Dec 16, 2013

New NY Times Story about Beijing Poly Group Auctions

A fine article, An Art Power Rises in China, Posing Issue for Reform, on the Beijing Poly Group Corporation's auction house (December 16, 2013). Link to article
The article describes the company as a state-run conglomerate that began life selling weapons for the People’s Liberation Army. 

There is no question, though, that Poly has not been as compliant as other houses with the industrywide effort to improve the accuracy of sales reporting….Unlike [China] Guardian and other houses, Poly refused for the past two years to allow the auction association to publish data on the individual works whose sales had not been paid for completely. On top of that, the auction association’s studies ultimately found that Poly is increasingly struggling with a nonpayment problem. In 2012, for example, the association found that, because of nonpayments, only 34 percent of the sales Poly reported for works valued at more than $1.6 million each were actually completed by May of the following year. By contrast, Guardian’s payment rate has improved, with 83 percent of sales completed last year, up from 53 percent….Auction houses account for an estimated 70 percent of the art sales in China, compared with roughly 50 percent in the United States, according to Arts Economics, a research company that studies the international market...Poly has its defenders, even among trade association officials seeking to clean up the market, and company officials say the study and critics are being unfair. “The government has a stricter policy on state-owned enterprises than on private enterprises,” said Zhao Xu, the executive director of the company. Either way, although Poly is just one of more than 350 Chinese art auction houses, its size and reach mean that no meaningful effort to address the irregularities can succeed without its participation. “In the Chinese art market,” said Nancy M. Murphy, an expert on Chinese art law and a lawyer at the Beijing firm Jincheng, Tongda & Neal, “Poly is the 800-pound gorilla in the room.”

Oct 28, 2013

Chinese Auction World Revealed

Another great NY Times article on the perils of the Chinese art market--this one designed for the web with very effective interactive components.

And a commentary on it that suggests the market is even more broken than the NY Times reported.China's Broken Art Market (Reuters blog by Felix Salmon)

Oct 22, 2013

The Poly Group--China's State-owned Auction Giant

More news on the booming Chinese auction market, focusing on the state-owned Poly Group.

Oct 10, 2013


Yet another great sale year for Chinese art, both old and new:
Bloomberg's article has the details.

Yongle-period gilt-bronze figure of a seated Buddha. Sold for US$30.5 million

Ming,  Chenghua-era “Palace” Bowl. Sold for US$18.2 million

 "The Last Supper" (2001) by contemporary painter Zeng Fanzhi. Sold for US$23.3 million, a new record for a Chinese contemporary artist at auction.

Oct 4, 2013

Considerations for Insuring Your Art Collection

A thoughtful, but somewhat simplistic, article in the NY Times, October 4, 2013: With Prices High, Insuring Art a Risky Business
At least it suggests getting an outside opinion of value from someone other than your insurance agent, but does not actually advise consumers to seek valuation advice from appraisers (like me), who possess specialized training in determining appropriate levels of coverage for their needs.

Why Hong Kong Auction Houses Are Thriving

An interesting NY Times article October 3, 2013: Niche Auction Houses Thrive in Hong Kong

Sep 19, 2013


I am always getting emails from people who buy art cheaply and then want to know what it is worth. If you want to be serious about collecting fine Asian art, here are some useful tips: 

1. Buy what you like not what you think will appreciate in value.

2. Buy from reputable dealers--avoid eBay, where dealers and collectors sell off their second-rate art or fakes. Also avoid estate and rummage sales, unless you really know what you are looking at.

 3. No matter what dealer you buy from, do not take their word on identification and dating; ask for documentation, do research yourself, and consult unbiased experts (museum curators, scholars, knowledgeable appraisers)

4. Buy the best type of art you can get for the money you have to spend. If, for example, you only have $5,000 to spend, buy the best art you can get for that amount of money. Do not get a work of art by a particular artist or a  type of art just to have something of that type of art in your collection if all you can afford is a mediocre piece.  
5. Trade up--if you find a piece better than one you already have in your collection, get that and sell (or donate to a museum) the one of lesser importance. 

6. Unless you know that it can be repaired easily, do not buy art in poor condition, unless you really know what you are buying is rare and can be properly restored by trained conservators. This is especially true for Japanese prints, scrolls, and screens.

Aug 11, 2013


This insightful article from Forbes sums up the situation at China's auction houses well, with special mention of the largest auction house, Poly Auctions. CHINA'S $13 BILLION DOLLAR ART FRAUD -- AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR YOU.

Jun 14, 2013

Rare 17th Century Japanese Export Lacquer Chest sold to Rijksmuseum for 7.3 Million Euros

A very important export lacquer chest, a companion piece to one owned by the Victoria and Albert Museum, known as the Mazarin Chest, has re-appeared in France after having been 'lost' since 1941 when it was auctioned in Wales. It was acquired at auction in France this week by Amsterdam's famed Rijksmuseum for 7.3 MILLION EUROS.

Information on the V&A Museum Mazarin Chest

Art Daily article on the recent sale

7.3 million euros by Amsterdam's famed Rijksmuseum.

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7.3 million euros by Amsterdam's famed Rijksmuseum.

More Information:[/url]
Copyright ©

Jun 11, 2013

Chinese Art Frauds Continue

I have not posted anything on the Chinese art market for awhile but now I feel compelled to warn readers of this blog about how cunningly potential buyers in the Chinese art market get deceived. Not only are pieces skillfully being copied, so are their associated documents, which is nothing new, but a recent case in point makes this abundantly clear. Boston Globe story: Vase that drew $1.7m bid also drawing federal scrutiny
Supposed Qianlong gourd vase

Base when sold at Altair for $1.7 million

Base when sold at Jackson's for $3840