Thursday, 5 April 2012

Pricey Porcelain

The Ru Washer sold at record price at a Sotheby's auction
A small, simple but elegant-looking bowl from the 12th century was sold at the Sotheby's auction yesterday for a whopping HK$207.86 million ($26.65 million), over three times its estimate.

It's called Ru Guanyao or government ceramics kiln and it was a brush washer, and the shallow bowl was used exclusively by emperors to wash their calligraphy brushes. Dating from the Northern Song dynasty, it is just one of five in private hands, and only 79 are known to exist, as the Ru kilns were only in production for 20 to 30 years, producing the most refined ceramics at the time.

The fight for the 900-year-old bowl lasted 15 minutes with eight bidders; an anonymous phone bidder won the round and set a record for Song dynasty ceramics.

"The bids mostly came from Asia. I understand that the buyer was ready to pay a lot more," said Nicholas Chow, deputy chairman of Sotheby's Asia.


In this economy?

Paying almost HK$208 million, including "administrative expenses" to Sotheby's is mind boggling to most of us. It's the equivalent of say two luxury flats in prestigious neighbourhoods in Hong Kong.

While it is understandable these items are rare and in very good condition, does it really warrant three times its estimate?

However the real test comes when the buyer actually pays up.

There have been cases where successful bidders at auctions do not pay in full and the auction houses must chase them up with legal letters.

Some have trouble paying up because a group of people bid together and not everyone has their share of money ready; others seem to "forget" to pay up.

Sotheby's and Christie's have smartened up and in the last few years have demanded unfamiliar bidders to put down a certain amount of deposit to show they have the means to shell out.

But HK$208 million?

Either Hong Kong or China's economy is still going strong or some bidders are out to make a joke out of this record price.

We shall see.


  1. could this be another avenue parking or laundering "black" money. how could anyone in a right frame of mind spend such a huge sum of money for a porcelain bowl as such. mind boggling indeed.

  2. Yes which is why I will save my shock for later when the winning bidder does shell out the money!