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Waddington's woos the Asian art market with spectacular results
A full auction room, online bidders and a staff of 10 to handle telephone bids contributed to the often frenzied bidding action and sky-high prices at the downtown auction company’s gallery.

TORONTO.- Seasoned auctioneers Duncan McLean and Stephen Ranger had their work cut out for them at Waddington’s December 2, 2013 auction of Asian Art. As the enthusiasm for luxury buying continues to increase in China, so does the demand for art. A full auction room, online bidders and a staff of 10 to handle telephone bids contributed to the often frenzied bidding action and sky-high prices at the downtown auction company’s gallery. The final sale total of $3.07 million, including commission, is a record high for an Asian Art auction in Canada. With a 70% sold rate, the auction more than doubled its $1.05 million to $1.49 million pre-sale estimate.

Based on the level of pre-auction interest, Waddington’s Asian Art Specialist Anthony Wu had anticipated that some of the close to 400 items offered might exceed their estimates, but the evening’s success surpassed all expectations.

The auction's success was not restricted to Chinese works of art; the first highlight of the evening was an 18th century rare Ko-Imari Wine Jar decorated with a figure of Bacchus from the Edo Period. The pre-sale estimate of $3,000/4,000 was blown away by a final hammer price of $28,800. Similarly, an exquisitely articulated silver Japanese Jizai Okimono of a Dragon from the Meiji Period sold for over twice its estimate at $57,600.

But it was the Chinese works of art that had the auction room buzzing.

Wu was hard pressed to define his favourite moment of the auction with so many successful outcomes, but clearly was pleased with the $347,500 realized for a spectacular Chinese Pale Celadon Jade Ruyi Scepter from the Jiaqing Period. It was the impeccable provenance, perfect condition and rarity of the piece Wu credits for the price. “Buyers are much more discerning now” Wu said, “Our clients are looking for higher quality, unique items that are new to the market. In this case, the buyer was so intent on buying the piece he travelled from Beijing for the auction.”

The highest price realized of the evening was $807,500 for “Mountainous River Landscape”, an ink and colour scroll painting, dated 1963. Meticulous in his research and pointedly cautious in his attributions, Wu catalogued the work as “After Fu Baoshi”, who is considered perhaps the most original figure painter and landscapist of China's modern period.

Fu Baoshi’s works are hugely valued for their celebration of cultural heritage during one of the most devastating periods in Chinese history.

This is the second offering of Chinese paintings from the distinguished collection of Dr. David T.W. Lin offered by Waddington’s; the first portion was sold in June 2013.

Wu says it’s not surprising that most of the buyers were from Asia and New York, but noted that several pieces in the auction were from two different notable Canadian collections.

“We are already assembling our spring auction of Asian Art” Wu said from his downtown Toronto office, amidst the packing as the art is prepared to be shipped to new owners. “It is hugely exciting – and satisfying – to experience such growth in this market and to be responsible for Canada’s most significant auctions of Asian Art.”

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