Woolley stuff

Ohara Koson (1877-1945), 1910s,
Two Gallinules in shallow water between reeds, woodcut
(Thanks to Will)

What museums often don't let you see online -- and often -- at all -- the auction houses will -- sort of. Here is another one with (fairly) generous images: Woolley and Wallis. Their last Asian sale had several wonderful gems: just look at this, this, this, this and this. Interestingly, none of these pieces were very expensive -- one paid most for the Chinese cloisonne birds (4,800 GBP) and the horse painting (2,600), everything else was triple digits.

You too can own authentic Asian art.

W&W were made notorious by their recent sale of the Pelham Water Buffalo. This was bought in 1938 by Earl of Yarborough for GBP300, wrapped in newspaper and stored in a bank vault, while he went off to war and promptly died. There is a report that the heirs took it out of the vault only in 2005 and committed it to their art dealer for sale sight-unseen, without even unwrapping it. The piece occasioned fierce bidding and eventually went for GBP3.4 million, which is a 14.5% annualized compound return. (It cost the buyer GBP4.16 million, though, after fees and taxes. Why don't they run these auctions in Bermuda, for crying out-loud?) It will probably disappear into another bank vault now.

Despite the dramatically rising prices for Chinese art, much still remains affordable (even if inflation can be felt even at the lower reaches: 19th century Canton enamels which went for $20 in 2008, sell for $240 now: the Chinese are out, buying back in force). Japanese on the other hand are no longer buying back and their art is now significantly cheaper -- so cheap in fact that it is often cheaper to buy the antique than to buy comparable modern work.



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