Tianminlou, a prized collection that hailed by many Chinese ceramics lovers, is like a treasure trove of blue and white porcelain. It boasts the largest repository of Yuan blue and white porcelain in private hands. Rarely exhibited since its 1993 major exhibition in Shanghai, the collection has been kept out of the public eye for nearly three decades. Now lovers of blue and white porcelain are in for a treat because part of the collection will go on public display in an exhibition in Hong Kong.
The Value team is overjoyed by the exciting news and invited See-for Kot (S.F. Kot), the owner of Tianminlou, for an interview. During our exclusive interview, Kot shared an even more astonishing news: he is going to offer some of the fine pieces from his collection at Sotheby's auction in Hong Kong this spring.
See For Kot (S.F. Kot), the owner of Tianminlou, is a great collector of blue and white porcelain
Tianminlou, the Best Private Collection of Yuan Blue and White Porcelain in the World
Kot: Yuan blue and white was discovered in the 50s. Its history and development have become a hot topic, a topic that we are also interested in. When we held our first exhibition, we only had four Yuan blue and white - one meiping vase and three chargers - in our collection. We added two big jars and one charger, along with some yuhuchunping vases and others. We now have more than 20 pieces of Yuan blue and white porcelain.
Kot: The former deputy director of Shanghai Museum mentioned our collection in an article, saying that Tianminlou has the world’s best Yuan blue and white collection in private hands. If you take museums into account, we are only behind Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul and National Museum of Iran. We also outnumber the collections at the Palace Museum in Beijing and the National Palace Museum in Taipei.
Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul
National Museum of Iran
Blue and White Porcelain at Its Zenith in Ming dynast
Kot: Yuan blue and white was originated from foreign countries. In the past, the Imperial court mainly used goldware or silverware. When it came to Yongle period in the Ming dynasty, the Ming treasure voyages brought back some beautiful pieces of porcelain. They were on display at the court and blue and white vessels, such as bowls and charger, were widely used in daily life. Blue and white porcelain reached its zenith during the Ming dynasty.
Kot is now gearing up for the next major exhibition of his collection. It will be the first exhibition of a single-owner collection in the revamped Hong Kong Museum of Art, which is scheduled to reopen the door in November this year. What will be the difference that set apart from the one in 1993?
To refine collection by substituting good pieces with even better ones
Kot: To prepare for a new exhibition, I decided to organise my collection better. There are some pieces that I had wanted to deaccession, about 600 to 700 pieces. There are way too many. It takes great effort to take care of them all, which is something I have been doing over the past 2 to 3 decades.
Kot: Now I am almost 86 years old. I don’t want to exhaust myself so I had to rearrange my collection. I am shifting focus to Ming pieces. I am going to sell some commonly seen pieces. I want to substitute them with even better items to refine my collection with some fresh, new pieces.
What’s so special about those items offered at Sotheby’s auction?
Kot: I acquired them about 30, 40 years ago. Things in our collection are generally in perfect condition with impeccable provenance. They were either sold at auctions or from prominent collections. Though the selected pieces are quite ‘commonly seen’ in our view, it’s rare to find good quality pieces like them nowadays
It is a rare opportunity to see treasures from the Tianminlou collection to go up for auction. Collectors and lovers of blue and white porcelain will be thrilled to get their hands on pieces from the coveted private collection. If you like this interview, don't forget to stay tuned for the second part.