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Joseph K. Levene Fine Art, Ltd. Art Blog

Joseph K. Levene

Joseph K. Levene Fine Art, Ltd.

Joseph K. Levene Fine Art, Ltd. is an International Dealer of Secondary Market blue-chip paintings, sculpture, fine art photography, prints and multiples by leading Post War & Contemporary Master Artists.

With three decades multfifaceted art experience, Joseph K. Levene tackles relevant art topics and news.

Did Sotheby's Document $18 million Vase Correctly?

  • Chinese Vase Sold For $18 million

    Chinese Vase Sold For $18 million

  • $18 million Chinese Vase sold by Sotheby's

    $18 million Chinese Vase sold by Sotheby's

A Chinese Vase expected to sell for $800. to $1,200., was sold by Sotheby's New York for an astonishing $18 million on March 22, 2011. Described as an unusual famille rose and gold decorated vase, an Anonymous Sotheby's bidder paid $18 million for this 20 century porcelain.

The Chinese Vase was among 300 lots consigned by J.T. Tai and Company, a well-known  Dealer of Chinese Porcelain; the Sotheby's Sale realized $36.3 million and took nine hours to complete.

Why did Sotheby's estimate the $18 million Chinese Vase at only $800-$1,200? Sotheby's felt there was no actual support to indicate the Vase was created before the 20th Century.

Why did Sotheby's include a Lot with such a low estimate in its sale? The Vase, part of estate property, was included, as an accommodation since it was among 300 lots of a one owner sale. If the Famille Rose Chinese Vase Lot were presented for consignment to Sotheby's by most consignors, its $800-$1,200., estimate would have placed it well below the minimum lot value.

Is the $18 million paid for the  Famille Rose Chinese Vase a good investment?  The $18 million price paid for the Famille Rose Chinese Vase presents significant downside risk, especially since there is noactual evidence to support its creation and ownership prior to the 20th Century.  We endorse the advice of Tobias Meyer, Sotheby's Chief Auctioneer, who said, "if you decide to collect antiquities, you'd better have the best expert on your side".

Would Sotheby's change the estimate if the Chinese Vase buyer consigned it again? Most likely, Sotheby's would not dramatically change the estimate to the several million dollar range if new buyer of the Vase consigned it again for auction. Absent any new information, there is no reason to change its documentation from "probably Republican" which means it is a Vase created in the 20th Century, and its original estimate reflected this dating.

What prevented Sotheby's from stating the Vase was created earlier than the 20th Century? The adherence of the Sotheby's International Terms of Guarantee obviated use of documentation that indicated the Vase was created before the 20th Century. While some bidders felt the Vase could have been created as early as 1736-1795, there was no actual support for this creation date. Sotheby's Terms of Guarantee, ensures the Buyer a complete refund if the Lot includes incorrect/false documentation.

In addition, since the Vase was the property of a J.T. Tai and Company, an Internationally respected Dealer in Chinese porcelain, there is no reason to change its creation from the 20th Century. The Vase accounted for about 50% of the total realized prices of the Sotheby's Sale. 

Other key lots in the sale included:

 • A Fine Blue And White Bowl Ming Dynasty, Yongle Period which sold for $1,594,500 (est. $800,000/1.2 million).

 • A 'Famille-Rose' Vase, Republican Period which fetched $1,314,500 (est. $6/8,000).

 • A Fine Carved 'Ding' Bowl, Song Dynasty which brought $392,500 (est. $15/20,000).

 • An Archaic Yellow Jade Ornament With Hinged Twin Discs Qing Dynasty sold for $434,500 (est. $10/15,000.

 • An Archaic Jade Fluted Ring Late Eastern Zhou/Western Han Dynasty fetching $338,500 (est. $1,500/2,000). 

Judd Tully reports that "Bidders were convinced that the auction hosue was wrong in believing the piece to be a mere 20th Century copy". If you brought the Vase to Sotheby's today for a possible consignment, the estimate would be similar to the original $800-$1,200., estimate

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