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Asia Week New York 2012: Fierce Competition in the Chinese Art Market

Chinese Art Market | "Hundred Butterflies" Vases

These two nearly identical "Hundred Butterflies" Chinese vases from the 19th century will be offered in the Skinner Asian Works of Art auction, April 20-21, 2012 in Boston. (Lots 641 and 644)

Chinese buyers ruled Asia Week New York once again in 2012. I try to attend Asia Week in New York each year, and this year I spent five days in the city, visiting museums, attending auctions, and talking to dealers, specialists, and other lovers of Asian Works of Art. We all marveled at the seemingly unstoppable frenzy of the Chinese art market, and wondered what this means for those who buy and sell Asian art in the West. For many, it has become a challenge to compete.

There seems to be no end in sight to the trend of Chinese buying their art back, much of it from old Western collections, and Chinese buyers filled the auction rooms in New York, driving prices up to staggering heights.

Imperial Chinese Art

For the most part, Imperial pieces brought the highest prices this week. Auction houses and top dealers are still discovering and offering a diverse and select group of works. A hand scroll estimated between $700,000 and $1,000,000, “Emperors of the Southern Song 12th-13th Century,” sold for $5.6 million. The same hand scroll sold in an April 2001 sale, along with two other works, for just $119,112, suggesting that there is more competition for Imperial works with each passing year.

Jade and Rhinoceros Horn

Fine jade and rhinoceros horn wine cups, even non-Imperial examples, sold high all week. The Chinese consider jade to be the most precious and auspicious material, and rhinoceros horn is believed by many to be an aphrodisiac.

As the number of wealthy Chinese collectors entering the market continues to rise, competition for all varieties of Chinese art will become fierce.

Skinner’s Asian Works of Art auction on April 20th and 21st offers buyers the opportunity to compete on a range of fine Asian and Chinese works similar to those seen at Asia Week auctions and galleries, including these two “Hundred Butterfly” enamel vases each with an iron-red Guangxu mark. Other works offered in the April auction include jades, bronze censers, textiles and several fine Ming dynasty Buddhist bronze figures.

Browse our Asian Art auction catalogue and let us know in the comments what you think will turn out to be the top lot. One thing is for certain—we expect crowds of Chinese buyers to turn out for the Skinner auction.

2 thoughts on “Asia Week New York 2012: Fierce Competition in the Chinese Art Market

  1. I left a message on another part of Skinner’s website a little while ago. Maybe you got it, but I’d like to leave it in the oriental part to the Skinner website. I’m cleaning out my family estate and found an oriental four paneled screen with a large peacock and smaller one and branches of cherry blossoms behind the grand piano. It’s just so beautiful. If you get up close to it, you can see tiny specks of something but not until very close. I can send you a picture of it. What do you suggest. I had an antique dealer in today who suggested I contact you. My family has lived in this Octagon house up here in Farmington, Maine for one hundred years but of course some of its objects go back into the 19th century and most are American things. I just had the furniture re-appraised today with much better results. BTW, My great uncle was a clipper ship captain of the late 19th and early 20th century and I have a couple Chinese or Japanese photographs colored and two have numbers on them. I see a cylinder of intricate carving that looks Oriental but its up high on a book case and I haven’t examined it carefully. My great aunt Kate traveled all the time with my great uncle , the sea captain (of several clipper ships, including the Dirigo and Hawaiian Isles) and she wrote a letter/journal to my uncle, 11 at the time (1911). In this long scroll letter (pages pasted together) she writes about visiting Pitcairn Island (getting autographs) included in the letter, , about rounding Cape Horn, seeing other ships, describing events on board (like losing men), the birds captured, etc. It’s fascinating, well written (beautiful cursive), pictures to illustrate by hand, and her closing about this trip being one of their last and noting that it looked like the end of the clipper ship days too. (I wish she had described going through the Panana Canal, as they were the second clipper ship to do so in I think 1915. Let me know how to send you a jpg. of the Oriental screen. From Anne Mallett, Farmington, Maine

  2. I am in possession of a Chinese Warlord robe from 1800’s and matching boots. Would you be interested in pictures and possibly selling at your next Asian Auction. It is silk embroidered with real gold thread and I have the story about how it was obtained.

    I have sent it to Frank Kaminski, but I would really like your professional opinion.

    Thank you
    Patricia Davis

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