A set of purple clay teapots, created to honour the master painter Zhu Qizhan, were sold for $209,000 in Toronto on June 22.
Zhu Qizhan was one of the leading Chinese painters and calligraphers, noted for his bold style which incorporates elements of both traditional Chinese and western art. Born in 1892, he outlived the majority of his peers and lived to see his work reach international fame. Having exhibited at the New York Metropolitian Museum of Art, among numerous others, he died in 1996, aged 105.
The spectacular set starred as top lot in the sale, despite not meeting its $242,000 low estimate. Another purple clay teapot was sold in the auction for $55,000, against a $50,000-60,000 estimate.
Purple clay from the city of Yixing in China's Jiangsu province has long been valued by collectors for its unique and distinctive colouration. The current world record for a purple clay teapot stands at $2m, after a 1948 Gu Zingzhou piece sold in Beijing in 2010.
Gu Zingzhou also served as chief designer for the commemorative set, with assistance from six top purple clay artists from the Yixing national factory. The eight-piece set was created to mark the 100th birthday of Zhu Qizhan, with just 90 of the 100 limited edition sets currently available to collectors.
Each of the teapots in the collection was decorated with calligraphy and designs from Zhu Qizhan and came complete with their original certificates of authenticity. The set was sold in a lot that included a superb book which featured original calligraphy from masters Zhu Qizhan, Gu Zingzhou and Cheng Shifa.
The ongoing boom in the Chinese art market makes items that sell for less than their estimate something of a rarity and provides a scarce opportunity for collectors to buy at great value. With over 960,000 millionaires created by China's current economic prosperity, the value of traditional Chinese art grew by 20.6% in 2011, according to the Mei Moses index.
Get more great investing tips and advice from Paul Fraser Collectibles here. You can also receive a free weekly update from the world of collecting by signing up to our newsletter.