Chinese Artefacts Attract Massive Prices – artmarketblog.com
I don’t think that many people, except maybe the Chinese, realise how much wealth exists in China as well as other areas of Asia. The last few weeks have produced many examples of the unjustifiably massive amounts of money that are being paid for objects of Chinese decorative art by wealthy Chinese collectors. Take, for instance, the AU$32,000 paid for a Chinese carved wooden panel by a Chinese collector at an Australian auction which had an original estimate of AU$600. How about the US$58,400 achieved at an iGavel.com online auction for a large modern Chinese carved celadon jade phoenix form vase against an estimate of only US$1200 -$1800 – a huge amount for what was identified by iGavel as a modern piece with no real historical or provenencial value.
Christie’s Asian Art Week produced even more astonishing results that really do make one question the motivation of the buyers, as well as their sanity. How much disposable wealth would one have to have to pay US$1,426,500 for a Chinese Zitan stand and cover that was originally estimated to sell for between US$20,000 and $30,000. Yes, it is a very rare object, but paying almost one and a half million dollars for it when it was valued at around one sixtieth of that amount seems ridiculous. Almost as crazy was the US$362,000 paid for a Chinese bronze ritual food vessel that also had a US$20,000-$30,000 estimate.
Over at North Carolina USA based Brunk Auctions (http://www.brunkauctions.com/), two Chinese items fetched well over (actually massively over!!) their estimate. The first, a small Chinese porcelain bowl (see image), went for an amazing US$115,000 against an estimate of US$300, and a Chinese vase soared to US$105,800 against a US$4000 estimate.
A sale price for an item at auction that massively exceeds the estimate is usually put down to an incorrect appraisal by the auction house - as long as it is an isolated incident. The sheer number of Chinese items of decorative art that are selling for prices well above their appraised value could not be all the result of incorrect valuation or assessment. So what is driving the market for these objects to such dizzying heights?. I suspect that pride and status have a significant role to play. No disrespect to Asian men, but they do tend to be very proud and do not like to be beaten. There is also the bragging rights that paying ridiculous amounts of money for an object can bring. Yes, some of the objects being purchased are rare but not rare enough to justify the prices being paid. I can’t help but think back to the art market boom of the late 80′s, early 90′s, when wealthy Japanese business men drove the market for Impressionist works of art into the stratosphere. Quality was not of great concern to these Japanese buyers who were more interested in art as a status symbol than anything else. I suspect that we are seeing a similar situation at the moment with wealthy Chinese buyers and Chinese artefacts.
China is undoubtedly a source of great wealth and appears to not have been as severely affected by the global financial crisis as the USA or England. There appears to be a large number of wealthy Chinese buyers who have enough disposable income to make completely unjustifiable and quite frankly absurd purchases. One cannot help but predict that China will continue to become an even strong force on the global market for art and fine objects in the near future. Be wary though, such wealth and careless spending is a recipe for super inflated prices.
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.
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