Well, wonder no more, for that's exactly what happened in Hong Kong this past week at a Sotheby's International auction. A 900-year-old "paint-brush" bowl from China's Song Dynasty sold at auction for $37.7 million on Tuesday, breaking Sotheby's all-time record for Chinese porcelain sales.
The small, blue-green item, which dates from somewhere between 960 to 1127, smashed the previous record of a five-hundred year old imperial chicken cup from the Ming dynasty Chenghua period, that previously sold for $36 million at Sotheby's in 2014 to a Shanghai taxi-driver turned investment billionaire.
The bidding was anticipated to be brisk, according to a Sotheby's spokesperson, and started at $10 million, with the auction lasting over 20 minutes before the top offer came in from an undisclosed phone bidder.
The pint-sized bowl only measures five inches across, and was used to wash brushes. Made in China's central Henan province at the famed Song dynasty's kilns in Ruzhou, the Ru guanyao wares are almost instantly recognizable by their bright bluish-green glaze and crackle like pattern. The kilns at Henan fired for only twenty years, making objects from this era an extreme rarity in today's marketplace - only 4 are known to exist in the hands of private collectors.
As with almost all Chinese antiques these days, it's the locals doing the buying. Fueled by the creation of an exploding class of mega-millionaires, the Chinese have finally decided to buy back their heritage, and are doing so on an unprecedented scale of volume and price; while leaving the rest of us in the real world somewhat dumbfounded, and wondering just how much further these stratospheric prices might rise.
- A.I.A. Staff Writers
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