Sunday, 18 November 2018

If I could tell you one thing - Asian art trends

“Damaged but good”

Kate Hunt

Christie’s head of sale for Chinese ceramics and works of art

As prices have gone higher and supply is reducing, many collectors are attracted by something that is good but damaged. Ten years ago they would not sell. Now buyers do not have a choice. Kate Hunt of Christie’s has certainly observed this at the top end of the market at a moment when perfect ‘mark and period’ ceramics are no longer a financially viable option for most buyers.
The multi-estimate response to the (often damaged) Chinese ceramics deaccessioned from the Metropolitan Museum of Art sold by Christie’s New York in 2016 provides a good example. “However, for more commonly seen pieces, buyers are less tolerant,” says Hunt. “A well-painted blue and white Kangxi bowl, for example, worth £1500 in a perfect state, will maybe fetch around £150 if cracked.”

“Location, location, location”

Colin Sheaf

Global head of Asian art, Bonhams

Perhaps more than for any other field, location of sale remains vital for buying and selling Chinese art – despite globalisation and the rise of online.
The Asian art market has settled into a “well-defined pattern”, says Colin Sheaf, Bonhams’ global head of Asian art, “around the three major world centres of New York, London and Hong Kong – with different categories selling well in each city”.
Export ware sells best in its original destination markets of the US East Coast and Western Europe, archaic bronzes too as they remain outside the ‘Chinese taste’ and “sell better in New York and London than anywhere else”.
Meanwhile, the best imperial ceramics and white jade are sold in Hong Kong, such as a pair of imperial Qianlong pale green jade wine jue vessels, pictured above, sold for HK$11.1m (£1.1m) (including buyer’s premium) at Bonhams’ Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art in May.
Bonhams’ sale last month of the Presencer Collection of Buddhist Art took place in Hong Kong, “now one of the two most important places, alongside New York, for selling Tibetan and Himalayan art”.

“Early Chinese ceramics on the rise”

Robin Fisher

Director, Eastern, Oriental Art & Ceramics, Mallams

Chinese ‘classic age’ ceramics – in financial terms the poor relation of Qing magnificence – are enjoying an upturn in demand, one that has followed both the appearance of some fine early material on the market and a number of museum exhibitions on the subject in the Far East.
“A strong trend that we have seen in our sales has been the enduring popularity of ceramics from the Song dynasty (960-1279),” says Robin Fisher at Mallams.
“The monochrome glazes, restrained shapes, and organic decoration developed in this experimental era are easily identifiable, and part of the appeal is that the period’s influence can still be seen clearly in the pottery of the East and West today. This resonates with modern collectors.”
This market continues to offer value. Top-end Song has seen a shift in prices evidenced by Christie’s four-part sale of the Linyushanren collection and this has begun to filter through to mid-range material.
However, plenty of well-provenanced Song dynasty ceramics are still available. Qingbai ceramics with their distinctive bluish-white glaze can be bought in the £1000-3000 range.
A variety of Song ceramics are included in Mallams’ October 31 Chinese and Japanese art sale. Many are part of a private local collection formed by the vendor’s father while working in the diplomatic service in Hong Kong from 1950-80.

“Momentum behind Chinese paintings”

Lazarus Halstead

Head Of Asian Art At Chiswick Auctions

Chinese paintings have traditionally been the preserve of the selling centres of Hong Kong, New York and particularly mainland China where paintings made up close to half of all Chinese art sales in 2017.
But Lazarus Halstead, head of Asian art at Chiswick Auctions in west London, believes collectors and dealers are increasingly looking further afield for their quarry.
Chinese paintings are still to be found in English collections – entering these shores since the 19th century by the way of Western missionaries, diplomats and Chinese and Hong Kong immigrants. “The prices achieved in London are now closing in on those of Hong Kong,” he says.
Halstead is not alone in suggesting some works, particularly those directly attributable to an individual artist, may be undervalued.
He says: “Quite unlike much Chinese porcelain, which was generally mass produced by a large number of artisans working together, paintings are the result of an individual artist and his style and character. While ceramics remain the dominant force in the market, paintings could yet surpass other categories to become the most expensive category within Chinese art.”

