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Special Edition: Asian Art in London

November 8, 2009

Asian Art in London took over the UK capital this week with a bustling schedule of sales, exhibitions, and other events that heavily featured Chinese art.

Commercially, Chinese art did fairly well. Among the galleries, special notice is due to the seven classical Chinese paintings at Eskenazi Ltd., the Song ceramics at Priestley and Ferraro, and the lacquerware at Ben Janssens. Bloomberg assessed the key lots at all five auctions of Chinese art as imperial pieces that were particularly attractive to the nouveau riche Chinese buyers. The power and presence of Chinese buyers was also felt at Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Sale, where a mysterious Mandarin-speaking phone bidder concluded the sales for several works including the so-called ‘irrevocable bid’ Picasso, Claude a deux ans (1949).

But these buyers, so enthusiastic in New York, were more discerning this time: the Economist attributes the failure of fully one-third of Christie’s 3 November sale to “sellers who are too greedy or catalogers who are too enthusiastic in their assessments.” Some of the very same works that garnered buyers’ interest also raised strong sentiments among netizens. This confluence of desire, connoisseurship, and nationalism that seems to be fueling the new raft of Chinese buyers is something to be watched closely in the future.

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Top-grossing auction lot: Sotheby’s, Qianlong Imperial Jade Seal – £3.6 million

Bonhams, Knightsbridge: 2 November 2009, Chinese and other Asian Works of Art

Sale total: £3.2 million          Catalogue and Sale Results

Christie’s King Street: 3 November, Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art

Sale total: £5.7 million          Catalogue and Sale Results

Sotheby’s New Bond Street: 4 November 2009, Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art

Sale total: £8.3 million         Catalogue and Sale Results

Bonhams, New Bond Street: 5 November 2009, Fine Chinese Art,

Sale total: £4.9 million         Catalogue and Sale Results

Christie’s South Kensington: 6 November, Chinese Ceramics, Works of Art and Textiles
Sale total: £2.6 million          Catalogue and Sale Results
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