|Illegally poached elephant. Photo: Baraza.wildlifedirect.org
As an antique dealer specializing in Oriental Antiques, I frequently browse the internet and the other day I took interest in a Woolley & Wallis (W&W) Auction Catalogue in Salisbury, England. More specifically their latest Oriental sale, that took place on the 21-22 of May, 2014.
The number of items made of or including ivory amounted to 77, a staggering number considering that auction houses ought to be quite restrictive in admitting pieces made from elephant ivory. Be that as it may. That is a difficult discussion to pursue.
Since I first discussed the problem of auction houses trying to sell (potentially) new ivory, the attempts to sell ivory have dropped drastically in Sweden (see the blog post Six-finger-Jane-returns; Now even older and WITH a provenance! (please use the google translate-button for translation).
|Ms and Mr "Six-finger-Jane", circa 15,5 cm.
|Detail: Happy -modern-facial features...
|"Jane´s" six fingers clasping the ewer of brew.
Now, look at lot number 478, in Woolley & Wallis Asian Art II- 22 May 2014:
|Lot nr 478, "A large Chinese ivory carving of Budai He Shang c.1900", 23,2 cm.
|Detail of lot nr 478, at Woolley & Wallis.
I can hear the boss of the Ivory carving workshop shout: WHERE did you place the toe nails, you moron?! And on another day maybe the same boss was heard shouting to the very same employee: HOW many fingers did you do on that hand, you IDIOT!? I hereby suggest that these figurines were both made by the same copyist carver, please note the choice of wording, I did not write artist carver.
You may still think that it must be the real and genuine deal, since it "sold for so much money". Here´s the irony of it all; I am guessing that the buyers of pieces like this are men with very thick wallets, but possibly not so thick on the knowledge side of it all.
The Buddha-with-the-crazy-foot is probably bound for mainland China. The subject of Chinese buyers of Chinese fake items has been extensively discussed by Antikmonologen.
|The Guardian, the 22nd of May, 2014.
On the other hand, if auction houses and front-line experts keep admitting and selling obviously modern ivory artefacts, our children will be without the majestic creatures that I so much love. One auction house in Sweden, Uppsala Auktionskammare, will be brought to court for violating the CITES Convention (Uppsala Auctions -PROBABLY- gives up responsability for Asian Antiques). How is it possible for a big auction house to sell pieces like the ones discussed in this blog, that could be spotted by anyone mildly talented and interested in works of art, as banal, recent work? Finding six fingers on one hand or toe nails on the underside of a foot from the late Qing period is like spotting a Volkswagen Beetle in a Rubens oil painting.
The marketplace Ebay announced in 2008 that ivory sales were banned with them. That is not at all the case. Click away for a minute or two on the web. Yet another sad story.
|"2 19th Century faux ivory, gentlemans cloth brushes.armorial, monogrammed"(sic.) For sale at Ebay on the 28th of May. Nothing faux about that.
A small auction room called Kolonn in Stockholm, Sweden, tried to sell the following vase today (28th of May):
|Lot 154906, "Vase, porcelain, China, probably 19th Century, estimate £135".
|Detail of the above
There is one fundamental difference between all the Chinese fake ceramics and the overwhelmingly questionable Woolley & Wallis laughing Buddha (I prefer to refer to him as a crying Buddha). The difference being that for every elephant ivory piece that is sold, there will be another client looking for new items. Be that antique or new. In other words, the elephants will keep on being slaughtered for their tusks.
How often is an elephant poached?
|What it always comes down to
|In it for the money? (John Axford, photo: Woolley & Wallis)
New car, caviar, four star daydream,
Think I'll buy me a football team
Money get back
I'm all right Jack keep your hands off my stack.
Money it's a hit
Don't give me that do goody good bullshit...
I dedicate these lines to the fantastic person and great expert Gordon Lang, whom is no longer with us. Rest in peace Gordon, may you be surrounded by great pots, wherever you are.
The Qing period lasted between 1644-1912, the first Volkswagen Beetle was produced in 1938 and
the magnificent artist Peter Paul Rubens lived between 1577-1640.