Oct 10, 2011

Scams Abound in the Chinese Art Auction World

Today, National Public Radio aired an insightful story about wide scale scamming by Chinese who sell and bid at auction for their country's art: In China's Red-Hot Market Fraud Abounds
Among the scams described are fakes selling for huge sums, auctions being used as conduits for bribes, and refusals to pay for high priced goods won at auction by bidders. I think it made some excellent points and closed with a great one: "One major issue is that Chinese auction houses are not responsible for the authenticity of the goods they sell, as long as they issue a disclaimer. But the problem is that the fakery is endemic. In all too many cases, the art is fake, the bids are rigged, the experts are crooked, and the bills are never settled. It's difficult to know what is real, aside from the corruption."

All this makes it hard to trust the validity of Chinese auction results, which I need to use as comps when doing appraisals. Therefore, I always check to see if objects similar to those I am appraising have sold at auctions in the West (which are also inundated by Chinese buyers, so that can be problematic too) and what prices are for these things in private galleries.

Oct 7, 2011

Another Record Chinese Sale!

Sotheby's Hong Kong sale of Chinese art from the renowned Meiyingtang collection on October 5, 2011 set another record for porcelain, this time for Ming blue and white wares. A beautiful meiping shaped vase from the Yongle era sold for HK$168.7 million (US$72 million). For more on this see the Oct. 7, 2011 article at Reuters: Ming Vase Smashes Record at Mixed Chinese Sale
A related article on the current Chinese art market appeared in the Wall Street Journal today: Art Market: The China Factor

This article advised readers on what are more affordable alternatives for would-be buyers of Chinese art than those that sell for record-smashing prices. But while the article accurately notes what types of art fit into these less pricey categories, buyers still need to be wary if their intention is to buy art as an investment, which really is a gamble. There is much fine quality art available for low prices because it is not the height of fashion or whose prices are in the doldrums due to economic factors and there is no telling when the situation will change -- I am thinking especially of the situation for JAPANESE ART, and in particular, most types of screens, scrolls, lacquers, and ceramics, which are all great buys today.

October 27, 2011 Lecture in Chicago

I'll be presenting a lecture to the Japan-America Society of Chicago on Thursday Oct. 27, 2011.


6:30-7:15 pm PRESENTATION
7:15-7:30 Q and A

Masuda Funai Eifert & Mitchell, Ltd.
203 N. LaSalle Street, 25th Floor Conference Room
Chicago, IL 60603
$15 JASC Members/$20 Non-Members

The production of copies is part of the tradition of East Asian visual culture. Not all copies are fakes and many have monetary value, sometimes more than the original. Artists from Korea and Japan were often inspired by Chinese art, and Japanese artists also copied certain types of Korean arts, such as Buddhist painting. Consequently, distinguishing the original from the copy is often challenging. Understanding the different contexts in which copies were produced helps understand how to evaluate them. Emphasizing the tradition of copying in Japanese arts, this presentation also addresses copies in Chinese and Korean arts, showing how some are copied for legitimate reasons, and others for deception.

The talk draws on Graham's experience as both a scholar and appraiser of Asian art, using examples of objects she has seen and studied over the years, including Japanese secular paintings, Chinese, Korean and Japanese Buddhist painting and sculpture, Japanese prints, ceramics, cloisonné, Peking glass, jade, and netsuke. She will compare different sorts of copies and fakes, and discuss their relative values in the marketplace. Currently, the issue of forgeries is particularly pertinent and vexing because these have increased substantially in recent years, especially in China, although the use of scientific examination techniques is often used effectively to discern them.