Sunday, 17 June 2018

Grandpa Brought Chinese Antiques Abroad. Now Sotheby’s New Asia Chief Wants to Bring Them Home By Ryan Swift

As a toddler in the 1970s, Nicolas Chow would run around in the Geneva house of his legendary grandfather, Edward T. Chow, a famed dealer of Chinese antiquities. “We used to visit my grandpa for lunch on Sundays, and he had this thick carpet on the floor … that was my first contact, seeing these beautiful porcelains,” Chow recalls. 
The elder Chow was famous for dealing with some of the world’s earliest collectors of China’s ancient artifacts, building an international network from his home in Shanghai, before he joined the exodus to Hong Kong in 1949, finally escaping the 1967 riots to Switzerland. Edward Chow also had a hand in the great exodus of Chinese antiquities from China to western collectors. 
Now, his grandson, newly promoted as chairman of Sotheby’s Asia, is playing a part in bringing those antiquities back to China. He is also doing his best to widen the interests of China’s collectors  to boost Sotheby’s presence in China. 
Having joined Sotheby’s in 1999, Chow arrived at just the moment that Chinese collectors began to make their presence felt in the market. His moment of glory came with the now-legendary chicken cup, bought by Shanghai-based collector Liu Yiqian.
The evolution of the mainland Chinese art collector is moving into a wide array of new types, says Chow, and the price is not the determining factor. “The Chinese are keen on building collections; that’s why they have this energy. In the beginning, a lot of people were ridiculing them as ignorant. But when you engage with that degree of intensity, you learn quickly,” Chow says. “In the beginning, they (mainland Chinese buyers) may have gravitated towards decorative pieces, but quickly moved to the essentials … now they are branching out to other areas – contemporary Asian, Western, even Old Masters.” 
One of the things that mark out mainland Chinese buyers, Chow says, is their willingness to experiment in their collecting, much more so than buyers in Hong Kong. It may also have something to do with the intrusion of social media into the art world, which Chow thinks has led to collectors, particularly new collectors, wanting more stimulation and more worlds to explore.

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