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Interesting private collection of Republic period porcelain features in Chorley’s sale

HR Red crested crane brushpot (4)Red-crested crane brushpot from Chorley’s forthcoming sale     Pic. Chorleys

In recent years, relatively recently-produced Chinese porcelain has started to make waves in the auction rooms. Early 20th century pieces and many of those created right through the Republic period (1912-49) are now just as much in demand as rather earlier pieces.

Cotswold auctioneers Chorley’s forthcoming sale, on Tuesday 20 & Wednesday 21 March, offers an important private collection of Republican era porcelain.  The highlight will be a set of four rectangular porcelain plaques by Bi Botao (1885-1961) representing the four seasons.  Bi Botao was a member of the well-known group ‘The Eight Friends of Zhushan’.  The group comprised the best porcelain artists of the period and revitalised the Chinese porcelain industry after the political unrest in 19th Century China and the subsequent fall of the Qing dynasty.  The plaques, which are delicately painted with frogs, a spider, turtles and a snake respectively, estimate £18,000 – £22,000 They were acquired by avid collector Peter Wain.

Chicken cup is far from chickenfeed . . . at US$36.3m.

When it comes to price, so-called chicken cups are far from being chickenfeed . . . as was made clear April 8 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong when a single cup fetched the equivalent of US$36.3m., exclusive of buyer’s premium. This set a new world record for a piece of Chinese ceramics. For avid and well-heeled collectors of Chinese ceramics, few pieces engender as much excitement as the small Ming dynasty-era bowls commonly known as “chicken cups.”

The bowl was bought by Shanghai billionaire property developer and collector Liu Yiqian who we have previously written about.

Of 19 chicken cups known to exist, 15 are in museums. Photo courtesy EPA

The challenge of filling China’s new museums

1956 Telegraph & Argus cutting ed

Paul Harris (extreme left), author of this post, pictured in 1956 at the Cartwright Memorial Hall Museum, Bradford, before a working model of a Victorian invention. Cutting/picture courtesy The Telegraph & Argus

It is hardly a challenge faced by museum curators in the West, where basement storerooms and dusty attics are crammed with a myriad of currently unfashionable exhibits: stuffed birds and preserved fish, oil paintings of morose Highland cattle, World War II gas masks, working models of minor 19th century inventions, and the like. Decades, if not hundreds of years, of collecting, and of dedicated collectors turned benefactors, have stuffed museums to bursting point. In continental Europe, the tides of war have tended to clear out the stockrooms on occasion, but in the UK, particularly, the stuff has built up and, occasionally, selections are made for some new thematic presentation. In the face of pressures of space and cash, acquisitions run at a relatively modest level.

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