“Lacquer is creeping up on porcelain”

Roger Keverne

London dealer in Chinese works of art

London dealer Roger Keverne says a selective market has created opportunities for the buyer who is not necessarily focused on the collecting zeitgeist.
Keverne says that ‘Chinese taste’, the phrase associated with the Chinese domestic market that has come to mean Qing porcelain, white jades and Beijing enamels, is evolving.
“There is now more interest in later Chinese bronzes, ‘classic age’ ceramics, in Ming and earlier jades, and in jades in ‘unfashionable’ colours. Spinach jade, for example, was important in the 18th century and personally appreciated by the emperor himself. It was prized in the Western art market from the 1920s to 1960s and then fell out of favour, but is now coming back.”
The market is also beginning to correct the gulf that exists between porcelain and less fashionable mediums such as lacquer. “Lacquer is creeping up, as it is much rarer than other types of Chinese works of art. I am finding it harder to buy the good things.”

“Young Chinese collectors are interested in Buddhism”

Giuseppe Eskenazi


The taste of mainland Chinese buyers is changing, notes London Chinese art specialist Giuseppe Eskenazi.
“Demand for porcelain, that used to be focused on Qing and Ming, is definitely seeing a shift to the earlier dynasties and recently we are seeing greater demand, particularly from mainland Chinese buyers, for later (Yuan and Ming) Chinese bronzes. These bronzes are also being sold at auctions in Shanghai and Beijing – that did not happen before.”
Crucially in these neglected areas (less fashionable than archaic bronzes and pieces from the Qing imperial household), supply is currently relatively plentiful. “If there isn’t the supply, the demand is not there either. Buyers want to collect in areas where they have a chance to buy something.”
The dealer believes a generation of buyers – a second wave of collectors following the wake of those who entered the market a decade ago – is beginning to make its presence felt.
“In the last two years mainland Chinese collectors have expressed particular interest in Buddhist sculpture. Many of these younger buyers, coming from a non-religious Communist background, now want to rediscover their culture and there has been a resurgence in interest in Buddhism generally.”

Sunday, 11 November 2018

In Search of the Real Thing: China’s Quest to Buy Back Its Lost Heritage

Last month, at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong, a Chinese 18th-century Imperial porcelain “poppy” bowl sold for $21.6 million. At the same auction, an elaborately decorated “fish” vase, also thought to be of Imperial provenance from the Qianlong era, raised $19 million.
Buoyed by a surging economy, Chinese dealers and collectors have since the mid 2000s been bidding formidable sums for the finest artworks from their country’s past. But in recent years, as China’s economic growth has slowed, the market for its antiques has become less frothy.
Chinese buyers have recently found an appreciation of the rarefied field of Buddhist sculpture, an example of which reached an auction high of $30 million in 2014. The enthusiasm might be viewed as a sign of what Ms. Hunt, the Christie’s specialist, identified as maturity in the market.
With the United States no longer threatening to impose a 25 percent import tariff on Chinese antiques — a move that could have benefited Europe’s art trade — London is faced with ever-diminishing supplies of quality pieces.
Repatriated Chinese antiques generally don’t come back. Those pieces that do arrive in Britain from China are often not what they seem, according to John Axford, an Asian art specialist at Woolley & Wallis, a British auction house.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Chinese Dish From Carlow Priced To Make Over €40,000 in Sale of Asian Items

Lot 93, an enamel fish basin which would “keep a drowsy emperor awake”

