Met’s China treasures go on block
Anyone in the market for that Ming vase you always wanted, take note.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art will be selling more than 700 pieces of Chinese ceramics through live and online auction sales at Christie’s next week. The lot features Song through Qing dynasty works originally from the collections of John D. Rockefeller Jr, Samuel Putnam Avery and other prominent American collectors. Proceeds from the auction, titled Collected in America: Ceramics from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, will benefit the museum’s acquisitions fund. There will be a live sale on Sept 15 and an online sale from Sept 13-22. The pieces are all part of the museum’s permanent collection, either purchased or gifted on various occasions since the late 19th century.
One of the earliest pieces came to the museum in 1879, when the Met first started purchasing Chinese art, according to Margi Gristina, Christie’s head of Chinese art.
Gristina said that the museum is selling pieces that it either already had duplicates of or were not considered museum quality.
“They were looking for things to reduce their volume a little bit, while being able to raise some money for their acquisition fund,” she said.
“It could be a period piece — like a Qianlong period thing — but maybe the painter was not having a good day, or maybe it’s not in very good condition. Or we have some really beautiful top quality things that they have two or three of the same type, so they’re selling those,” she added.
Pieces from the sale went on tour in Hong Kong and London, where they drew strong interest from potential buyers.
In particular, pieces from the Rockefeller collection and imperial pieces, including those from scholars’ desks, got a lot of positive feedback from interested buyers, Gristina said.
A peach-bloom glazed chrysanthemum vase is expected to fetch between $700,000 and $900,000. A rare green and yellow-glazed “dragon” jar could bring in $50,000 to $70,000.
“We’ve had a lot of interest from China from what I understand,” she said. “But I think it’s also going to attract American collectors who recognize these provenances from Rockefeller to J.P. Morgan to Benjamin Altman, and perhaps will appreciate a piece and be a little forgiving on the condition just to get a piece from that collection.”
Despite the current slowdown in the global art market, Gristina said she anticipates strong results from the sale because of the strength of the museum’s brand and because of the owners of the pieces before the Met acquired them.
“We’ll hopefully experience something like the Ellsworth sale in that people will want a piece of Chinese porcelain from the Met,” she said, referring to the Robert Ellsworth collection that sold at Christie’s in March 2015, bringing in $131.7 million, the largest ever Asian Art Week haul for Christie’s.
Ning Lu, manager of the fine art price database at Artnet.com, said that the results of the Met collection are going to be the “highlight of the season”.
“This creates a great opportunity for collectors from China who are looking for lots without questions about their authenticity or provenance,” she said.
Some of the ceramics from the Met going on sale next week.