The Rise and Rise of Chinese Antiques

The economic boom currently experienced in China is no secret, but how has this affected Australian auction rooms and the way we do business? When thinking about the context of this article I decided to mooch about the internet of course, to see what more experienced industry specialists were saying about this phenomenon.

I came across a page in ARTINFO an online website dedicated to international art and culture, entitled “Speak Chinese? Need a job? ”…, it went on to discuss how international auction house Bonhams is currently scouting for fluent Mandarin speakers with a Ph.D. in Chinese art. It makes a lot of sense and I for one seriously wish I had a better understanding of the Chinese language both written and spoken.

The well advertised record prices achieved for Chinese porcelain around the world has shined a beacon on the local auction room and delivered a fresh take on an industry that may have been in danger of becoming irrelevant. As good Chinese porcelain and carved jade pieces attract the astute and cashed up collector, this in turn has had a broad impact on the auction industry as a whole.

Most importantly it has allowed a new client to be introduced to the auction culture, a feat so desirable it’s as good as money in the bank. This has therefore boosted prices realised and in turn the profile of our auction house and our competitors in a world where the likes of sights such as Ebay are capturing a whole generation either unaware or disinterested in what an auction house can offer them in terms of selling and buying.


Buoying the spirits of both staff and clients, the confidence of these new Chinese buyers in our auction rooms now see them expanding their existing antique appetite beyond their Asian borders and outbidding the seasoned auction goer, confidently paying top prices in the traditional collecting areas of fine English silver and French clocks.

2Clients new and old to the auction rooms who are keen to collect Chinese antiques may well be interested in seeking out alternative areas such as cloisonné , carved ivory and my personal favourite export silver. Keep an eye out for hallmarked pieces from makers such as Wang Hing & Co of Hong Kong in tea services, vases and flatware.

Overall, what has been experienced in auction rooms is really a snapshot of a world trend that is sure to influence our global culture indelibly for the future. Might I suggest introducing Mandarin into the Australian primary school room curriculum, now that sounds like a smart move to me. A certain former Prime Minister would be the perfect figure head for such a bold move and I say that with no personal political interests intended!

Image details: A Chinese Export Silver Tea Set. Maker’s Mark Wang Hing & Co, Hong Kong, Circa 1910

Sold June 2011 for $ 5,760 IBP