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Chinese art for sale on Alameda Point

Submitted by on 1, December 13, 2010 – 4:29 pmNo Comment

Photos courtesy of Michaan's Auctions

In a nondescript building on Alameda Point sits a horde of Chinese treasures: carved ivory figures, spinach jade vases, rhino horn libation cups and more.

The items were collected by Michaan’s Auctions for a sale on Tuesday, the auction house’s fourth fine Asian sale so far “but far and away, the best,” owner Allen Michaan said.

The star of the show for Tuesday’s auction: Chinese glass from the Sanford and Ina Gadient collection.

“It’s an important collection,” said Ling Shang, Asian art department director at Michaan’s.

The sale includes 14 lots from the Gadients and items from other collectors. Items included in the sale, which is open to the public, include glass vases and other vessels with value estimates starting at $1,200; jade items, including bracelets and the aforementioned 15-inch-high vases (low estimate: $50,000 for the pair); ivory carvings, stoneware and pottery, famille rose porcelain, brush pots and more.

Shang said the Gadients, the Florida-based owners of a real estate search firm, collected Chinese glass and other items for more than four decades. Some of the items they’ve collected have been featured in museums across the country. But she said they’ve chosen to sell some of their collection in order to allow others to appreciate what they have.

The last decade has marked a season of explosive growth for the Asian art market and Chinese art in particular, with some items selling well above original estimates. In November, a tiny auction house near London sold an 18th century Qianlong-era vase found in an attic for 43 million pounds (about $68 million), a world record for a ceramic item.

“This year every time there was a sale, you would have a new record,” Shang said.

The explosive growth in this market is a product of new money coming out of mainland China, Shang said. She said buyers are looking for both opportunities to repatriate important works and good investments for their new-found wealth. They are also buying at a time where the dollar is weak against other currencies, making purchases in the U.S more attractive.

Shang said Asian works are often more available here than in China, where many were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and others are being kept by collectors who don’t plan to sell them. Some also believe that items purchased outside China – which is known for producing high-quality reproductions – are more likely to be authentic.

The eight-year-old auction house has been working to build its business on personal service and straighforward fees, Michaan said. He said the Gadients were referred to Michaan’s by a specialist they work with.

Michaan estimates his sale Tuesday, which features treasures collected by the Gadients and other fine Asian items, will earn about $1 million (“Of course, we’re hoping it goes beyond that,” he said). He expects buyers to fly in from Hong Kong and to arrive from around the Bay Area. Buyers can also bid by phone or online, he said. The sale begins at 10 a.m.

He said he’ll hold fine Asian sales every six months, and his monthly sales will also have an Asian component. Though Michaan says he could have more Asian sales if he’s got additional items to sell.

“We always look for good pieces,” Shang said, “and we have buyers for them.”

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