The second day of Edinburgh auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull’s 2-day Asian Sale today saw mixed fortunes at what is developing as their southern outpost at Crosshall Manor, St. Neots, Cambridgeshire. Although the sale saw many unsold lots in the mid and lower levels, most of the ‘quality’ items up for sale found new homes at respectable prices.
Unlike last December’s sale, when a modest little Kangxi vase soared unexpectedly to around the £300,000 mark, there were no such breath taking occurrences. Lee Young, Head of the Asian Department, professed himself pleased with the overall result of the sale which, it would appear, was well in excess of £1m. However, he admitted it was often ‘difficult’ when it came to returning unsold lots.
It seems that the market itself has changed dramatically from last year when comparatively modest pieces of blue and white flew away. Buyers are now more cautious and whilst there is always a home for an outstanding piece, less immediately desirable lots are struggling. There may be a number of factors at play: there is a pronounced downturn in the market in China itself and the multiplicity of Asian sales is emptying the pockets of Chinese buyers. Over the last month, there have been Asian Art events in London, New York and Hong Kong. Indeed, L& T themselves are just returned from Hong Kong where they exhibited at the Hong Kong Art & Antiques Fair at the end of May. “We met several new buyers as a result and a good proportion of the high value lots sold today went to new clients we met there.”
Today, telephone and internet bidders, in that order, dominated the room. When the sale started, there were just nine members of the buying public in the room. Buyers were heavily outnumbered by L&T staff manning the phones and the computers. Last December, virtually every chair was taken.
There were solid prices for the best. A Yongzheng ruby-ground famille rose peony bowl achieved the top price of £80,000 hammer (estimate £80-120,000), and a rhinoceros horn libation cup got £74,000. As we wrote before, there were three exceptional oils by Chen Yanning (born 1945). Two failed to sell but a fine painting of two girls entitled ‘Serenity’ sold for £60,000, against an estimate of £80,000-120,000.
Chen Yanning’s ‘Serenity’: sold for £60,000
Although a large number of lots sold around the bottom estimate, there were some that roared away against expectations. Lot 730, an iron red dragon bottle vase with Daoguang mark and of the period, estimated at £6,000-8,000, was finally knocked down at £70,000 after a long, extended bidding process. Eventually a bidder from China on the telephone appeared to tire of the slow bidding in increments of £2,000. At £42,000 he placed a kill-all closing bid of £70,000!
Daoguang mark and period dragon vase: £70,000