Ker-Qing! How Sky-High Prices for Chinese Porcelain Hurt Museums by Kylie Knott
"While we think of porcelain and ceramics as being incredibly fragile, which, of course, it is, it is also very resilient, so when we get shards of porcelain that have survived over time we can use it as a way to teach people about Chinese social history from the origins of China right through to now," says Harrison-Hall, who has a special interest in the material culture of later Chinese history, particularly the Song to Qing dynasties (960-1911).
British-born Harrison-Hall, who has published many books on Chinese ceramics, is also fascinated by the Ming period (1368-1644), a time of great growth in China when emperors and their palaces benefited from the skilled workmanship that created paintings, furniture, costumes, ceramics and jewellery. Even in modern China, the Ming dynasty is still considered a "golden age" of Chinese culture, she says.
But while Harrison-Hall wishes people luck building their private collections, she says the growing number of them - and the huge prices paid by private collectors - make it difficult for museums to acquire pieces. "When items are selling for £21 million [HK$254 million] then it's tough for museums to build on their collections. Museums rely on private donations and much of the money also goes on building maintenance and staff, so these prices make it very hard."
But she is not surprised by the amounts being paid considering the rarity of Qing imperial porcelain. "Very few examples of such high quality exist and those that do are in the imperial collections of the Beijing Palace Museum, Taipei National Museum or the Percival David Foundation in London."