The main world centres for buying Asian art and key lots sold in each region

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The two major series of Asian art sales in London take place in November and May with a run of specialist sales and exhibitions at auction houses and dealers.

The November run is typically the larger of the two and includes Asian Art In London (November 1-10, 2018), the festival that brings together more than 40 of the world’s top dealers, alongside leading auction houses and museums.

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The sale at Bonhams Bond Street provided the one seven-figure lot across London’s May 2018 Asian series. A monumental 15th century ritual butter lamp, cast with the six-character imperial reign mark of the Jingtai emperor (1449-57) with a provenance to Spink & Son in the 1960s, took £1.1m.

Beijing and Shanghai

Domestic Chinese auction houses include big players such Poly International Auction, China Guardian Auctions and Beijing Council International but, according to a recent report by China Association of Auctioneers, there are more than 400 auction houses selling art and antiques in mainland China.

Although Chinese works of art sourced from within China itself remain the staple of these firms, a number of Western firms are now operating in Beijing and Shanghai. Christie’s, for example, has two separate premises on the mainland (in addition to its Hong Kong operation), most recently opening a new space in the Dongcheng District of Beijing in 2016.

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China Guardian’s five-day, 42 catalogue spring auction series in June marked the firm’s 25th anniversary with recorded sales of RMB2.05b (£205m). A 4.5 x 5.5cm Qingtian stone seal by renowned calligrapher, seal carver and artist Zhao Zhiqian (1829-84) quadrupled hopes to bring RMB9.2m (£920,000).

Hong Kong

International auctions in Hong Kong – the first held by Sotheby’s in 1973 – have become the venue for the most spectacular sales of Chinese art.

The key auction series takes place in October and May, with the former coinciding with the Fine Art Asia fair which runs this year from September 29-October 2 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

New York

The Big Apple is a traditional stronghold for distinct categories of Chinese art – particularly archaic bronzes, early stone sculpture and ‘classic age’ ceramics. Sales of Japanese art continue here too.

The most recent Asian art auction series in the Big Apple took place in early September, while the other major sales of the year are traditionally held in March.

Asia Week New York – the city’s main event in this sector involving a mix of dealers, auctioneers and cultural institutions – coincides with the spring series and next year takes place from March 13-23.

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Sotheby’s $12.7m Important Chinese Art sale in New York on September 12 included this 7in (18cm) square form brush pot dated 1934, decorated with winter riverscapes and two poems by the Friends of Zhushan artist He Xuren (1882-1940). It had come from a Hong Kong private collection and confirmed the current appeal of the best Republic porcelain, selling at $200,000. (£158,000), 10 times the mid estimate.

Central Europe

The main auction series for Asian art in central Europe takes place in June and early July when dedicated events are staged in cities including Zurich, Stuttgart, Berlin, Cologne and Vienna.

Following on from last year, a number of German salerooms held their auctions in Brussels and Salzburg in response to the changes in legislation in Germany relating to the protection of cultural goods.

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The June sale held by Nagel in Salzburg, Austria, included a late Ming horseshoe-back armchair which sold at a surprise €2.6m (£2.28m). The relief carved landscape to the backrest references a 14th century Yuan dynasty painting in the imperial collection.


The main Asian art series in France takes place in December and June when Sotheby’s, Christie’s and other major salerooms around the French capital, including those operating from the Hôtel Drouot, hold auctions and events.

While major fairs dedicated to traditional Asian art have yet to become an established part of the calendar in Paris, a number of dealers choose to exhibit works at other fairs such as the Biennale des Antiquaires, which takes place in September.

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The December 2017 sale of Asian paintings held by Aguttes in Paris was led by a c.1930 work by Sanyu (1901-66). ‘Pot of Flowers’, which featured in a Sanyu exhibition in the Netherlands approximately 70 years ago, sold at €6.9m (£6.1m).


There is no Antipodean ‘season’ as such, but sales of Asian art conducted in both Australia and New Zealand will occasionally throw up important Chinese objects – a reflection of two centuries of trade and migration between two relatively close neighbours.


An ink and colour on paper hanging scroll by Fu Baoshi (1904-65) became the most expensive Asian artwork sold in Australia when it took Aus$2.6m (£1.5m) at Bonhams in Sydney in October. The scroll was part of a 40-strong collection of Chinese paintings amassed by a Sydney and Singapore-based family during the 1960s from artists and dealers in Hong Kong and London. The estimate had been just Aus$5000-8000.