Chiswick Auctions head for the high ground

West London-based auction house Chiswick have embarked upon a significant expansion of their activities, not least in the Asian Department.  In advance of their February 27 Asian Art Sale, Chiswick have revealed that they will hold a series of specialist sales within the category.

Their specialist Chinese paintings sales, launched last year, have, they say, been outstandingly successful. In November last year (their second such sale), they sold a Xu Naigu handscroll for a record breaking £267,600. The sale of this outstanding and important work secured for Chiswick a prestigious Asian Art in London award which was present to department head and Asian Art specialist Lazarus Halstead at a champagne gala evening held within the then unopened new Joseph Hutong Gallery at the British Museum.

20171109_201636 Asian Art in London, November 2017 and Lazarus Halstead receives the AAL auction award on behalf of Chiswick for their hand scroll by Xu Naigu, sold for £267,600  Photo by Paul Harris

Buoyed by this success, Chiswick announce a series of specialist Asian sales: Netsuke on February 27; Fine Chinese Paintings on May 14; Chinese Bronzes Song to Qing on May 24/5: and The Dragon in Chinese Art in November. These are in addition to the usual biannual Asian Art sales.

Chiswick recently appointed a Japanese specialist, Yasuko Kido, to supplement the efforts of Lazarus Halstead. Separately, other departments are being expanded: Beatrice Campi has been appointed Islamic and Indian Specialist and three book specialists formerly with Bloomsbury Auctions (now closed) have been taken on board. This is in addition to two fine art specialists who have come from the now closed Christies South Kensington (CSK).

Chiswick’s ambitions have, to some extent, been fed directly by the closure of CSK which is perceived by many to have left a distinct gap in the market for the sale of rather more modest pieces now abjured by the ‘big three’ (Sothebys, Christies & Bonhams). There will, however, be competitors in the market place: London-based Roseberys, Edinburgh & London based Lyon & Turnbull and Salisbury house Woolley & Wallis amongst them. Both regional competitors L&T and W&W now have London offices.


Will these be the most expensive milk bottles in the world?

A pair of extremely rare porcelain milk bottles, dating back to the Chinese Communist era of Mao Tse Tung, are being offered by Chiswick Auctions in their upcoming Asian Art sale on September 1 2015.

Milk bottles lr

Thickly potted, with a swelling body, a thick neck and slightly flaring mouth, and covered overall with a thick creamy white glaze, with stencilled lettering in underglaze cobalt blue reading “Beijing City Milk Company, Chao Niu Yoghurt”. The bottles, which measure 11cm high, date to the 1960s when China was under the rule of Chairman Mao Tse Tung.

“So-called ‘Communist era’ material is experiencing a revival with contemporary designers plastering Communist slogans over everything from T-shirts to kitchen towels,” Chiswick’s Asian Art specialist, Lazarus Halstead explains, “But what makes this pair special is that, despite its utilitarian form, it is an exclusive and elite object from the heart of Communist China which tells a unique story.”

The pieces come from the collection of a diplomatic family. The present owner acquired the milk bottles as a child living with diplomatic parents in Beijing in the 1960s. At the time milk was strictly rationed available only to a select few foreign diplomats and government officials from the highest ranks of the Communist party. The bottles, property of the State, would never normally have been kept and their survival is the result purely of a young child’s whim.

The pieces will be offered with a very cautious estimate of £100 – £200. If you manage to get them for that, you might well be the cat that gets the cream . . .

Chiswick Auctions launch Asian sales programme

London auctioneers Chiswick Auctions have just announced that they will hold four specialist Asian auctions every year and are forming an Asian department within the firm. Previously, Asian items have been included in more general art and antiques auctions. Their first sale will be on February 10 2015 and will include the unusual incense burner bronze study of a monkey riding a deer, which we illustrate below. It is reckoned to be Qianlong and is complete with cover.


Heading up the new Asian department is Lazarus Halstead who has a strong academic background, having studied Chinese art at Oxford and he is also fluent in Mandarin.

Chiswick have already enjoyed some successes with Chinese pieces: recently a Ming bronze Bodisattva sold for £116,000, including premium and a Qianlong blue and white bottle vase achieved £75,000.

It can be expected that the Asian sales will not include any ivory pieces: the company was recently fined for offering a post-1947 ivory worked elephant train and has stated that it will no longer expose any ivory pieces for sale.