At the height of the coronavirus pandemic Lark Mason rolled the dice and moved forward with his spring Asian art sale of Chinese Export Porcelain and Works of Art from an American Collector, which closed on April 21st to stunning results–$800,270 including buyer’s premium.
“The auction’s success validated our decision not to postpone the schedule until the fall,” says Lark Mason, eponymous founder of Lark Mason Associates and the iGavel auction platform. “Even through these dire circumstances, the auctions provided a safe haven and diversion for both Asian, American and European collectors, and offers a valuable indicator to the current state of the market.”
According to Mason, bidders from America, Europe, and Asia responded enthusiastically with about half of the lots offered going into overtime bidding. “Many of the top international collectors and dealers participated in the sale, and the results far exceeded our expectations.”
Though the pre-sale exhibitions were cut short during Asia Week New York in early March, Mason attributes his success to the gold-standard brand of the iGavelauctions platform, the transparency and professionalism of the presentation and process, and the excellent high-quality images that made bidders comfortable to participate. “Our formula for success was to keep estimates reasonable and offer bidders plenty of time to participate.” According to Mason, the sale contained 142 lots and, of those, 132 sold, and the overall high lot estimate of $225,000 was more than tripled.
“Prior to offering the sale, we consulted the owners and our staff and decided that it would be highly unwise to push the estimates or reserves to where the market was prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. We recognized the situation had changed and we needed to do our utmost to reach the audiences of bidders and let them determine the outcome. It was a gutsy decision on the part of our consignors and we’re extremely gratified that our analysis proved to be the correct approach.”
The sale was filled with many fine, small, rare export and other works that had been carefully selected from among the top dealers in the world by the collector’s family over three generations. The selectiveness and exclusivity of the owners was a major factor in the results, offering a very fine group of works, many with a superb provenance during a time when quality and provenance are extremely important.
Among the highlights were extremely rare works such as a Chinese Revolving Vase, Qianlong Mark and Period that depicted a series of Dutch figures contained within a stationary outer vase in a latticework pattern. An example of the very rare type of work created in Canton for the court, these and other similar wares are a fusion of Chinese domestic taste decorated with western figures or images, much like the architectural masterpiece of the Yuan Ming Yuan, created under Jesuits at Qianlong’s court. This vase realized $212,500 far exceeding its estimate of $5,000-8,000.
Another dramatic highlight was a Chinese Gilt Bronze Peach form brush washer, Qing dynasty, which was wonderfully cast with a series of lingzhi and bats and other auspicious emblems in a shallow dish-like peach-form container. The quality and rarity pushed bidders to surpass the estimate of $1,500-2,500 to $53,750.
Among the top reported sales are: a Chinese Enameled Metal Fang Ding Censer, Qianlong Mark and Period, which realized $57,500, from its $1,500-3,000; an 18th century Chinese Export Porcelain Canton Water Front Hong Punch Bowl, hammered $36,250 over the $15,000-$25,000 estimate; a Qing Dynasty Chinese Enameled Copper Vase, rose to $35,000 superseding its $600-900 estimate; while a Chinese Yue Yao Mythical Beast Vessel, Western Jin Dynasty hammered $26,250 from $2,000-4,000; an 18th-19th century Chinese Export Porcelain Fish Form Covered Dish with Coat of Arms, rang up $26,250 from $500-800; an 18th century Chinese Export Figure of a Dutch Man and Woman closed at $20,950, from $5,000-8,000; a 17th-18th century Chinese Gold and Silver Inlay Bronze Censer, $17,500 went over its $4,000-6,000 estimate; and an 18th century Tibetan Gilt Bronze Figure of Yamadharmaraja, $15,000 surpassed the $4,000-6,000 estimate.
Says Mason, “Rarely does such a jewel-like collection come onto the market with the public response just as we hoped. Bidding was furious and sustained throughout the sale, for lots at all price points.”