Since our inaugural London Asian Art auction in November 2016, Lyon & Turnbull has firmly established itself as one of the key destinations for buyers in the city's highly competitive Asian art market. In 2017 we held two Fine Asian Works of Art auctions in our new London Gallery on Connaught Street, a characterful corner of the West End. The influx of Mainland Chinese, Hong Kong and Western collectors to the gallery, occasionally creating queues at the doorstep, is testament to the firm place Scotland's oldest auction house holds amongst the Asian art community.
While Chinese art across all categories has been performing strongly in 2017, the appetite of collectors for high-quality, previously unseen pieces from private Western collections is at an all-time peak. Our top lot from 2017 was an extremely rare set of forty-eight imperial inksticks, discovered in a Scottish family collection in Inverness and sold for £191,310 in our May London auction.
Another highlight consigned in Scotland was the wonderful Portrait of a Scholar by Zhang Daqian (1899-1983). This particular piece by Zhang, one of the most celebrated Chinese painters of the 20th century, was given as a personal gift to the former U.S. Ambassador to Iceland, a great story that fascinated bidders whose interest took the final price to £62,400.
Having the opportunity to tell the story behind a piece can make all the difference to the successful sale of an artwork. One of the highlights of November 2017 London auction did just that and more, the rare set of four soapstone inlaid panels revealed a hidden secret as they told the popular Chinese romance ‘The Story of the Western Wing’.
An interesting trend that can be observed in 2017 is the surge of prices for ceramics made in the Republic Period (1912-1949), a traditionally underrated area. A set of four ‘birds’ porcelain plaques by the artist Deng Xiaoyu (1920-?), discovered in an old Scottish collection, achieved £22,100.
An unsigned porcelain plaque from the same collection, believed to be from the hand of the most revered Republic Period porcelain painters He Xuren (1882-1941), achieved £5,460. There is undoubtedly an increasing understanding and appreciation of the strong painterly quality shown in Republic Period porcelain, which was made with the ambition to emulate classical landscape paintings.
Another notable trend in 2017 is the ‘comeback’ of the Japanese art market. The strong prices achieved in our September Edinburgh Asian Art auction, which focused on Japanese works of art, are a clear indication of the renewed interest, A fine silver model of an elephant by Koreyoshi, weighing nearly six kilograms, sold for a remarkable price of £20,000.
A Miyamoto Company silver warming bowl from the private collection of the late Hugh Malcolm (1886-1961), who lived and worked in Japan as Managing Director for the Rising Sun Petroleum Company (known today as Shell), achieved £8,750 when it came under the hammer.