Asia’s wealthiest collectors, once again, refused to pay exorbitant prices for the world’s most prized Chinese antiques.
Auction house Christie’s was unable to sell a 240 million Hong Kong dollar (US$31 million), 18th-century revolving vase – which Christie’s hoped would set a new standard in prices for Chinese antiquities – at its sale on Wednesday. The non-sale follows Sotheby’s failed sale of its top lot, a HK$180 million Falangcai vase, at a Hong Kong auction in April.
This time, the item up for grabs was a Qianglong period (1736-1795) vase featuring an interior sleeve that rotates within the exterior shell of the vase. The vase was the last, yet most anticipated, lot in a session of morning sales that drew a packed room of mostly mainland Chinese buyers. After a couple minutes of bidding, the high bid stalled at HK$190 million, prompting many to applaud, thinking it had sold at that price. But because it failed to hit the HK$240 million threshold, also known as the reserve price, the vase remained unsold. (Prices quoted don’t include the buyer’s premium charged by the auction house.)
Another high-priced lot, a “Dragon and Clouds” screen made of rosewood and featuring fine carving and painting, also failed to sell, as bids stopped short of its HK$100 million reserve price.
Christie’s officials were quick to downplay the failed sales.
“I didn’t think the prices were overly aggressive,” said Pola Antebi, head of Chinese ceramics and works of art for Christie’s in Hong Kong.
“Overall, most of the lots sold,” she said, adding that the majority of items under the HK$20 million to HK$30 million price point sold in the high end of their estimates. “Just those lots at the higher range [didn’t sell]. I think the market is still very strong…. But at the very top of the market, there are still very few people in it.”
She was optimistic that the revolving vase may still sell privately outside the auction room, saying that “people expressed interest after the sale.”
Indeed, after Sotheby’s failed sale of its prized Qing Dynasty vase in April, the auction house said it sold privately for HK$200 million. But overall, Sotheby’s sale of Chinese ceramics failed to crack its presale estimate of HK$940 million, and the results prompted some, including bubble-watching Yale professor Vikram Mansharamani, to speculate that the Chinese antiques market has peaked and is poised for a sharp decline.
Source : blogs.wsj.com