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Asian art auctions at Bonhams in San Francisco achieve $10 million
A fine cinnabar lacquer scholar's chest with dragon decoration, 18th/19th century, 46 1/8 x 30 1/2 x 12 1/4in (117 x 77.5 x 31cm). Sold for $314,500; Est. $30,000-50,000. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- Avid overseas Chinese buyers packed the Bonhams' auction room and drove prices to record levels this week in San Francisco. The market proved buoyant in every category of Chinese works of art, with telephone and internet bidders vying with bidders in the room for objects fresh to the market from private collectors, estates and institutions.

The June 24 auction of Fine Asian Works of Art saw lot after lot soar past their estimates, achieving a sell-through rate of 85% by lot and 94% by value for the 299 lots offered.

Rare jade carvings were the target of frenzied bidding, with a fine jadeite bowl, Jiaqing mark, from a private Denver collection, achieving five times its estimate at $158,500, and a nephrite two-part table screen, from the Harold Stack collection, selling for $218,500, at ten times its estimate. A fine cinnabar lacquer scholar's chest with dragon decoration, 18th/19th century, from a San Francisco lady, was sold to a Chinese collector over the phone for $314,500, after a fierce battle with multiple in-room bidders.

Chinese porcelain saw competition on every lot from Tang sancai to Qing dynasty mark and period wares. An extremely rare Lonquan celadon bottle vase (yuchunping), Yuan/Ming dynasty, from a Berkeley, Calif., estate, engendered fierce competition from multiple telephone and onsite bidders, achieving $374,500 - six times its estimate. A fine blue-glazed meiping, 14th/15th century, ex-Gilbenkian collection and offered from the estates of Betty and John Menke, brought $122,500.

Chinese paintings saw spirited and steady results and concluded with a small section of Southeast Asian paintings, highlighted by a sumptuous composition by the celebrated artist Adrien Jean Le Mayeur de Merprès. Entitled “Lotus Pond,” from the latter phase of his prolific career, the painting incited competition from bidders around the globe, finally selling for $302,000 against a $100,000-150,000 estimate.

The second day of the two sales, offering Asian Decorative Art, followed the same frenzied pattern, with consistently strong prices achieved for all categories of Chinese art.

Decorative jades soared high above their estimates, with a large white jade landscape boulder selling for $50,000, and a contemporary large carved jadeite boulder bringing $40,000. Small jade carvings engendered heated bidding, with a white and spinach jade plaque, Late Qing/Republic Period, selling for $31,250. More than 70 lots of snuff bottles generated strong interest, with a Qianlong market cloisonne snuff bottle selling for $37,500.

Later Chinese porcelains were highly sought after, with a pair of famille rose enameled porcelain stick neck vases, Qianlong marks, achieving $74,500 (est. $4,000-6,000). Furniture and painting sales were consistently strong, with highlights including a set of mother-of-pearl inlaid hongmu furniture, sold for $47,500 (est. $3,000-5,000) and a landscape painting attributed to He Haixia (1908-1998), which catapulted to $74,500.

“We are delighted with the results of the past two days,” said Dessa Goddard, Director of Asian Art, Bonhams North America. “Bonhams is dedicated to creating the best possible competitive environment for our sellers in all collecting areas of Chinese art. Our achievements this week testify to the broad strength of the market and our successful efforts in cultivating our strong international buyer base.”

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