It’s fair to say that Western gardeners don’t pay much attention to the humble chrysanthemum. In Chinese culture the plant has fared rather differently. Inspired by its ability to resist winter chills, Chinese emperors drank wines laced with chrysanthemum, poets praised what they called “the petals of longevity”, and the intricate forms of chrysanthemum flowers came to figure prominently in Chinese art.  
Symbolically the flower is associated with long life, good fortune and the season of autumn, so it’s appropriate that the most expensive piece in Adam’s first-ever specialist auction of Fine Oriental Ceramics, Sculpture and Art is a green “chrysanthemum dish” (Lot 74, €40,000-€60,000).
Why such a high estimate for such a tiny dish? 
“It dates from the Yongzheng period, which was quite a short one, 1723 to 1735, and porcelain from that time is known for its high technical quality,” says Ronan Flanagan of Adam’s fine art department. “Porcelains were moving away from blue and white, and coloured glazes were the order of the day. The chrysanthemum dishes are well known to the market, and highly collectible.”

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Beijing’s Art Auctioneers Aim At Western Duopoly

Chinese art auction giants are aiming at the duopoly of Sotheby’s and Christie’s, but it looks a long shot. State-backed behemoth Poly International and China Guardian, both Beijing-based, now dominate the $7.1 billion global market for Chinese art and antiques. Having crushed smaller local rivals, they are expanding abroad. But their parochial, state-protected nature hobbles them. The Western houses’ offshore share looks safe for now.

The meteoric rise of Chinese auctioneers can be partly attributed to laws restricting foreigners from selling antiquities on the mainland – given a history of Western imperialists sneaking precious artefacts out of the country. That helped China’s Poly Auction, the world’s third largest auction company, rake in sales of $1.6 billion in 2017, according to a report by Art Basel and UBS; Guardian logged over $1 billion.

Dominance at home freed Poly and Guardian to compete abroad. Guardian founder Chen Dongsheng, for example, took a near 14 percent stake in the Sotheby’s two years ago, becoming its largest shareholder. Poly has since set up shop in Sydney, Los Angeles, Tokyo and New York.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

The 5 Biggest Myths About the Chinese Art Market—and the Inconvenient Realities That May Give Investors Pause

Myth 1: The market for Chinese art is a juggernaut. 

Reality: Not exactly. The market is growing—but only at the very top end.

On the surface, it all looks fairly robust. In 2017, auction sales of Chinese art and antiques reversed two years of decline—which had coincided with similar downturns around the world—and grew 7 percent year-on-year, to $7.1 billion, according to the latest Global Chinese Art Auction Market Report produced by artnet and the China Association of Auctioneers (CAA).
Beneath the banner figures, however, there are signs that the recovery of Chinese art could be a bit of a dead cat bounce. First, the total is still down substantially from the market’s record high of more than $10 billion in 2011. Second, the numbers—as in the rest of the global art market—are considerably distorted by a thin top end.

Myth 2: It’s only a matter of time before the art markets in Shanghai and Beijing catch up with Hong Kong.

Reality: This is an extremely uphill battle—and one that few seem interested in waging.

Despite their growing presence in Hong Kong, even the big guns from the West have had trouble going deeper into the market in China. Sotheby’s, which opened a joint venture in Beijing with the state-owned Gehua Art Company in 2012, hasn’t held an auction there since 2013. “We have a long way to go before making Beijing and Shanghai as competitive as Hong Kong,” Kevin Ching, the chief executive of Sotheby’s Asia, acknowledges.

Christie’s presence is also limited. The auction house landed in Shanghai to much fanfare and ribbon cutting in 2013, but it now has just one dedicated week of sales and events each year, in September. Rebecca Wei, president of Christie’s Asia, emphasizes her auction house’s commitment to the country but defines its presence as mostly a brand-building exercise for now.

Myth 3: China’s collectors default on art payments left and right.

Reality: This isn’t the whole story. Some of these collectors are just trying to avoid ending up with a forgery.

