A Tibetan ‘thangka’ tapestry went under the hammer at Christie’s Hong Kong on Wednesday for HK$348.4 million, or £28 million, setting a new world record for a Chinese artwork sold at international auction, SCMP reported. The Shanghai-based billionaire Liu Yiqian placed the winning bid via telephone, which brought an end to a lengthy bidding war.
The sale breaks the previous record for a Chinese artwork, which Liu also set when he paid HK$281.2 million or £22 million, for a Meiyintang Chenghua ‘chicken cup’ at Sotheby’s in April. The work ended selling for 5 times the pre-sale estimate of HK$80 million or £6.3 million.
Liu told the SCMP “I am proud to bring back to China this significant and historic 15th century ‘thangka,’ which will be preserved in the Long Museum for years to come,” The Shanghai billionaire said in reference to the museum in Pudong that he founded with his wife.
According to Hong Kong antiques dealer Hon Lau “The thangka is a magnificent piece of historical artwork made of top-notch craftsmanship.” Lau went on to explain that the tapestry is one of a series of three, with the other two pieces remaining in a Tibetan monastery.
The Buddhist tapestry is intricately woven and dates back to the Yongle period of the Ming Dynasty between 1402-1424. The work measures 3.3m x 2.1m and shows Rakta Yamari, the red conqueror of death and his companion Vajravetali trampling over Yama, the lord of death.
Some twenty years previously he thangka was sold for £648,000, and in 2002 an American collector paid HK$30 million, or £2.4 million for it. Experts estimate that Buddhist art has been undervalued in the during previous sales.
“Buddhist art is widely respected and interest has gone up,” stated Jonathan Stone, the chairman and international head of Asian art at Christie’s. “There’s no doubt that its value will go up.”