Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Mao Porcelain for Grabs

Looks quite ordinary but worth quite a lot: Mao porcelain bowl up for auction
A hot ticket item is up for auction by a Hong Kong collector in May in the UK.

It's a rare porcelain bowl that was commissioned by then Chinese leader Mao Zedong for his own use.

The bowl is part of a collection that includes cups and other tableware, and were made towards the end of the Cultural Revolution when Mao's power was considered at its height in China.

He ordered 4,000 pieces of porcelain, including bowls, cups and other tableware be made under demanding conditions in Jingdezhen, the well-known porcelain-producing town on the mainland.

Mao commissioned his own porcelain made in Jingdezhen
"In order to make sure they were safe for Mao to use, all porcelain made in Jingdezhen had to be lead-free," said the collector, who would only give his name as Alex.

"Two hundred artisans spent a full two years making the porcelain, and in the end 900 pieces were chosen to be sent to Beijing for the use of Mao and other official dignitaries," he said.

"The rest were ordered to be destroyed. However, the director of the Institute of Arts which made the porcelain did not want them to be destroyed, so he made up an excuse to put them into storage -- so that the institute could send replacements to Beijing if the cups and dishes were broken."

The institute later fell into financial difficulties and gave some of these porcelain pieces to staff in lieu of salaries -- meaning that some items made for state leaders were now in the hands of ordinary people.

With this bowl being up for auction, there's going to be a big buzz around it, as "Mao porcelains" are considered special because of their historical significance and fetch high prices at auction.

In 2013, a set of about five rice bowls commissioned by Mao was sold for HK$8 million by Poly Auction Hong Kong, but they were made in his home province of Hunan.

The Hong Kong collector's family bought a few dozen of these rare items when they did business on the mainland.

The items were put in family trust, but they decided to put the bowl up for auction "to test the market".

In 1996, a 68-piece set of Mao porcelain fetched 7.9 million yuan (HK$10 million) when it was sold in Beijing.

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