Buck­man col­lec­tion in spot­light at London auc­tion

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - By MING LIU For China Daily

The prom­i­nent auc­tion houses Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Bon­hams may have all hosted sales dur­ing Asian Art in London — an an­nual 10-day ex­trav­a­ganza that ended on Satur­day in the Bri­tish cap­i­tal— but there is a small auc­tion house that’s set to make a big splash among the heavy­weights.

On Mon­day, Chiswick Auc­tions will host a sale fea­tur­ing the en­tire col­lec­tion of Bernard Buck­man, a key fig­ure in Sino-Bri­tish trade re­la­tions dur­ing the sec­ond half of the 20th cen­tury.

Buck­man trav­eled to China many times — most no­tably in 1979 as a per­sonal guest of then-vice-premier Wang Zhen — and the English­man’s 120-strong col­lec­tion re­flects some­one who was both an en­ter­pris­ing busi­ness­man and keen pa­tron of the arts. It also of­fers a win­dow into China dur­ing a time when it was just open­ing up to the world.

“Buck­man went to China ev­ery year from 1953 and more fre­quently after around 1962,” says Lazarus Hal­stead, Chiswick Auc­tion’s head of Asian art. “He was com­mu­ni­cat­ing with top gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials. No (other) Westerner had that level of ac­cess.” Buck­man’s col­lec­tion runs the gamut from snuff bot­tles, jades and schol­arly items to paint­ings and fur­ni­ture, with price es­ti­mates start­ing from about $120 and go­ing to $36,000. Archival ma­te­ri­als and books from Buck­man’s per­sonal li­brary fur­ther paint a rich pic­ture of amanand his pas­sion for Chi­nese cul­ture. “He had a re­ally en­light­ened view of China’s cul­tural achieve­ments,” says Hal­stead. And that was at a time when West­ern­ers thought “the na­tion was prob­a­bly slightly back­ward”, he adds. The head­line lot on sale is the 1944 hang­ing scroll ink paint­ing, Gar­den Bal­sam and But­ter­flies, by Qi Baishi, who is con­sid­ered the “Pi­casso of Chi­nese art” and a fore­fa­ther of mod­ern Chi­nese paint­ing. The vi­brant work was most likely a diplo­matic gift, says Hal­stead, and is of­fered at a “con­ser­va­tive” es­ti­mate of $24,000 to $36,000.

Another note­wor­thy piece is a de­light­ful Ming Dy­nasty (13681644) carv­ing of Zhou Tanzi, a fig­ure in Chi­nese folk­lore that rep­re­sents fil­ial piety. Zhou dis­guised him­self as a deer to ob­tain milk for his ag­ing par­ents — a story that’s de­picted in this beau­ti­fully carved dark jade cre­ation that has an al­most wood­like patina.

Other high­lights in­clude a range of won­der­ful rock-crys­tal schol­ars’ ob­jects — each com­plete with in­di­vid­u­als stands — in­clud­ing an un­usual Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1911) wrist rest.

Buck­man was an avid col­lec­tor of snuff bot­tles, while nov­elty items such as em­broi­dered satin purses and a sil­ver hand-held mir­ror fur­ther show­case the breadth of his col­lect­ing eye.

Among the old­est pieces are a Han Dy­nasty (206 BC-220) danc­ing fig­urine, which is grouped into a fab­u­lous 11-piece lot that in­cludes Tang Dy­nasty (618-907) glazed horses. Mean­while, a vase painted with birds and flow­ers in famille rose enam­els is no­tably stamped with the year 1955.

A to­tal of 600 lots will go under the ham­mer on Mon­day, with the 120 Buck­man pieces first to cross the block.

Chiswick Auc­tions hopes the English­man’s en­tire col­lec­tion will draw in new clients to its west London salesroom who might other­wise not ven­ture be­yond the arts hub of May fair.

“For peo­ple who know Chi­nese pol­i­tics from the sec­ond half of the 20th cen­tury, Buck­man is a ma­jor fig­ure,” says Hal­stead.

“Buy­ers tend to like things with good prove­nance, and I hope the sale will at­tract both English buy­ers and in­ter­na­tional Chi­nese from around the world, in­clud­ing deal­ers and col­lec­tors from the Chi­nese main­land, Tai­wan and Hong Kong.”


Bernard Buck­man vis­its China as a per­sonal guest of then-vice-premier Wang Zhen in 1979.

A sil­ver hand­held mir­ror

Mon­day’s auc­tion in­cludes an ink paint­ing by Qi Baishi that is be­ing of­fered at $24,000 to $36,000.

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