Yet another auction record was set at Christie's in London last night when a representative for Steve Wynn, the resort and casino mogul, purchased a set of four Chinese vases for £8 million ($12.8 million), dramatically overshooting the pre-sale high estimate of £1 million.
Dating from the Jiaqing period (1796-1821), the porcelain baluster vases are mounted with ormolu, a kind of gilt which mixes high-carat gold with mercury. The price is more than twice the previous auction record for vases of this type, but such a pristine quartet is exceptionally rare. According to a statement by Wynn Resorts, there is only one known similar set in the world, in the collection of the British royal family.
The vases were purchased to be displayed at Steve Wynn's newest casino, the Cotai Resort in Macau, which is not scheduled to open until 2015. This is not the first Chinese acquisition that Wynn has made for his resorts located in the Chinese territory of Macau. He began collecting Chinese art objects in 2006 with a record-setting purchase of a red porcelain vase from the Hongwu period (1368-1398) for HK78.5 million ($10 million US) at Christie's in Hong Kong.
Wynn, who has said that he is committed to returning Chinese treasures to China, later donated the vase to the Macau Special Administrative Region, where it entered the permanent collection of the Cultural Affairs Bureau's Macao Museum. Since then, many more objects have been added to the collection on display in the two Wynn resorts in Macau.
A second set of similar vases — a pair rather than a quartet — sold to an anonymous buyer for £2.8 million ($4.6 million). In all, the sale garnered £28.8 million ($46 million), selling 72 percent by lot and 91 percent by value.
Although the Wynn vase purchase made a splash, the predicted top lot of the evening was not even offered for sale. A bronze sculpture by Adriaen de Vries, estimated at £5 million to £8 million, was removed from the sale by Christie's the night before the auction due to concerns about its ownership history, according to Bloomberg.
Christie's told Bloomberg, "We were recently informed of additional information, about which we were unaware, that affects the validity of the existing export license for this recently discovered work."