Bonhams Hong Kong secured another ‘Golden Gavel’ triumph on 25 May 2011 with the sale of the legendary Mary and George Bloch Collection of Chinese Snuff bottles: Part III. All 142 lots sold out for a total of HK$38,361,600 (£3,054,329).
The blockbuster sale proves that the international market for the finest Chinese snuff bottles shows no sign of abating at the top level. The Island Shangri-La Hotel’s ballroom was filled to capacity today as bidders from Hong Kong, Beijing, Taipei, Singapore, London and California vied with bidders on the telephone to acquire the superb snuff bottles from the third selection of the world’s finest private collection, by far the best ever to come to the auction market. For the third time in this series of sales, every lot was successfully sold, maintaining Bonhams’ unique auction tradition in Hong Kong.
Colin Sheaf, Chairman of Bonhams Asia and auctioneer of all three Golden Gavel sales in the series, commented: “Handling this collection is in every respect the peak of our auction business in Hong Kong. The bottles are superb examples to research and discuss with clients, selling them attracts a truly global response from collectors and dealers, and every sale has sold every single lot we have offered, often for world record prices. Nothing can more clearly demonstrate the strength of the global auction market for Chinese art, and the hungry demand from an unprecedentedly wide ranging circle of active buyers.”
As anticipated, top price was paid for a gold-ground enamelled copper Imperial snuff bottle, manufactured in the Beijing Palace Workshops probably in the 1770s, which sold for HK$4.2 million (£334,323) to a private Asian buyer (lot 141, estimate in excess of HK$3.5 million).
The collection of snuff bottles was not the only major single-owner collection that Bonhams Hong Kong was selling today. The Q Collection of Exquisite Soapstones had been sourced in the West, but sent to Hong Kong in the belief that it would particularly appeal to the new generation of ‘Shoushan stone’ buyers in mainland China and also in Taiwan. The stone originates from Fujian province, and many collectors of Fujianese family origin now live in Taiwan. Carved mostly in the 17th – 18 Century, these small but very carefully designed semi-votive images mostly depict Buddhist and Daoist mythical figures, and have long appealed to southern Chinese buyers. This time active bidders from London, the US, Singapore and even Thailand competed with more traditional South East Asian buyers, ensuring that almost all the top lots were sold at prices often exceeding their high estimates.
The top price was achieved by a pair of superbly decorated inlaid panels showing mythical landscapes, which sold to a Chinese buyer at HK$3.8 million(£302,440) (lot 275, estimate HK$600-800,000). The sale achieved a total of HK$21.8 million(£1,735,118) and it is very unlikely that a collection of this quality and range of soapstone carving will ever again come to auction.
“These two sales begin our series of Bonhams Hong Kong May auctions, and give us great optimism for the others taking place today and tomorrow,” commented Colin Sheaf. “They follow on from our record-breaking auctions of Chinese and Japanese art in London only two weeks ago, where we also achieved record prices for Chinese jade, ceramics and bronzes. This market is solid, sophisticated, selective for the finest items, and widely based geographically; all conditions which encourage us to believe that it will stay strong for the foreseeable future.”