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Embroidered Thangka Sold for Record $45 Million

Thangka Christie's

Embroidered thangka, Yongle period, Ming Dynasty (1402 – 1424), silk and metal thread, 2.13 x 3.35m

The imperial embroidered thangka previewed by HALI when it went on show during Asian Art in London last month has sold for an unprecedented US$45,157,824 (HK$348,440,000) at Christie’s Hong Kong. This is a world auction record for any Chinese work of art sold by an international auction house, and beats the Clark Sickle-Leaf carpet, top lot at Sotheby’s New York on 5 June 2013 realising US$33,765,000, to most expensive textile at auction.

The thangka has a history of achieving record-breaking results at auction, fetching HK$30,874,100 ($4,014,500) in 2002, an unparalleled sum at the time. It is an outstanding example of imperial workshop embroidery and ‘in superb condition with brilliant colours’, as noted in HALI 123, p.105 on the occasion of that sale.

This time around, the bidding lasted for a lengthy twenty-two minutes, and eventually came down to Jinqing Cai, President of Christie’s China, and François Curiel, Chairman of Christie’s Asia Pacific, representing their respective clients. Christie’s has revealed the buyer to be Liu Yiqian, a well-known Chinese collector, purchasing the thangka for his new Long Museum, Shanghai. The collector made the headlines earlier this year after purchasing the famous Chengua-era ‘Chicken Cup’ at Sotheby’s. Speaking to Christie’s immediately after the auction, Liu said: ‘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.’

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