Start Collecting x Nicolas Chow: Don't Rush In

The number of antique lovers is huge, yet the threshold of collecting looks high, and auction sounds like something which is beyond our reach. This time, we interview Nicolas Chow, the international head and chairman of Chinese works of art for Sotheby's, asking for advice about collecting antiques. Surprisingly, the first sentence out of his mouth is "the important thing is not to rush in too quickly".

Q: What is the first step then?

N: Go and see exhibitions, there are some great museums around, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan. Come to the auctions, I would say, because that's a place where you's not like a museum, here you can actually handle the things, and handling is incredibly important. It's not just about determining the authenticity, I would say, 50% of the pleasure, touching a great piece of porcelain is tactile. Feeling the weight, the texture of the glaze, feeling the body, all these things are part of the experience, and I think a lot of people are missing out, not touching them.

Q: What else can we learn by going to auctions?

N: If you come to the auctions, here, Sotheby's or elsewhere, it's a great opportunity for learning. You can read the catalogs, handle the pieces, get a feel of periods. You know, a dish, early 15th century of a certain size, will have a different weight than a same dish, same size, the copy made in the 18th century. All that, you have to feel it for yourself.

Q: Do we have to be experts, in terms of knowledge, before starting to collect?

N: I think don't wait too long to jump in, because the best learning curve is when you make a purchase. The purchase itself maybe not be that important, but when you have the piece back home, the knowledge you would want to gain from that first purchase, reading into it, studying the object, that's really what would take you to the next level.

Q: Collecting antique is a very personal interest, right?

N: Join the community. When you come to the auctions a few times, you will get familiar with other collectors, get to know them, exchange...The great pleasure of buying an object, is not just buying for yourself, but sharing it with a few like-minded connoisseurs, that's getting a kick out of showing a great object, discussing it.