For the first time, the objects entered for the 2018 award were initially voted on by the wider public online, after which the judges picked from a 20-strong shortlist using photographs.
A blue and white porcelain flask with dragon handles, catalogued as Yuan dynasty (1280-1368) and similar to one in the V&A, won the auctioneer prize for Danish firm Bruun Rasmussen. However, when on view in London, doubts were raised about its date by specialists, including AAL participants and board members.
It was immediately withdrawn, pending further investigation.
A new AAL award will be devised, with details yet to be announced. AAL organisers said in a statement: “In an attempt to attract a wider audience to Asian art, the AAL award was opened up this year to include an initial online voting system, which saw people from as far away as Alaska to the South Pacific choosing favourite works.”
A spokesperson added: “Our motives in switching to online judging were good, but in practice it exposes the pitfalls of not handling Asian works of art.”
Although Bruun Rasmussen has returned the award it received, the auction house is standing by the flask’s original attribution, having subjected it to scientific testing in Germany last week.
Passed the test
After a thermoluminescence (TL) test at the Laboratory Kotalla suggested a 14th century date, the flask will be offered for sale on November 27 with an estimate of DKr1m-1.5m (€135,000-200,000).
Ralph Lexner, head of department at Bruun Rasmussen, told ATG: “This shows how difficult valuing and understanding Chinese works of art is. Every time you have a object, you have five experts with 12 different opinions, but you always must take on board what others are saying.
“Although the TL test alone cannot be conclusive, all the other factors – provenance, wear and ‘my gut’ – makes me certain it is right and we will auction it. But I don’t expect some experts to change their opinions on this.”
The flask was bought by the vendor in a Danish antiques shop in the early 1980s.
Michael Cohen, BADA chairman and AAL participant, said: “London is still the best place to buy Asian art. It is where the expertise resides and those experts are prepared to make their voices heard.”
“Provenance, wear and ‘my gut’ make me certain it is right"