Scotland/China news

Back to Bonhams for Asian art

by Website Editor, 4 April 2013

On 25 March, around 30 SCA members and friends once again attended a Private View ahead of the recent Asian Art auction at Bonhams in Edinburgh, following our highly successful event last year.

The evening was another opportunity to learn about the Asian art market, handle the lots, and meet the auction house experts. A varied collection of porcelain, jades, ivories, paintings and furniture from China and Japan was on display. Ian Glennie, Head of the Asian Art Department, and his colleague Asha Edwards gave a series of "table-talks" on selected highlights, as guests enjoyed refreshments provided by caterers Ginger Snap.

The photos show Lot 131, a rare lacquer and paper topographical fan, mid 19th century with vignettes of Macau, Canton and Hong Kong to one side and detailed birds in foliate landscapes to the other, estimate £400-600, hammer £3,500 ; and Lot 352, a Straits famille rose basin 19th century, estimate £200-300, hammer £2,500 (photos courtesy of Bonhams Ltd)

Notable Chinese lots included a collection of some 80 Chinese fans amassed over several years by a single owner. Some have been used as illustrations in books, shows, exhibitions and lectures. The superb quality of the carving of the ivory fans was the first attraction - the collector's interest then graduated to the colourful mandarin fans with their ivory faces, applied silk kimonos and other exotic decorations. Other materials found in the collection included fans of mother-o-pearl, silver filagree, sandal wood, lacquer and tortoiseshell. The collection made some quite creditable prices, with some exceptional examples reaching £2,000-3,500.

After the auction, Ian Glennie commented, “an ever strengthening market for Chinese goods originally destined for export produced a sale of superb average lot prices and a 90% selling rate”. He noted the new popularity of export pieces is “perhaps due to the scarcity and ever increasing prices for Chinese Imperial treasures of porcelain, ivory, jade and bronze”. Export goods in all main collecting areas are all selling well, with only ivory slowing a little since China introduced its own trade restrictions.

He also highlighted the garish painted 'Straits' porcelain, intended initially for sale in Singapore and Malaya, which is receiving “unprecedented attention at auction in recent sales”. For example, lot 352 (seen in the photo above) was listed at an estimate of £200-300 but sold for a hammer price of £2,500, while another similar item, lot 353, listed similarly, fetched £1,900. This reflected similar results seen in the March 2012 sale.

The same effect was seen in export silver too, as noted by Adrien von Ferscht, who spoke to the SCA Edinburgh branch in December 2012, with lots 272 and 273 realising several times their estimates.

For more details of the auction and the lots, see this page on the Bonhams website, including the final prices realised.

We attended another such event in 2015, see here for more.