In the last decade the Chinese art market has exceeded the growth rate of any other nation and is now regarded as one of the strongest in the world. Chinese paintings in particular, have become the powerhouse of this growth with the work of high profile artists silencing auction rooms as astronomical prices are achieved. In today’s auction market, Chinese art collectors fight fierce battles to acquire any scroll that bears the trace of a famous artist’s brush. Every work is for them an unrepeatable testimonial to the painter’s or calligrapher’s individuality and artistic achievement.
So far, Qi Baishi’s Eagle Standing on a Pine Tree holds the record of 65.6m USD. But also the prices of Xu Beihong’s, Huang Zhou’s and Fu Baoshi’s works range in the millions. Enjoying particular strength are artists that have worked both in Chinese and European styles, such as Lin Fengmian, Wu Guanzhong and Chen Wen Hsi.
Noting the boom in this area of the market, and recognising that many of these prized artworks reside in the UK, Lyon & Turnbull have brought on board a new specialist to the Asian Art team. Ling Zhu joined the department this February, and is the only native Chinese specialist working for an auction house in Scotland, bringing highly specialised skills in the Chinese paintings field.
Ling’s unique expertise were realised in her first week, when she was requested to examine a pair of paintings previously valued elsewhere for probate at just a few hundred pounds. Ling has since identified the pair to be the work of the highly sought after Chen Wen Hsi, and alongside credible evidence, expects the pieces to fetch a five-figure when offered at auction in June. The story behind the paintings dates to the mid-1950s, when the owner’s father, a British naval officer, was on National Service in Hong Kong on the South China Sea. During his trip, the gentleman was tasked to buy paintings for the officers’ mess and came back with a selection, including the Chen Wen Hsi artwork. Upon returning, he was told by his superiors that the paintings were too foreign looking, so instead, he bought the pair off the Navy, keeping them in the family and enjoying them ever since.
This historical account mirrors that of many families in Scotland whose relatives were involved in Scotch-China trade or military activity. It is a great asset to the region therefore, that we now have a locally based specialist who can assist with the difficult job of correctly appraising these pieces.
If you have an Asian artwork, be it a painting, works on paper, scroll or calligraphy dating from Ming to contemporary, you could benefit from Ling’s expertise. Please send a photograph to email@example.com or call her on 0131 557 8844 to discuss arranging an appointment at your home or at our Edinburgh saleroom. Our next Fine Asian Works of Artauction will be 16 June 2015 in Cambridgeshire.