As many people during this pandemic are addressing issues that had been on hold such as sorting, or downsizing decisions, and even distribution for divorce, my clients contacted me because they wanted to sell their 50 property collection of inherited Asian Art at Christie’s auction house in New York. They wanted to downsize. Christie’s suggested they contact an Asian Art appraiser first to see if the property would meet their business guidelines. The minimum amount for a sale of individual property should bring $10,000. So it was my job to go through approximately 50 objects to see which ones would make that $10,000 criteria. I also contacted Sotheby’s and Bonhams to find out their minimum. Sotheby’s has a $5,000.00 minimum, and sells Chinese, Indian and SouthEast Asian. Bonhams has sold all Asian Art and has $2,500.00 minimum per property.
At the beginning of my appraisal, I stated my scope of work was to identify material for auction at Christie’s NY, and how I might suggest putting the more valuable property aside, and later return to it, exactly as I did. I remained stationary at my desk facing my laptop with my tablet and phone for search tools and the client had another person holding the phone for video while they lifted or turned the property around and over for me to see. We focused in on signatures on paper and the details of the ceramics. I was to triage the material, suggesting places to sell, the best size of auction for the type of material and what further research needed to be done. Most of the property was easily accessible for the client, set around one room, with the larger screen in situ.
I elaborated on themes of the Japanese woodblock prints and talked of Japanese Satsuma ware with the many colors and attention to detail. I was keenly aware of the time, and would group similar properties and discuss shape or theme such as a bandana tied around the forehead to suggest ‘Edokko”, a true resident of Edo (Tokyo today) and thus superior.
I accomplished this appraisal in an hour and identified one Chinese six character mark on the bottom of a porcelain waisted neck, globular bottle vase with a brightly enameled body of colorful butterflies that met the $10,000 minimum requirement. Vases of this form, known as yutangchun, were an innovation of the Guangxu period. I quickly researched ‘Chinese butterfly vase’ and found a similar pair of famille rose ‘butterfly’ vases, sold at Christie’s New York, March 2011, lot 1822 for $29,962.00. Bonhams, NY sold one for around $12,000.00 in 2018. This was the sole property I found in the $10,000.00 value range. I suggested the property I felt best for Sotheby’s and some for home consignment. It was a fun assignment for me because of the variety of material and the trust my client placed in my experience of appraising Asian Art.