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Subject:Asian art and antiques novice guide 3
Posted By: David Thu, Jan 25, 2018 IP:

An increasing part of the art / antique world now revolves around auction houses who have dramatically caught up in the online world and now offer buyers ability to bid 24/7 from anywhere on the planet.

A novice buyer might consider this route safer in order to get hold of that wonderful scroll or enticing ginger jar and are in droves heading to auction houses, since online platforms have a gutter reputation these days and that deserved reputation doesn't look like changing soon. On the contrary, the platforms seem to support poor ethics and morals since they earn so much money from this type of business.

The difficulty in providing guidance is that every country regulates its auction houses differently and I only have experience in the UK and Spain. If you are from country X and wish to bid on an auction in country Y you will need to check local laws / regulations and conditions yourself carefully, along with checking commission and shipping charges as they vary significantly and are at times astronomical, especially the shipping. However, bidding at auction can mean you get hold of a piece at much a lower price than if you bought it in a shop or on an online platform and if you can collect yourself it will keep your outlay down. Dealers and sellers often sell stock bought at auction and nearly always buy from auctions within one hour's drive for pure economic reasons.

The key for an auction house purchase is the sense of trust. While auctioneers work for the Seller and not the Buyer, regulations "usually" demand that they provide honest appraisal and so you can bid confident that what you bid on is what you get. The auctioneer at his / her discretion has to describe the item and at his her discretion give guide to estimate value. Not all, “guide price” lots by choice but the description has to be correct, even if it is basic. Therefore when the item is described as a "19th century Chinese Ginger Jar" you are 99% positive that it is and a genuine item. If the auctioneer describes the item as a "Chinese Ginger Jar" you can be confident that the auctioneer either isn't sure of age or he / she believes it to be more modern or reproduction or for whatever reason is not sufficiently happy to give a date or more detailed description. At worst the description may state only, “Jar”, and the auctioneer is totally at liberty to say this. The auctioneer will tell you if the piece is damaged “”if you ask””, but the damage may not appear in the description and may not be apparent. The onus on is on the buyer to quiz the auctioneer for possible damage or faults who in turn will help but will not be able to guarantee a microscopic report. Check the item yourself if you can and remember to ask questions. All you want! While auctioneers rely on reputation not all are helpful and some are even ex dealers so check them out as much as you can just to be sure. If you are not happy. Walk away!

If you can attend the auction on the day, better! You get a feel for how prices are going. Clearly, if you are bidding on a piece you are nowadays possibly up against hundreds of competing bids from around the world so have in mind your maximum price you are happy to bid to and try to be strict with yourself and not get carried away with excitement.

Chinese and Asian objects are incredibly hot at the moment mainly due to the interest of "Nouveau Super Wealthy Chinese", collectors literally buying all their previously exported items back. In time I'm convinced they'll get them all. Bargains are still out there though, so don't give up hope yet. Auctions held on Saturday or Sunday morning seem to attract less competition in my own experience. Also, provincial auctions often fall under the radar of big buyers and if you are lucky enough to bid at a sale which is not online you will usually have a good day.

I hope this at least a little helpful. It is intended for the novice as all you experienced people out there will know all this anyway. I just remember when I started out how daunting the world of art can be and have wished for a helping hand many times. This forum helps us greatly and we are all lucky to have access to it.
Good luck!

Subject:Re: Asian art and antiques novice guide 3
Posted By: rat Fri, Jan 26, 2018

The more limited knowledge level of the staff makes provincial/local auction houses a source of opportunity, but also makes them unreliable for novice buyers. "Big buyers" tend to ignore them because the average quality and rarity of the items for sale is lower than at major auctioneers. That makes them attractive for collectors on a small budget; the trick for such collectors is in deciding what compromises to make on item quality and rarity while also avoiding junk. For that reason, the oft-repeated advice still holds: it's better to buy fewer high quality items than multiple lesser items, and buy what you like (rather than as an investment).

Subject:Re: Asian art and antiques novice guide 3
Posted By: David Sat, Jan 27, 2018

Very good point Rat. Quality always better than quantity. Perhaps a little too much of my own personal experience crept into the last paragragh. Things like, 2.4 kids, 2 very thirsty cars and 2 horrendous mortgages all make that difficult to square with "wifey" when trying to explain why I just spanked £800 on a Ming pot. So its a few bits of Qing porcelain and a couple of scrolls for me I'm afraid. And all that of course on top of the European art nouveau which crams every nook of the house. Makes for strained relations... | Associations | Articles | Exhibitions | Galleries |