ease the pressure as he sees Chinese growth slowing to a dangerously low level.

At the same time, the number of potential buyers is growing all the time in China as demography kicks in and the affluent middle classes grow in number and in sophistication. They have already switched, to a certain extent, out of foreign designer goods and into experiential spending, most obviously reflected in world travel. It won’t be long before they discover porcelain and painting . . .

‘Friends of Zhushan’ interest set to peak?

Surprisingly high prices have been paid in recent months for Republic era paintings on porcelain – some barely one hundred years old. A set of four panels were exposed for auction in the UK ten days ago and Auctioneers Charterhouse achieved a stunning £420,000 for the works, apparently by Wang Yeting (1884-1942), and which they had estimated at £200-300. The price eclipsed the performance of other, similar, although smaller, lots in recent months.

At Cheffins of Cambridge, in October last year, a figural panel by Wang Qi (1884-1937) got £230,000, and Christies South Kensington knocked down a landscape panel by Wang Dafan (1888-1961) for £300,000 last October.

charterhouse big sale Photo Charterhouse

Rather pleased. A representative of Charterhouse with two of the four panels which made £420,000

The group known as The Eight Friends of Zhushan constituted a group of eight porcelain painters active from the very end of the 19th century, so-called because they met on the full moon of every lunar month at Zhushan. At these regular meetings, they exchanged ideas on their art. That having been said, the painters all had their own distinctive styles and they were not imitative in any way.

The original eight painters were Wang Qi (known for his figural works), Deng Bishan (fish and seaweed), Xu Zhongnan (bamboo), Tian Hexian (plums), Wang Dafan (figural), Wang Yeting (landscapes), Cheng Yiting (flowers and birds) and Liu Yucen (flowers and birds). Wang Qi is generally recognised as the leader of the group. The artists He Xuren and Bi Botao were later members of the Group.

Demonstrating that auctioneers never know where their next high performance lot may come from, Charterhouse boss Richard Bromell said that the panels came from a chalet bungalow in rural Dorset. Two were kept under the bed. Charterhouse operate out of Sherborne, Dorset.

The panels were bought on the telephone by a buyer in Shanghai who will have to pay 19.5% premium on top of the hammer price of £420,000.