Wealthy Chinese buyers competing for their cultural heritage pushed New York’s week of Asian art to a record, topped by a delicate pear-shaped Chinese vase, estimated to fetch just $800 to $1,200.
The lot soared to $18 million, the most expensive in a dozen Asian Week auctions at Sotheby’s (BID) and Christie’s International. Together, the auction houses took in a record $202 million, 56 percent above the previous high in 2007.
Sotheby’s described the modestly-estimated vase, decorated with birds and peonies, as of “probably Republican period” (early 20th-century). Yet it had a Qianlong seal and anything of that 1736-1795 era commands higher prices, said dealers.
“It’s outstanding if it’s genuine,” said Giuseppe Eskenazi, one of the leading dealers in Chinese art.
China overtook the U.S. as the world’s biggest auction market for fine art in 2010, according to research company Artprice, benefiting from the support of its government. Last week’s sales attracted collectors from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.