Hundreds flocked to a Beijing hotel Saturday for a glimpse of a rare Chinese porcelain bowl made almost 1,000 years ago that is expected to fetch more than $10 million when it goes under the hammer in Hong Kong next month.
But what was initially meant to be a public event was turned into a more private showing for potential buyers as organizers feared a stampede of visitors, after the bowl drew crowds in Shanghai on Wednesday and Thursday.
"An object has rarely generated so much excitement and for security reason we thought it would be preferable for our clients to view it within the confines of a private room," Nicolas Chow, deputy chairman for Sotheby's Asia, told Agence France Presse.
The flower-shaped Ru dish from the Northern Song Dynasty (1086-1125) features six sharp notches on the edge and a subtly translucent matte glaze, and is believed to be the only one of its type in the world, Sotheby's auction house has said.
Chow has called "the superb Northern Song lobed washer from the fabled Ru kilns" ... the "star of the season".
"It is the first time in 30 years Sotheby's has auctioned off a piece of ceramic this rare. I would say this is about the highest degree of rarity you can find."
Of the 79 surviving Ru ware dishes, the "Ruyao Washer" is the only one that features an organic floral shape and an opaque glaze, he said.
It was expected to sell for up HK$80 million ($10.3 million) at Sotheby's spring auction in the southern Chinese city on April 4.
Other pieces to go under the hammer include a large, early 15th-century blue and white dish from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and an Anhua stembowl from the Xuande reign (1426-35) featuring dancing dragon motifs.
More than 380 lots with an estimated worth of more than HK$650 million will be sold at the auction, Sotheby's said.
Hong Kong has emerged as one of the biggest auction centers after New York and London.
Chinese art prices have rocketed in recent years, fuelled by China's economic boom and a steady demand from rich Asian collectors, especially mainland Chinese buyers.
But a Sotheby's auction of imperial Chinese porcelain this time last year sold for less than pre-sale estimates.
After Shanghai and Beijing the bowl is to be shown in Taipei.
"The Taiwanese are probably among the most sophisticated collectors in the field of Chinese art," said Chow. "They'll pick something extraordinary to raise their collections."
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