According to the most recent data, which CAA verified against tax filings, more than half of all money pledged at auction had not actually been paid nearly six months after the winning bids were placed. Analyzing data from 358 auction houses, the artnet and CAA report finds that 51 percent of the total value of sales on the mainland in 2017 had not been fully paid up by May 15, 2018, an increase from the already dismal 49 percent in 2016 and 41 percent the previous year. Of the 18 lots that sold for more than ¥100 million ($14.2 million), only two were paid for in full by this time.

Nevertheless, research suggests that the growing problem may be more nuanced than it seems—and that the blame for nonpayment may not rest solely with the absentee buyers.

Myth 4: Chinese collectors are primarily interested in Chinese art.

Reality: This is changing—fast.

“I would describe the market in China as stable for us, but Chinese buyers’ purchases of Western art have increased most significantly,” says Rebecca Wei. In the first half of 2018, 12 percent of total sales at Christie’s were made in Asia, while Asian buying as a whole accounted for 24 percent ($960 million) of worldwide sales for the same period. Of the money spent by the Asian buyers, Wei notes, 60 percent was for non-Asian pieces (including luxury items), up from 48 percent during the equivalent period last year.

Myth 5: Western collectors are becoming increasingly interested in Chinese art.

Reality: Sit back…this is going to take a while.

Most Chinese artists—apart from a few high-profile contemporary practitioners—have experienced scant interest from Western collectors. And the mainland galleries that support and promote Chinese art have yet to make their presence felt much beyond Hong Kong.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Chinese Artist Fears Ink Painting Tradition Is Being Tarnished By Need To Stay Relevant

Luo Ying is a purist. The professor of traditional Chinese painting practises what she teaches: her classical ink landscape paintingsborrow techniques and styles of brushwork used as far back as the Song dynasty (960 – 1279AD).

“Chinese ink painting is the quintessence of our nation’s heritage. It is a timeless, classical art form that we can proudly show off to the world. There is no need to adulterate it with contemporary elements,” says the 44-year-old Hangzhou native at her first exhibition in Hong Kong.

Luo fears that clumsy attempts to make Chinese ink art relevant to today’s world can take the focus away from traditional techniques and the underlying philosophy of the ancient art form. “Showing figures wearing face masks to make a point about air pollution is a bad idea, I think. You can watch the news if you want to find out about current affairs. Chinese paintings are not supposed to be about that.”

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Ancient Chinese Painting Expected To Fetch $51 Million

Hong Kong (AFP) - A nearly 1000-year-old ink painting by one of China's greatest literati masters Su Shi is expected to fetch US$51 million at auction, Christie's said Thursday as the work went on view in Hong Kong.
The Song Dynasty artwork created by Su is "one of the world's rarest Chinese paintings," said the auction house.
Entitled "Wood and Rock," the ink-on-paper handscroll depicts a dragon-like old tree with withered branches and a sharp rock resting at its root.
The versatile literati, also known as Su Dongpo is one of the most important cultural figures in Chinese history and was an esteemed scholar, poet, prose-writer, painter, calligrapher and statesman.
The 185.5cm-long scroll is inscribed with calligraphy and the poems of four important literati of the 11th century in China, and also exhibits the seals of 41 collectors.
The painting will be on view until September 1 and will go under the hammer on November 26 as part of Christie's Hong Kong Autumn Sale.
Stone said the artwork is expected to attract interests from outside China.
"It's an international masterpiece instead of just a Chinese masterpiece," he added.
In 2010, "Dizhuming", a Chinese calligraphy scroll by Huang Tingjian -- Su Shi's student -- sold for $64 million at Poly Auction in Beijing.$51-million/

I must admit the eye-popping figure Christie's is expecting to fetch for Su Shi's Wood and Rock painting is hard to ignore. However, I find it extremely hard to ignore the fact that Su Shi's student's work managed to sell for a whooping $13million more than the estimated amount of Su Shi's painting! And mind you, that was 8 years ago. Maybe collecting an apprentice's work of art is not such a bad idea after all.