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Sotheby’s to Sell $121 Million of Meiyintang’s Chinese Ceramics

A 1988 triptych, "Forever Lasting Love" by Zhang Xiaogang, sold for HK$79 million ($10.1 million) in Hong Kong. The work, estimated to fetch as much as $3.8 million, was included in the Ullens Collection sale on April 3. Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg

An 18th-century imperial vase worth more than $23 million will lead a sale of works in Hong Kong from one of the foremost private collections of Chinese ceramics, auction house Sotheby’s said.

The Falangcai vase with golden pheasants from the Jingdezhen imperial kilns in Jiangxi province and Beijing palace workshops of the Qianlong emperor is one of about 80 pieces from the Meiyintang collection to be offered in an April 7 evening sale that Sotheby’s estimates will fetch as much as HK$940 million ($121 million).

“The Meiyintang Collection was acquired piece by historic piece over the course of half a century,” said Nicolas Chow, head of Sotheby’s Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art. “The collector sought only the most significant objects from each reign and worked closely with the foremost experts in the field, leading dealers E.T. Chow and Giuseppe Eskenazi.”

The sale includes a blue-and-white dragon vase fired in the Jingdezhen kilns almost seven centuries ago in the Yuan dynasty, which has a top estimate of HK$12 million. A blue-and-white Ming jar from the early 15th century, depicting lions playing with balls, is expected to fetch as much as HK$60 million.

Meiyintang, which means hall among rose beds, includes some 2,000 pieces assembled by a European collector, providing an overview of the history of Chinese ceramics from their origins in the Neolithic period to the end of China’s imperial reign in the Qing dynasty in 1911.

Guy Ullens

Also at the weeklong spring auctions, Sotheby’s will offer 106 works of Chinese contemporary art from the collection of Guy Ullens, founder of Beijing’s largest private art museum, that the auction house estimates may raise up to HK$130 million.

The evening sale on April 3, from one of the biggest and most comprehensive private collections of Chinese art, will include Zhang Xiaogang’s 1988 work “Forever Lasting Love,” Sotheby’s said in a release. A selection of the monumental works from the late 1980s and early 1990s will be shown in traveling exhibitions including in London, Singapore and New York.

“This will enable me to continue to work with new and emerging artists, as has been my passion since I began this collection over 20 years ago,” said Ullens in the release. “Most of these works have rarely been seen publicly, and this sale will provide a unique opportunity for people to experience an extraordinary moment in the development of contemporary Chinese art.”

The Belgian collector opened his Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in 2007 in the Dashanzi art district of Beijing, known as “798” after the former electronics factory on the site.

Ullens sold 18 works from his collection through Chinese auction house Poly International Auction Co. in 2009 for $22.2 million, including a classical 12th-century ink scroll painted by the Northern Song Dynasty’s Huizong Emperor, “Rare Birds Painted From Life,” which fetched 55.1 million yuan ($8.4 million).

(Adam Majendie writes for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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