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Chinese art surges back at Bonhams with sales of 12.7 million in London auctions this week
‘Seated Lady with Flowers’, made with ink and colour on paper, purchased in Shanghai by the owner's father while he was working for the Shell Oil Company, circa 1952, also sold for £421,250. Photo: Bonhams.
LONDON.- Any concerns about the health of the Chinese art market were put to rest at Bonhams yesterday. (16.5.13). Colin Sheaf, Bonhams Deputy Chairman and Head of Asian Art, commented: “Last year we were concerned that the political transition in China would impact on the art market. This sale comprehensively demonstrates that the Chinese art market is back to form with record prices.”

Bonhams Fine Chinese art sale in New Bond Street saw standing room only and brisk bidding which took the sale to £11.5 million with some enthusiastic bidders increasing bids by £100,0000 or more at a time. Besides the huge interest in the saleroom for the 420 works in the sale, there were bids from around the world via the Internet online bidding system, as well as bids from a bank of 15 telephones.

An earlier Chinese art sale at Bonhams Knightsbridge saleroom on Monday 13th May made £1.2 million, producing a total of £12.7 million for Chinese art at Bonhams this week.

The Bond Street sale included Imperial porcelain, sculpture, Buddhist gilt bronzes and vessels, jade carvings, scrolls, screens, furniture and paintings – but without doubt the Imperial porcelain dominated with paintings by Lin Fengmian also achieving remarkable prices.

The top item in the sale, lot 39, a very rare blue and white garlic-head joined lotus bottle vase from the Qianlong Imperial period which made £679,650. The decoration of lotus blossoms growing from the same stem which adorns the vase is extremely rare. There is only one other comparable example from the Qianlong period. The auspicious motif traditionally commemorates prosperous marriage and the rarity of this feature would suggest that the vase was a special imperial commission.

A magnificent and rare blue and white moonflask of the Qianlong period, lot 40, was sold for £421,250. The moonflask is the only second known example found of its kind and is a remarkable 18th Century survivor. This stunning vase came from an English private collection, having been acquired by the owner's grandfather, in the late 19th or early 20th century.The moonflask is inspired in form and decoration by early Ming Dynasty examples which the Palace Museum in Beijing has on show.

Another stunning work, Lot 69, a very rare Qianlong gilt baluster vase sold for £325,250.

Asaph Hyman, Director of Fine Chinese Art at Bonhams, said after the sale: “We are delighted that connoisseurs of Chinese art from all over the world recognized the beauty and the rarity of what was on offer today and this was reflected in the very strong prices achieved.”

Two paintings by Lin Fengmian (1900 -1991), a painter considered a pioneer of modern Chinese painting best known for blending Chinese and Western painting styles, did outstandingly well, each one selling for £421,250. With the exception of one image, they were part of a group of Fengmian pictures from one English family, a member of whom was a student of Fengmians. In total the group of 12 Fengmian paintings made £1.8m

Lin Fengmian was painting with the vision of the 20th-century, while contemporary Chinese artists lagged behind. But much of Lin's art was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. For years until he was allowed to leave China, he was tortured and persecuted for being an intellectual and an artist.'

The Lin Fengmian picture, Lot 254 Opera scene’, an ink and colour on paper, sold for £421,250. The painting portrays a scene from the Beijing Opera 'Southern Heaven's Gate'. The story takes place during the Ming Dynasty when a high minister was ensnared in an ambush by his political rival, the powerful eunuch Wei Zhongxian.

Lot 255 ‘Seated Lady with Flowers’, made with ink and colour on paper, purchased in Shanghai by the owner's father while he was working for the Shell Oil Company, circa 1952, also sold for £421,250.

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