Chinese vase fetches record $69 million in UK auction

LONDON (Reuters) - A Chinese vase discovered during a routine house clearance in a London suburb sold for 43 million pounds ($69 million) Thursday, 40 times its estimate and an auction record for any work of art from Asia, the auctioneer that sold it said.

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“It’s a world record for a piece of Asian art,” Helen Porter of West London auction house Bainbridges told Reuters.

“It’s part of the end of Asian Art week, so there were a lot (of buyers) over for that and the room was absolutely full of Chinese people bidding against each other,” she added.

The hammer price did not include 20 percent in fees and taxes.

“It (the bidding) went on for half an hour. We don’t know exactly who the buyer is. I believe they’re buying on behalf of someone, but I believe they’re Chinese,” she added.

The sale highlights the intense and growing competition among wealthy Chinese buyers for rare pieces of their heritage, and anything associated with imperial China appears to be particularly attractive.

According to the auctioneer, the vase dates from the 1740s from the Qianlong period, would have resided “no doubt” in the Chinese Royal Palace and was fired in the imperial kilns.

The auctioneer said it was a mystery how the 16-inch high piece ended up in London. Its provenance was described simply as belonging to an English family collection, probably acquired during the 1930s.

“It is a masterpiece,” the auction house wrote in its blog before the sale. “If only it could talk!!”

Earlier Thursday, a white jade dragon seal which belonged to the Chinese Qianlong Emperor (1711-1799), sold for 2.7 million pounds at auction house Bonhams.

The four centimeter-square seal, which was expected to fetch 1.5-2.0 million pounds, was bought by an unidentified Chinese buyer from Beijing.

In October, auction house Sotheby’s sold a Chinese Qing dynasty vase for $32.4 million and their Asian auction series of art, jewelry, wine and watches in Hong Kong raised $400 million.

Reporting by Mohammed Abbas and Mike Collett-White; Editing by Peter Graff