Xuande blue & white "fish pond" bowl fetched HK$202m

One sale, one bowl, two hundred million HK dollars。On the last day of Sotheby’s Hong Kong’s spring sales, the blue and white lobed “fish pond” bowl, mark and period of Xuande, fetched HK$202m hammer price after 15 minutes of bidding. In terms of both the bidding atmosphere and the final price, this top lot of the sale series beat Andy Warhol’s “Mao”, which was sold 3 days ago at the evening sale. This bowl is now the 2nd most expensive Ming porcelain in the world.

Blue and white lobed 'fish pond' bowl, mark and period of Xuande

When the sale started at around 10am, the auction room already had a full house. Bidding started at HK$75m, and quickly raised to HK$100m under intense bidding. When the bid price exceeded HK$150m, only two phone bidders stayed in the bidding war, represented by chairman of Sotheby's Asia, Patti Wong, and managing director of Sotheby’s Taiwan, Wendy Lin respectively. Length of time between each bid had started to take long since then.

With bid increment of HK$5m, the bid price raised to HK$180m. At that time, another phone bidder joined the bidding war, presented by Peter Song, deputy director of Chinese works of art. A while later, the phone bidder, presented by Patti Wong withdrew from the bidding. Bid increment lowered to HK$2m to 3m.

Phone bidder represented by Patti Wong (first left) withdrew the bidding war.

The bidding atmosphere became more vigorous, the entire room was nearly silent, everyone was gazing at the two phone bid representatives. When the bid price reached HK$198m, bid increment was further lowered to HK$1m. After considering for more than a minute, the phone bidder represented by Peter Song offered the price of HK$199m. At that moment, Henry Howard-Sneyd, the auctioneer, said “like climbing Mount Everest”. When the bid price reached HK$200m, everyone at the scene clapped.

Henry Howard-Sneyd

Phone bidders required to lower the bid increment to HK$500,000, yet the auctioneer refused to do so. After 4 minutes of “seesaw battle”, and utterances from auctioneer including “hammer’s up again”, “last chance” and “I’m waiting for you”, the bowl was hammered for HK$202m. Everyone clapped again.

The bowl was bought by the phone bidder represented by Wendy Lin, at the final price of HK$229,037,500 (with buyer’s premium), and became the 2nd most expensive Ming porcelain in the world. The doucai ‘chicken cup’, mark and period of Chenghua, sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2014 for HK$281,240,000, remains as the most expensive Ming porcelain in the world.

The "fish pond" bowl was sold for HK$229,037,500 (with buyer's premium).