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Asian art regional boon

While sales of Asian art in London in 2019 were notably thinner than those of a decade ago, the UK ‘regional’ salerooms enjoyed a vintage autumn season with exceptional Chinese works of art spread across half a dozen auction houses.

A Qianlong teapot sold by Duke’s for £800,000 in Dorchester was the stellar result but there was also a Yongzheng celadon ‘dragon and phoenix’ vase at Dreweatts (£290,000), a Yongle blue and white flask sold for €610,000 (£525,000) at Sheppard’s in Durrow, Co Laois, a rediscovered set of six works by the Kangxi period court artist Jiang Tingxi at Chiswick Auctions (£200,000) and a dozen leaves from the Huang Chao Li Qi Tu Shi at Woolley & Wallis (£180,000).

And who could possibly forget the £380,000 charity shop find: a Qianlong famille rose ‘poem’ wall vase sold at Sworders?

Supplying the market with the fresh, quality material that chimes with current collecting preferences is a continuing challenge for dealers and auctioneers working in the Asian art sector.

However, this year, suggestions that the once deep European well had already run dry proved rather wide of the mark.

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The c.1740-50 Qianlong wall pocket vase sold at Sworders on November 8 for £380,000.

1stdibs price rise

Antiques and luxury items platform 1stdibs increased its monthly subscription fee to dealers by 42%, from £350 to £500.

The firm announced the move in November and said it reflects the increasing cost of maintaining the online portal.

As well as a monthly fee, the site also charges dealers a sliding commission rate on each sale.

In July 1stdibs had announced the dealer portal Online Galleries would close. Online Galleries was bought by 1stdibs in 2012. Combined, more than 600 dealers in the UK use both the sites to promote and sell their stock. Many dealers moved across to 1stdibs.

Met Police unit hits 50

The Metropolitan Police’s Art and Antiques Unit turned 50 this year. The team marked this milestone when it helped return to Afghanistan a collection of sculptures dating from between 4th-6th centuries that had been taken from the country nearly 20 years ago.

The nine clay heads and a torso, believed to have been smuggled via Peshawar, Pakistan, after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, arrived in the UK in 2002. In September of that year, border control at Heathrow airport found the Gandhara sculptures concealed in fruit crates and destined for the black market. The Met Police gave the collection to the British Museum for identification.

Afghanistan claimed the pieces but due to ongoing conflict they could not be returned immediately.

JB Yeats breaks records

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One of the highest-ever totals for an art auction in Ireland was set on November 25 when the sale of the Ernie O’Malley collection held by Dublin saleroom Whyte’s in association with Christie’s raised a premium-inclusive total of €5.42m (£4.65m).

The 100-lot white-glove auction at the Royal Dublin Society included a record for leading Irish painter Jack Butler Yeats (1871-1957).

Reverie from 1931, a 2ft x 3ft (61 x 91cm) signed oil on canvas, led the sale when it was knocked down at €1.4m (£1.2m) to a collector in the US. The price was also a record for any picture sold at auction in Ireland.

Overall the 45 Yeats lots at the sale, including a group of drawings and watercolours, raised a hammer total of £4.11m, contributing the bulk of the total.