New Emissary

2010’s Priciest Chinese Artwork

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New Emissary

2010’s Priciest Chinese Artwork

There’s an interesting story behind the centuries-old Chinese art piece that set a new all-time record in 2010.

It can be near impossible to pass up a good year-end wrap-up list…right? And luckily, there are plenty of them to choose from now, with many publications taking one last look back on 2010 well into the New Year. (The Diplomat also featured two of its own this year: ‘Top 10 Stories of 2010,’ from the Asia-Pacific, and the Top 10 Newsmakers of 2010 in South-east Asia).

This week, one of my favourite online sources for art news, ARTINFO, published a piece that compiled the ‘Ten Priciest Chinese Artworks at Auction in 2010.’

The story of the rise of China in 2010 hasn’t been one just about international relations and the economy. It’s one that has also grabbed a lot of headlines thanks to China’s rapidly expanding art and wine markets. I’ve written about this several times throughout the past year.

But one thing I’d overlooked is the interesting story behind one art piece that set a new all-time record in 2010 for being the priciest Chinese artwork ever to be sold at auction—a Qianlong-era porcelain vase that went for $85.9 million on November 11.

It’s believed that the vase was ‘looted from the Old Summer Palace in Beijing by British and French forces during the Second Opium War in 1860,’ according to ARTINFO.

The richly decorated vase, which features prominently amidst traditional Chinese designs a circle of water with two fish, was (as reported by the Telegraph) found by a brother and sister cleaning out the London home of their deceased parents.

The siblings, who had no idea how much the vase would be worth, apparently had to leave the auction room after they heard the results of the sale. While it had been with their family since the 1930s, the vase is thought to have been around since 1740 in China and once owned by royalty.

It’ll be interesting to see where the rising Chinese art market takes us in 2011.