At a time of serious economic instability around the world, the art market is often vulnerable to the wider financial pressures. Bonhams
auctions of Chinese art in Hong Kong sent a strong message that the market for top-quality Chinese objects and paintings remains stable, and fine-quality objects presented with attractive estimates can still generate a global enthusiasm from buyers.
Bonhams four auctions today, variously comprising snuff bottles, ceramics, jades, works of art and paintings, achieved sold percentages by value respectively of 100%, 96%, 89% and 78%, with exceptional prices paid by buyers from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Europe and America for the best objects in the four auctions. Overall, Bonhams Autumn Auctions in Hong Kong achieved a new record high sold total for the company of over HK$240 million, representing an increase of nearly 15% over the record sale in May 2011.
Bonhams headed its results with a unique achievement, successfully selling 100% in Part IV of the dispersal of the Mary and George Bloch Collection of important Chinese snuff bottles, following on 100% sale in each of the first three parts.
Auctioneer Colin Sheaf, who has presided over all four of the Golden Gavel sales, (100per cent sold), commented: Markets have changed since our first auction of Bloch Collection bottles two years ago, but the pre-eminent quality of this superb private collection continues to attract worldwide interest and generate an astonishing 100% sold total. Today was not merely the highest total for a selection of bottles auctioned from this collection, but also achieved an astonishing new world record for a single snuff bottle at HK$25.3 million, almost three times the previous record also achieved at Bonhams Hong Kong with another exquisite bottle from this collection.
Bonhams had successfully attracted consignments in a number of specialist areas for these auctions. Colin Sheaf, Chairman of Bonhams Asia, commented: When we created our Asian auction business in 2007, we set out to create a global Chinese department to source consignments which were most suited for auction in our new Hong Kong business. The success of the auctions today drew heavily on fine private consignments from the US of Chinese paintings, the exceptional HK$18.5 million famille rose vase, and a historical collection of personal hardstone seals which totalled more than HK$7million. Our London office consigned the unique collection of Chinese Yixing Stoneware vessels and scholar objects which totalled HK$38 million, and saw 96% sold by value, an unprecedented achievement for this very specialised material. This is traditionally most popular with collectors in mainland China and Taiwan, hence our consigning it to Hong Kong. Nothing better demonstrates Bonhams commitment as a global art auctioneer than to sell property where we recommend it will achieve the highest price.
Each section of the four Chinese Works of Art auctions saw exceptional prices at the top level. The highlight was of course the world record total not merely for a single Imperial Chinese snuff bottle but also for a single auction of snuff bottles at nearly HK$60 million. The single-owner collection of very specialised Yixing Stoneware from the Hawthorn Collection achieved over HK$38 million, tripling pre-sale expectations, with the highest lot achieving a world record price at HK$8.4 million (estimate HK$800,000 1,2,000,000) paid by an Asian private collector against intense competition. The auction of Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art from various sources saw an exceptional price paid for an Imperial famille rose dragon-decorated vase, which achieved a new record for Chinese porcelain at Bonhams Hong Kong of HK18.5 million (estimate HK$8 12 million).
Concluding the auction series, a fine range of classical and modern Chinese paintings attracted spirited bidding principally from buyers from mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. An unusual old collection sourced from Australia included the sales most expensive lot, a handscroll in the manner of Huang Gongwang, by the famous late Ming artist Wang Shimin (1592 1680), estimated at HK$1 2 million, which finally sold to an Asian private collector for HK$11.86 million. The greatest excitement in the sale was generated by lot 713, a private collection of 12 fan paintings of landscapes attributed to Wang Yuanqi (1642 1715), offered as a single lot estimated at HK$80,000 120,000, which confounded conservative expectations to achieve a final price of HK$10.18 million.
Colin Sheaf concluded: Bonhams sale of Fine Chinese Art in London three weeks ago achieved the highest total ever seen in Europe for a single sale of Chinese art. Our sale in Hong Kong reinforces Bonhams global position as an outstanding auctioneer of Chinese art, achieving the highest prices for the finest objects. We have continued to demonstrate during our five years in Hong Kong that our established worldwide commitment to producing well-researched, beautifully-illustrated catalogues compiled by staff with considerable academic expertise, and containing top-quality objects, is achieving for our consignors the optimal results that any auction house can offer.