EXCLUSIVE: Nicolas Chow Responds to Viral Photo of Him Kissing Chinese Billionaire Liu Yiqian

A photo has recently gone viral and sparked a heated discussion on Chinese social media network WeChat. It is a photo of Nicolas Chow, Chairman of Sotheby’s Asia, hugging Liu Yiqian, a Shanghainese billionaire and collector, and kissing him on his cheek.

The photo was uploaded on WeChat with a caption saying Sotheby’s is taking any means necessary for their business. While some commented that the deal for the HK$200m Kangxi Pink-Ground Falangcai Bowl is “sealed with a kiss”. What’s the story behind the photo? The Value reached Nicolas Chow for his comments.

Nicolas Chow, Chairman of Sotheby’s Asia

According to Nicolas Chow, here is what happened. To promote its coming spring sales in Hong Kong, Sotheby’s brought highlighted lots to the travelling exhibition in Mainland China. During their stay in Shanghai, Sotheby’s held a luncheon inviting prominent collectors, including Liu Yiqian, together with Kevin Ching, CEO of Sotheby's Asia, and a group of specialists, as well as Liu’s friends.

Kangxi Pink-Ground Falangcai Bowl, a star lot at Sotheby's coming spring sales

Just when everyone was enjoying the meal, Liu got sentimental and went on to share the story about his friendship with Nicolas Chow, who always offers him impartial advice and objective judgment whenever Liu asks for his professional comments on ceramics and Chinese works of art, whether they are offered by Sotheby’s or other auction houses. Therefore, Liu has always trusted Nicolas Chow and considered him as a precious good friend.

The above photo has gone viral when it was uploaded on WeChat

After listening to the touching speech given by Liu, flooded with gratitude and elation, Chow couldn’t help but give his good friend a hug and a big kiss.

Liu Yiqian and his wife

Moved by the impassioned moment, people in the room took out their phones for photos. To Chow, someone brought up in Europe, the kiss was simply a gesture showing his admiration and appreciation. He did not expect the photo would go viral on WeChat and caused a lot of interest on social media.

In addition to the above response given by Chow himself, The Value editorial team would also like to share our thoughts on it.

Edward T. Chow was a legendary dealer and collector

Before Nicolas Chow making his name in the art industry, he was mostly remembered as the grandson of Edward T. Chow, the legendary dealer and collector. With his expertise in Chinese works of art and his deep understanding of the market, Chow has played a pivotal role in leading the Chinese art market at Sotheby’s.

Yellow-Ground Famille-Rose Double-Gourd Vase from Qianlong period was acquired by Zhang Yongzhen, a former member of CPPCC Standing Committee 

He has been the mastermind behind many successful sales, most notable for record-breaking ceramics, including a Yellow-Ground Famille-Rose Double-Gourd Vase from Qianlong period, which fetched HK$252m in 2010; a Doucai ‘Chicken Cup’ from Chenghua, which fetched HK$281m in 2014; a rare Ru Guanyao brush washer from Northern Song Dynasty, which fetched HK$294m in 2017.

A rare Ru Guanyao brush washer from Northern Song Dynasty set a new auction record for most expensive ceramic

Other remarkable examples that Chow introduced include ‘Guan’ Octagonal Vase from Southern Song Dynasty, a Blue and White Lobed ‘Fish Pond’ Bowl from Xuande period, and the Kangxi Pink-Ground Falangcai which is expected to fetch in an excess of HK$200m in the coming sales. The selection of rare works of finest quality reflects Chow’s impeccable taste and discerning eyes.

A Blue and White Lobed ‘Fish Pond’ Bowl from Xuande period sold for HK$229m at Sotheby's Hong Kong last year

Such extraordinary offerings evoke intense biddings and challenge existing auction records, further shaping Hong Kong as an important center for auctioning ceramics. Chow’s endeavor has long been recognized by Sotheby’s, and his hard work is paid off with a recent promotion to Chairman of Sotheby’s Asia.

Liu Yiqian is the buyer of the doucai ‘Chicken Cup’ from Chenghua

There has been a lot of conjecture on social media about Nicolas Chow’s kiss, deemed as an attempt to flatter Liu Yiqian in order to secure the deal of Kangxi Pink-Ground Falangcai. Nevertheless, honestly speaking, collectors are no idiots, especially a world-class collector like Liu. They offer bids based on their own judgment and preference, not simply because of any forms of flattery. Without his professional knowledge, as well as trust from clients, Chow wouldn't have pulled off so many record-setting sales, one after another.

Of course, auction is a lucrative business about making money. While most people focus on numbers and figures, they tend to overlook the human side: the relationships built between auction houses and clients, or the friendship formed between specialists and collectors. After all, we must not forget, collecting is also about passion and enthusiasm.