Chinese Art Expert 'Skeptical' of Record-Setting Vase

A prominent expert on Chinese works of art has expressed doubts as to the authenticity of an antique Chinese vase sold last month at a London auction for 51.6 million pounds ($83.2 million)—an auction record for Chinese works of art.

Chinese Vase
Chinese Vase

“I’ve seen the vase itself. I went out to look at it,” New York gallery owner James Lally of J.J. Lally & Co. told CNBC. "I’m very skeptical of that piece. If you asked me I would say don’t bid on it.”

The porcelain vase is said to be an 18th-century Qing Dynasty piece from the Imperial court of Emperor Qianlong, the category of Chinese porcelain most coveted by Chinese collectors in a market that is soaring ever higher with every international auction.

Found in a London suburb by a woman clearing out her late sister’s house, the 16-inch high vase went on the block at the small West London auction house of Bainbridges, where it was expected to fetch around 1 million pounds. After a bidding war, the vase was scooped up by a Chinese bidder representing an anonymous client.

“There are a number of people who do not find that piece convincing. And I think people who were bidding on it, some of them on the telephone, were taking an enormous risk,” Lally said.

“What is the correct attribution for that piece? Was it made in the 18th century or was it made later in the style of the 18th century? All of those are issues that you really need to grapple with before you write that check for $85 million.”

Bainbridges did not respond to requests for comment.

The previous record for Chinese art at auction was $65.9 million paid for a Song Dynasty scroll bought last June at the Beijing Poly International Auction Co.

Largely driven by buyers from mainland China, the Chinese art market has been particularly strong the last five years, and experts say the trend is accelerating. Jonathan Stone, Christie’s International Business Director for Asian art, says sales at Christie’s in Asian art have tripled in the past five years.