It is unusual to meet a Chinese-born individual who has taken Japanese nationality. Ando Shokei was among the first Chinese students to go to Japan. He studied economics but always had a keen interest in Chinese fine art through his family business.
His own collection started with ancient bronzes and ceramics, then it grew to include paintings and calligraphy as well. Five years ago he decided to go into the auction business in Japan under the name of Tokyo Chuo.
The best Japanese collectors have bought over decades, even centuries in some cases, and the big Western auction houses assiduously court them. Ando, however, has an advantage speaking Japanese, taking Japanese citizenship and building long-term relationships. He holds four auctions a year.
“Relationships are the key to sourcing [art] from the most serious collectors,” Ando said. And because these collectors hold their art for a long time, much of it has never been seen before and is in impeccable condition.
“[They] don’t just warehouse the art; they build special cases lined with silk or hand-made packing boxes to fit each piece. You can feel their love and reverence for the pieces,” Ando said.
Tokyo Chuo held its September Auction at the Tokyo Dome Hotel. The top-selling lot was the painting ‘Figures under the Pine Tree’ by the Ming Dynasty master Qiu Ying (c. 1482-1559). It sold for $7,616,910, becoming the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction in Japan.
The painting ‘Landscape in Snow’ by Yuan Ying of the Qing Dynasty achieved $2,649,360 while a scroll featuring calligraphy by Emperor Wu of the Liang Dynasty, dated 503, fetched $1,048,705. Both lots far exceeded expectations.
Tokyo Chuo held its inaugural Hong Kong auction at the Four Seasons Hotel on November 26. Another Hong Kong auction is planned for 2015, most likely in May.
The star lot of the November sale is Standard-script Calligraphy by Yong Xing (1752-1823) with an estimate of $390,000 to $650,000.