Charleston and the International Art Markets

Charleston has been, from an arts and antiquities perspective, quietly and without much fanfare, an international city for decades. Our work, curating, appraising, buying, and selling these pieces is rigorous, painstaking, and always joyous.

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 The current market is as vibrant and lively as it has been in decades. As wealth builds in new parts of the world, international art markets change with them, usually rapidly, and in unpredictable ways. As the flow of capital changes, taste and fashion change with it. We are currently working with collectors on both the buying and selling side in mid-century decorative arts, fine vintage wristwatches, and, most recently, on an extensive and extraordinary collection of Japanese hand-lacquered fountain pens.

Charleston, to the surprise of some traditionalists, is right in the thick of all of this. A few recent sales illustrate the point.

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 Asian Contemporary art, by Chinese, Japanese, South Korean, Vietnamese and other modern Southeast Asian artists have experienced highly successful auction results in recent years. These results have been achieved primarily in Far Eastern sale rooms, mainly in Hong Kong and Taipei. We were asked to sell a painting by one of these artists, Vu Cao Dam, for a Charleston collector recently. It was a terrific example of Dam's work, called Two Figures, an oil on canvas of approximately 25" x 20", painted in 1972.  

We sent it half-way around the world, to Hong Kong, where it sold it through our colleagues at Sotheby's, Hong Kong for $27,220.  

The sale of the Dam was a fine result, but not as remarkable as our sale of another work, from the same collector, a work by Chinese contemporary artist, Chen Yifei, called Travelling Home (Suzhou). This painting was approximately the same size, 20' x 25", and also in oil on canvas. Yifei's primary market is also in Hong Kong, and we sent it out. It sold at nearly three times its pre-sale estimate, for $112,090.

Our experience in these Far Eastern markets began several years ago, in 2015.  A young client came by with an extraordinary painting left to him by his father, a friend and former college roommate of the artist, a Spaniard, Fernando Zobel. Zobel was born to Spanish parents, diplomats. He grew up in the Philippines. His particular style of abstraction has been received with great favor by Asian buyers for some years, and this painting, Guadarrama, was a perfect example of the sort of work that had been doing so well in Far Eastern sales. Our specialist friends in Hong Kong confirmed this.

Guadarrama was the first painting we offered in Hong Kong. The auctioneers sent it to their pre-sale exhibitions in Singapore, Madras, Manila, and Taipei, and catalogued it brilliantly. Zobel's Guadarrama became the fifth highest auction price for a painting by the artist, $225,580.

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