Masterpieces, jewels sparkle in Sotheby's HK sales

Wed Mar 10, 2010 11:01pm EST
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By James Pomfret

HONG KONG (Reuters Life!) - Chinese collectors still have an appetite for classical Chinese art, jewels and rare artifacts, auction house Sotheby's said as it revealed the line-up of its Hong Kong sales, expected to net $221 million dollars.

With some once red-hot segments of the Chinese art market, including Chinese contemporary art, still wounded by the financial downturn, more established collecting categories like fine Chinese paintings and ceramics have shown greater resilience, with several rare masterpieces fetching record prices during last season's autumn sales series in Hong Kong and China.

This time, a rare painting by Qi Baishi, an emperor's pearl necklace and a rare, large blue diamond are among the lots Sotheby's expects will fetch top dollar during the April 3-8 auctions.

"The market continues to be solid and strong, particularly when the property is fresh and correctly estimated," said Nicolas Chow, Sotheby's head of Chinese ceramics and works of art.

Collectors looking for signs of further momentum in the Chinese art market during Sotheby's spring sales series, however, may instead see caution weigh.

"I think the market needs some time to digest the results," said C.K. Cheung, Sotheby's head of Chinese paintings.

"Prices will be quite stable because of the rapid changes over the past year. It's quite high," he told Reuters, referring largely to the fine Chinese painting market, which has seen prices for modern masters like Qi Baishi, Fu Baoshi and Zhang Daqian surge almost 50 percent over the past year.

"But for the future, it's still very positive."   Continued...