Finely embroidered robes, once used by the emperor of the Qing dynasty, the last dynasty to rule imperial China. They’re part of one man’s collection of stately Chinese artefacts, mostly snapped up in auctions abroad, on display in a shopping mall in Hong Kong.
It’s an usual setting for such regal finery , but this collector is just happy, his treasures are back on home soil.
“These antiques originally belonged to China and it would be a real shame for them to be kept overseas. That’s why I want to bring back as many pieces as I can. “
An emperor’s own calligraphy and imperial edicts written onto scrolls. A very small part of a total hoard. Mr. Chan spent 25 years and over 100 million dollars collecting. He’s part of the growing breed of wealthy buyers who scan the catalogues of auction houses around the world looking to repatriate pieces from China’s imperial past.
“Any kind of Chinese antiquity, they’ll go after it and it will often be Chinese versus Chinese versus Chinese with all the European or American collectors being left behind, sometimes not even being able to raise their hand at the auction. “
Fierce bidding is making prices soar. Last year, Christie’s most expensive Chinese lot was this pair of crane statues which sold for 16.7 million dollars.
As well as dozens of dollar billionaires, China counts almost one million millionaires, potential buyers with cash to spent, who are emerging as a powerful force in the global art market. Some dealers say they’ve seen this all before.
“The late 70s and 80s were the Japanese. Originally they bought very important works of art which they have lost from their country. Bought them back from the West, bought them back into Japan. But then soon after that, they still had an interest and a desire to buy, and the wealth, and they bought more affordable decorative pieces. “
But for now it’s the big money that speaks loudest. Each year, record sales keep smashing the old. As auction houses for their spring sales, they’ll be looking to meet the demands of clients who have one eye on a good investment and another on bringing a piece of their heritage home.
Transcription video by Y. Muriel
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