The Chinese ceramics and works of art market is undergoing a price readjustment after a decade of unfettered growth, a trend highlighted at the latest Asian sales series staged at Christie's Hong Kong.
In the weeks leading up to Christie's 16-sale series from November 29 to December 3, ceramic and works of art specialists contacted vendors to make last-minute adjustments to estimates and reserves in light of the deteriorating financial climate.
The series still attracted all the major players and - although the overall take-up was only 56 per cent - there were some very strong prices realised for the top end in the five ceramics and works of art auctions.
The five sales produced the lion's share of the highlights and contributed HK$296.5m (£25.8m) to Christie's series' premium-inclusive tally of HK$1.13bn (£98.4m). The series also included auctions of classical, modern and contemporary Asian painting, jewellery, wine and watches.
Selling rates by lot ranged from 94 per cent for the opening wine auction to 46 per cent for Chinese 20th century art.
The HK$1.13bn total fell short of Christie's HK$1.75bn pre-sale estimate and represented less than one half of the firm's record-breaking HK$2.4bn Asian extravaganza takings last December. However, it was in line with Sotheby's HK$1.1bn Asian series tally in October.
Collections with old provenances such as the 11-lot Vint assemblage of jades in the 143-lot mixed vendor sale on December 3 exceeded expectations and attracted serious competition from Western and Asian buyers.
All bar one lot sold, with an 11in (28cm) high, imperial Qianlong (1736-95) dragon jar and cover headlining at HK$22m (£1.92m). A similar vase without its cover had fetched HK$3.5m (then £236,485) in the same rooms this May.
The series' most expensive entry was an imperial Qianlong famille rose butterfly vase with a graviata pink ground from the Ping Y Tai Foundation.
The 18in (46cm) high imperial ceramic tour de force had previously been in the celebrated collection of Alfred Morrison before being purchased by London dealer Marchant & Son in 1971 at Christie's for 1700 guineas or US$4310. Here, the estimate was reduced to HK$40m (£3.5m). It sold to an Asian buyer at HK$47m (£4.1m).
Christie's buyer's premium is 25/20/12 per cent.
Bonhams Hong Kong also staged a five-sale Asian series from December 2 to 4, comprising Chinese ceramic and works of art, jewellery, wine, watches and clocks. The series bagged HK$47.65m (£4.15m) and was headlined by a pair of imperial Qianlong cloisonné and gilt bronze censers and covers removed from Beijing's Summer Palace in 1860 and old to a mainland Chinese buyer at HK$4m (£348,430).
By Kate Hunt