| HONG KONG
HONG KONG Oct 5 A prominent old world
collection of imperial ceramics fetched $72 million at a
Sotheby's Hong Kong sale on Wednesday, with an early Ming cobalt
blue Meiping vase going for a record $21.6 million despite
recent financial market turmoil.
The Meiyintang collection, a unique, respected assemblage of
Chinese porcelain collected over nearly half a century by Swiss
tycoons, the Zuellig brothers, was offered onto the market for
the first time in April in a highly anticipated Hong Kong sale.
Some major lots, however, including a golden pheasant vase,
failed to find buyers in an auction that saw aggressive
estimates and tighter credit requirements weigh on sentiment.
The second part of the Meiyintang sale on Wednesday,
however, with an emphasis on earlier, monochromatic Ming wares,
saw a large auction hall bid steadily for the best of the 41
lots despite recent plunges in local and global stock markets.
The biannual Sotheby's sales are considered a key indicator
of the Asian art market. While ceramics and classic Chinese
paintings performed solidly, the Asian and Chinese contemporary
art sales showed signs of strain, with unsold work ratios of
over 20 percent as the global economic uncertainty deepens.
Whilst some major lots with conspicuous cracks failed to
sell, bidding was strong for a sublime blue and white "meiping"
vase of fruit sprays from the Ming Yongle period that went for
HK$168.7 million ($21.6 million) to a telephone bidder, a world
record at auction for any piece of Chinese Ming porcelain.
"The Ming was strong this time," said William Chak, a
prominent Hong Kong dealer who bought a sky-blue Yongzheng gourd
vase at the sale for HK$4.6 million.
A famille-rose Qing Qianlong period "peach" vase managed to
fetch HK$90.3 million ($11.6 million) in another notable result,
while another bright spot was the $3.7 million bid made for an
extremely rare blue and white Ming Yongle period "Jue" stand.
Ming porcelain (1368-1644), older though often less
decorative and ornate than Qing (1644-1911) wares, has in recent
years been relatively less desired by nouveau riche mainland
Chinese buyers, meaning its prices haven't reached anywhere near
the heights of dazzling late Qing trophy pieces.
There was some weakness, though, in Sotheby's other ceramics
and Chinese art work sale, with a batch of a so-called premium
lots -- that require hefty credit guarantees in order to bid --
failing to sell.
This included a Qianlong era white "phoenix" vase as well as
a cinnabar lacquer "dragon" bowl that had been expected to fetch
tens of millions of Hong Kong dollars.
"I think many people were worried what would happen before
the sales," said Nader Rasti, an Asian art dealer. "But I think
they did well considering what's going on ... 15th century
porcelain has been so cheap for so long, there's a lot of good
Ming porcelain that's still undervalued."
The predominantly mainland Chinese buyers present on
Wednesday, who've powered the Chinese ceramics market in recent
years, weren't buying indiscriminately this time round, giving
rare, though flawed pieces a wide berth.
22 percent of the Meiyintang wares went unsold including two
premium lots: a Ming Yongle period moonflask whose cracked neck
had been entirely rebuilt and a Qing Qianlong reign famille-rose
gourd flask with cracks on its handles.
($1 = 7.786 Hong Kong Dollars)
(Editing by Elaine Lies)