Domestic buyers and sellers of Chinese decorative arts, no matter how experienced in the trade, have come to face each major sale on the auction calendar expecting the unexpected. China's dynamic economy and the subsequent explosion of that nation's antique and decorative arts market has created surging, wave-like trends that suddenly, unexpectedly crash American auction house floors, often to the delight of auctioneers and their consignors. Such was the case on Saturday, March 20, 2010 when Freeman's
Asian Arts Department hosted a large contingent of international buyers for their spring auction and saw strong prices bid for known achievers such as hardwood furniture and antique carved jade and -in some cases- even stronger prices bid for pieces heretofore considered good but middling property.
Lot 396, a large Chinese Hu-form vase from China's Republic period in the first half of the 20th century was a bold and attractive piece but very new compared to the many period ceramics offered from the Qing, Ming and even Song dynasties. It eclipsed them all in price, achieving $28,600 after competitive bidding on the floor. The widening of that market is a boon to collectors and dealers worldwide who have so far been relying on the limited reserve of fine period porcelains remaining outside of China to drive the trade.
An unusual 18th / 19th century polychrome stained elephant ivory and carnelian-mounted ruyi scepter whose mixed condition told a tale of its age, one time mishandling and subsequent creative and loving restoration won over Freeman's visiting buyers and ended up the top lot at auction, fetching $67,000 and an ovation from the audience after heated bidding. Its price attests to the piece's cultural significance and there is no doubt the scepter will be well received and well bought when it returns to China.
Among those items that appealed to the connoisseurs of classic Chinese and Tibetan Buddhist art were a large Chinese silver-inlaid bronze Quanyin with a Yutang Shisou mark and a smaller but fine and old Sino Tibetan gilt bronze figure of Buddha. The large standing Quanyin with exaggerated graceful proportions and subtle wire work was scrutinized heavily during exhibition. It satisfied our buyers and brought a handsome $43,000 total. Likewise, the gilt bronze Buddha with its detailed features and correct period patina thrilled bidders and brought $39,400 on the floor. These top lots, reminders that superior age and craftsmanship always result in high prices join several fine and traditional pieces of furniture, jade and cloisonné that all sold for over $20,000 apiece.
The Asian arts auction was sewn up nicely well into the afternoon when a single-owner collection of Japanese Satsuma ware performed nicely and exceeded most expectations. Top among these pieces was a meticulously decorated vase by the master craftsman Makuzu Kozan. Featurred alongside other fine pieces from the most famous artists of the Satsuma style, the Kozan vase shined brightest with a final price of $10,000.