THE selectivity in the Chinese ceramics and works of art market seen in London in early November was repeated during Christie’s and Bonhams’ latest Asian series in Hong Kong.
Successful bidders paid a premium for rarities, but an absence
of speculative buying precipitated by the credit squeeze in China
meant more routine or ambitiously estimated ceramics and works of
art enjoyed a less enthusiastic reception.
This selectivity was reflected in the selling rates at
Christie's Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art on November
30 and Bonhams' Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art on November
28, which were 57 and 58 per cent sold by lot respectively.
Christie's Hong Kong's 13 auctions of
classical, modern and contemporary Asian art, jewellery, wine and
watches fetched a premium-inclusive total of HK$2.85bn (£233.6m),
an HK$800m dip on their record-breaking Asian extravaganza in May
and considerably less than their HK$3.23bn equivalent series last
These statistics do not indicate any significant market
downturn. The greater selectivity for consignments in this
November's HK$514.7m (£42.19m) ceramics and works of art category
undoubtedly accounted for some of the decrease, but the dip in the
overall tally also reflects the quality of material offered
elsewhere. In May, Christie's overall total was boosted by an
exceptional modern Chinese painting sale that totalled nearly
HK$1bn. Last November's bumper HK$1.13bn ceramics and works of art
section was also buoyed by the Fonthill collection.
Of the ceramics and works of art that sold at Christie's, nearly
half went above high estimate. Highlights included an Imperial
Qianlong (1736-95) underglaze blue and copper-red meiping, which
sold to a private Asian buyer at HK$41m (£3.36m) against a
The vase, which headlined the 437-lot mixed-vendor sale on
November 30, once belonged to Prince Pulun, the great-great
grandson of the Emperor Daoguang (1821-50). The only other known
vase with this palette resides in Beijing's Palace Museum.
Aside from Christie's Magnificent Jewels sale, which took
HK$644.96m including premium on November 29, the week's highest
grossing single auction was the HK$595.2m (£48.79m)
premium-inclusive Fine Chinese Modern Paintings auction the same
day that fielded a robust 88 per cent selling rate by lot.
This market is largely driven by buyers from Greater China on
the hunt for works by modern masters such as Zhang Daqian, Fu
Baoshi, Xu Beihong and Li Keran. Paintings by all these artists
featured in the top ten.
Foremost was Cui Ruzhou's (b.1944) Lotus, eight scrolls in ink
and colour on paper, which doubled expectations, selling to a
private Asian buyer at HK$110m (£9.02m) - an auction record for the
Among the notable dispersals at Bonhams' four
auctions - variously comprising snuff bottles, ceramics, jades,
works of art and paintings - was the Yixing stoneware from the
100-lot personal collection of respected former London dealer
Gerard Hawthorn and his wife.
In 2009, the Beijing publication of Yixing Zisha Wares in the
Palace Museum was the first in recent years to focus attention on
the esteem in which the best quality stonewares were held at
Yixing teapots are ubiquitous but Imperial quality Yixing works
of art are scarce. The Hawthorns' HK$38m (£3.1m) premium-inclusive
assemblage included a number of outstanding examples.
Two rarities with comparable examples in the Palace Museum
included the sale-topping 9in (23cm) Imperial Yongzheng (1723-35)
inkstone with its original black lacquer box and cover, which took
HK$7m (£574,000), and a Qing dynasty 'peach' water vessel with
calligraphic inscription that made HK$3m (£246,000) against hopes
The timely assemblage on November 28 predominantly sold to
collectors from mainland China and Hong Kong. It boasted an 86 per
cent take-up by volume.
However, Bonhams' most expensive entry was the famille rose
enamelled glass 'European subject' Imperial Qianlong snuff bottle
(pictured here) from Part IV of the Mary and George Bloch
Bonhams' Julian King said this was the bottle many had been
waiting for since the collection's first dispersal in 2009. Unlike
other six-figure 'European subject' bottles to have appeared on the
market recently, it was enamelled on glass, not metal, and was
large at 3in (8cm).
It was pursued by an anonymous buyer to HK$22m (£1.8m) - a snuff
The white glove auction attracted Western and Asian interest.
Successful buyers in attendance included London dealers Robert
Kleiner and Robert Hall, Hong Kong collector Robert Chang and Hong
Kong dealer Hugh Moss.
Bonhams Hong Kong posted a HK$240m (£19.67m) premium-inclusive
total - representing a rise of nearly 15 per cent over their
previous Hong Kong high in May.
The buyer's premium at both Christie's and Bonhams is
£1 = HK$12.2
By Kate Hunt