Taking a Risk, Lark Mason Associates Forges Ahead with Online Asian Art Sales While Analyzing the Future of the Art Market, Post Covid-19

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  • April 20, 2020

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Qianlong Period Chinese Enameled Metal Censer
Lark Mason Associates

Though auction houses, art fairs and gallery exhibitions are postponing their schedules until this fall, the online auctions carry on despite the worldwide disruption. Case in point: Lark Mason, whose eponymous Lark Mason Associates has two Asian art sales–totaling more than 1,000 lots–running concurrently on igavelauctions.com, the online auction platform he founded in 2003.

Considered one of the leading Asian art experts, Lark Mason explains, “I’m putting on a sale now in a time when most of my competitors are taking a wait and see approach. I don’t blame them. “I’m taking big risk that could jeopardize my company. But, if our economy falters, I believe that waiting might actually be riskier. It’s my job to look after my staff and our consignors, so we’re offering a large group of Chinese works of art on the iGavelauctions.com website for my company Lark Mason Associates as well as on behalf of friends and colleagues who are joining us.  If my predictions and analysis are correct, the sale will perform very well.” 

Mason reports that a number of items are attracting robust bidding, including a Qianlong Period Chinese Enameled Metal Censer, estimated at $1,500-3,000, which shortly after going ‘live’ spiked to $12,000 in bids, as well as a 17th century Chinese gilt bronze silver wire inlaid censer by Hu Wenming, tripling its estimate to over $9,000.

In response to the upheaval of coronavirus, Mason has introduced new features to his online platform. “We’re working with consignors to sell their items remotely via our auction site, keeping the items at their home, and allowing our company to facilitate the transactions and the fulfillment,” he says. “We’re also working with a number of non-profits whose big events were upended by the virus, providing a platform that allows remote sales of a variety of items that otherwise would have been offered in a crowded ballroom.”

“Beset with the coronavirus crisis, people around the globe are very concerned about their health and finances, but the finance part is just beginning to be a concern,” says Mason. “In Asia, it’s already a concern. Political instability is a momentous topic there, and when financial markets suffer a dramatic downturn at the same time and uncertainty reigns, people seek secure havens. In that part of the world that translates– now as it has for many, many years– into individuals buying jewelry, precious metals, and works of art. Have there been many sales yet to test this theory? Not yet, but I believe that this scenario will play out.  Right now, I believe sales of Asian works of art–jewelry, and fine art–particularly Asian fine art–will be strong, especially at the high-end.”

17th century Chinese gilt bronze silver wire inlaid censer by Hu Wenming
Lark Mason Associates

“In western art markets I suspect the same situation will apply with some of them rising in this environment, while others fall. There is a huge difference between the higher-end demographic and the middle and lower. Middle and lower-end market purchases– such as house sales, used furniture and similar types of items– will find a slack in demand. When people are worried about food and housing and jobs, art is the last thing that comes to mind. But at the higher end, discretionary money isn’t constrained, and the best of whatever category comes up for sale should do well.”

In turbulent times there is risk and opportunity. Mason sees both in this situation and recommends that buyers maintain calm, keep focused on quality, and take advantage of the huge shift that is now taking place with regard to online platforms now, both to buy and sell.

About Lark Mason

With locations in New Braunfels, Texas and New York City, Lark Mason Associates, the eponymous, auction house specializing in Asian, ethnographic, and ancient works of art, was founded by Lark Mason after many years as an expert at Sotheby's New York.

Mason served as a General Appraiser from 1979 until 1985, and as a Senior Vice President and specialist in Chinese art with Sotheby's Chinese Works of Art Department from 1985-2003.  From 2000-2003 he concurrently was a Director of Online Auctions for Sothebys.com. He also served as a consulting curator at the Trammel and Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art in Dallas, Texas from 2003-2009. He is a generalist in American and European works of art and paintings, as well as an expert in the field of Chinese art and has valued and advised many private collectors and institutions.

Lark Mason Associates regularly hosts auctions on the iGavel Auctions platform and has an established history of record sales of Chinese and other works of art and holds the record for the highest price achieved for any work of art in an online sale, for a painting sold in May 2014 that realized close to $4.2m. Mason, the owner and CEO of iGavel Auctions, is noted for his regular appearances on "The Antiques Road Show."

For more information, visit www.igavelauctions.com



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