The first day of the Asia art sales dawned spring-like, an auspicious sign for the dealers and auction houses looking towards the coming as one of the most significant sales season’s of the entire year.
The only chilling part was that the “New York Times” had that day acknowledged the elephant in the room by announcing that Hong Kong now produces so many excellent fakes it’s very hard to know the difference. It may be true, but it’s also a tactic the International houses have been flogging for a while now.
In defense of independent auctioneers, one told me the four- trips he makes to China each year are no longer buying trips. They are “looking trips.” “It’s like going to a car show,” he said, “you go to see the new models.” Knowing what the forgers are creating makes it easier to spot to properties that are not right.
It’s not as if any of this was news to seasoned buyers. They brought their jeweler’s loops. They demanded to examine items under a black light and took their time reading cracks and repairs. They demanded answers about provenance. In turn, sellers offered single-owner collections, Oxford TL test certificates and, in some cases, Chinese experts – who spoke the language.
Buyers have their resources for authenticity. But during previews they pretty much have to rely on information at hand and knowledge. More than one item has bounced back or not been paid for. Case in point: the $69.3 million Chinese vase that sold in England earlier this year. The buyer hasn’t paid because authenticity is in question.
To paraphrase Yogi Bera, when it comes to buying Asian arts, it’s caveat emptor all over again.