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Fine Chinese furniture and paintings achieve top prices at Bonhams San Francisco
A huanghuali altar table, 18th century. The floating panel top set into a mitered, mortise and tenon frame over a plain beaded apron with U-shaped spandrels joined to tubular supports and paired cross braces. 32 1/4 x 76 5/8 x 20 1/4in (82 x 194.5 x 51.5cm). Sold for $389,000; Est. $60,000-80,000. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- Bonhams San Francisco was the destination of choice for international collectors of Asian art who traveled to attend the bi-annual auction of Fine Chinese Art and Asian Decorative Art on June 24 and 25. The auction achieved nearly $9.5 million - over twice the pre-sale estimate, with broad-based bidding from Mainland Chinese buyers dominating the sale. The preview and saleroom were packed with buyers from Asia who vied for Chinese works of art, driving prices to multiples of their estimates in choice collecting areas.

The Chinese furniture lots on offer were a key target for buyers in the room, on the internet and on the telephone; lot after lot was knocked down to six figure prices. A fine, 18th century, huanghuali altar table from the O'Brien collection soared past its estimate to achieve $389,000 (est. 60,000-90,000). A zitan side table of the late Qing/Republic period from a Piedmont, Calif., collection, brought out of Shanghai in the 1930s, sold for $233,000 (est. $50,000-70,000). A pair of zitan and hardwood side tables from a Pacific Northwest collection captured the record for the day, selling for $413,000.

The momentum continued through the ceramics offered, with a spotlight on a rare pair of wucai jardinieres, of the six character Kangxi mark and period, which sold for $160,000 - almost three times its low estimate. The pace of the sale reached a frenzy in the Chinese paintings section where lot after lot soared past their high estimates. A painting by the renown artist Qi Baishi (1863-1957) of "Amaranths and Dragonflies," acquired from the artist in Beijing by Hellmut Wilhelm (1905-1990) and Maria Illch-Wilhelm, then to the current owner by descent, achieved $305,000 (estimate $50,000-70,000). A Republic period copy of a handscroll painted in the style of Lan Shining (Giuseppe Castiglione) depicting a hunting scene, offered on behalf of the Portland Art Museum to benefit future acquisitions, brought an impressive $209,000.

Prices were buoyant in all sections of the two-day sale, with jades, snuff bottles and textiles from two San Francisco collections standing out as the particular recipients of broad-based bidding. Enameled porcelains were a notable focus of buying attention during the second day of the sale, with an unusual polychrome enamel model of a lingzhi fungus, Qianlong mark, selling for an impressive $301,000 to a telephone bidder against strong competition. Republic period enameled plaques were no exception; all that were offered sold well. The top-selling example, comprising two polychrome enameled plaques, achieved $81,250 - eight times its pre-sale estimate. Chinese furniture from the estate of Dr. Gerber that was offered on the second day received very strong attention with its top lot, a pair of hardwood cabinets, yuanjiao gui, selling for more than 10 times its pre-sale estimate at $112,000.

"We are very pleased with the results of these two days," said Dessa Goddard, Director of Asian Art at Bonhams, U.S. "The record attendance by overseas buyers is a statement of the continued growth of the Bonhams brand in Asia, and the strong overall results attest to a healthy, diversified market."

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