A humble bowl's brush with history

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 April, 2012, 12:00am
 

A small, plain bowl from the 12th century sold for a record HK$208 million - three times its pre-sale estimate - as Sotheby's five-day spring auction concluded yesterday in Hong Kong.

The 900-year-old Ru Guanyao (government ceramics kiln) lobed brush washer dating from the Northern Song dynasty is one of just five in private hands out of 79 in existence.

It went to an anonymous phone bidder who fended off seven others at the auction of Chinese ceramics and artworks at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai.

The pieces are among the most sought after Chinese ceramics.

The small, flower-shaped, 13.5cm-wide bowl from a Japanese collection went under the hammer at HK$185 million. Including the buyer's premium, the bidder will pay HK$208 million - a record for Song ceramics.

A buyer's premium, which is to cover 'administrative expenses', is a percentage of the sale value.

The previous record was set in Hong Kong at a Sotheby's auction four years ago when a vase was sold for HK$67.5 million.

Of the other bowls in private hands, two are in Hong Kong, one in Japan and one in Switzerland. The rest are in museums.

Nicholas Chow, deputy chairman of Sotheby's Asia, says the 'understated piece' is the finest of its kind offered in Hong Kong - and the most desirable among the five in private hands.

'The bids came mostly from Asia. I understand that the buyer was ready to pay a lot more,' he said.

The Sotheby's auction raked in nearly HK$2.5 billion, with 2,784 lots sold. But total revenue was lower than at last year's autumn auction, where more than 3,000 lots were sold for more than HK$3.2 billion.

Seoul Auction, which held its spring auction on Tuesday, raised more than HK$32 million, selling 41 out of 61 lots.

$1.9b

Sotheby's pre-sale estimate, in Hong Kong dollars, of the total sales revenue of its spring auction

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