Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Day 3 in Beijing

Hazy and hot in Beijing, and the same might be said about the Chinese auction market where backroom dealing may be driving the extraordinary high prices paid at auction. On Monday and Tuesday I attended the preview of Beijing Poly's Spring sales and was astonished at the volume and quality of Chinese art available.

There will be sales of everything from fine Chinese wine to antique automobiles and jewelry to more traditional categories of porcelains, jades, lacquer, furniture, ink painting and works by contemporary Chinese artists. I felt like a kid in a candy store having the opportunity to handle exquisite and rare Ming and Qing porcelains like this imperial washbasin which sold for close to $US4 million, lacquers, jades etc...

The modern ink painting exhibit was wonderful with masterful works by artists very familiar to Western collector such as Lin Fengmian, Zhang Daqi, Wu Guanzhong, Qi Baishi, as well as with works by artists famous in China but less known in the West, such as Zhang Ding, Fan Zeng and Zhou Sicong (1939-1995) whose painting, "Miners", sold for around US$2.5 millon. What really drew me to Beijing Poly's Spring Auctions was the sale of part of the Ullens Collection of contemporary Chinese art. The Ullens are Belgian collectors who established the Ullens Center at 798 Art District and are in the process of shifting their focus from Chinese art to contemporary Indian art for reasons that would be a good subject for a future blog post.

The estimates placed on many items made my eyes pop, and I wondered which of the ``estimate supplied upon request'' properties was most likely to surpass the $65 million bid for a painting by Qi Baishi at the Guardian Auction House a couple of days ago.

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