chinese ceramics at sotheby’s: classic curves and modern colors

My love and infatuation with porcelain and ceramics comes and goes, but these last few months I’ve been red-hot on, so it was no surprise that’s what caught my eye at Sotheby’s when I had a private preview of their Chinese Works of Art sale coming up next week.  I am stupefied at the simplicity of the antique Chinese forms and how modern they look today!

Think about this for a minute: each of the pieces illustrated in this feature are at least 100 years old, with the Song piece being 700+ years of age.  Yet the colors, the clean lines and shapes of these could easily be 20th/21st century Scandinavian.  The colors are so vibrant and engaging and draw you in from across the room: the vibrant purple with a shock of sassy boldness; the speckled robin’s egg blue with a slightly textured skin; and the pearly white/pale blue with a celestial calmness.  Each is distinct and different.  So refreshing to see these when you compare them to most of the mediocre and mass-produced wares sold in stores today.
Fortunately for Sotheby’s and for me as an art adviser (but not for me as a collector), the market for Chinese porcelain continues to soar as Chinese buyers reclaim their cultural heritage.  It is amazing to think that some of the finest Chinese art has been in Western collections for centuries and is now finding its way back home.  And with the continued growth of wealthy collectors in China, the trend does not appear to be fading.  It was less than 50 years ago that the Cultural Revolution in China forced the entire nation to abandon the cultural legacy of their rich past for the sterile world of communism.  The government of Chairman Mao decided that to ensure the survival of his communist state, capitalism had to be destroyed and with it all trappings of China’s artistic and traditional past.  This led to the destruction of countless works of art and ownership was forbidden.
An entire generation of Chinese lost out on living with these beautiful artifacts.  And now the wrongs of the past are being made right with the return of these treasures to their homeland.  I’m glad to have had the chance to admire these pieces before they are spirited away to new dwellings abroad.
image credits: Sotheby’s New York.  Sale 19-20 March 2013. Viewing 15-19 March 2013
Lot 264: An Incised Aubergine-Glazed Bowl, Guangxu (1874-1908) Mark and Period, Diameter 5.5/8 in. | 14.2 cm. 
Estimate: US$8,000 – 12,000
Lot 212: A “Robin’s Egg’ Glazed vase, Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), 18th century. Height 13.1/2 in | 34.3 cm. 
Estimate US$40,000 60,000
Lot 25: A Large “Jun” Bowl, Song Dynasty (960-1279). Diameter 8.7/8 in. | 22.5 cm.
Estimate US$10,000 – 15,000