Chinese buyers power record $408 million Christie's sale

Thu Dec 2, 2010 10:55am EST
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By James Pomfret

HONG KONG (Reuters Life!) - Christie's sold a record $409 million worth of Chinese art and collectibles at its autumn Asian sales that ended in Hong Kong on Thursday in another sign of ebullient sentiment for high-end Asian and Chinese art.

The tally was the auction house's best in a single Hong Kong auction season, powered by the purchasing power of mainland Chinese millionaires who made up 40 percent or so of sales even as the global economic outlook darkens on Eurozone debt woes.

"There was significant participation again from Chinese bidders. It was a perfect storm of great property and hungry demand," said Jonathan Stone, Christie's Asia Managing director.

It wasn't strong across the board, however, with Chinese contemporary art still struggling to find its footing as more traditional collecting categories of Asian art steam ahead.

In the marquee sales of ancient Chinese artwork and ceramics, the auction house's staging of three single-owner Western collections; including the renowned Fonthill collection from England helped generate additional buzz for long shelved objects.

An exquisite quartet of sinuous, life-sized Qing dynasty imperial cranes from the Fonthill estate, were snapped up within minutes by billionaire Hong Kong tycoon Joseph Lau for $16.7 million, a new auction record for Chinese cloisonne enamel.

Demand for ornate Qing Imperial ceramics, now easily the most desired and expensive category of Chinese art, remained strong.

A large moonflask adorned with a finely wrought pair of flaming pink phoenixes on a blue underglaze fetched $15.9 million, while another Fonthill heirloom, a bright yellow "famille rose" pear-shaped vase fetched $11.6 million -- a world auction record for porcelain from the Jiaqing period (1796-1820).   Continued...