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How to Evaluate Chinese Fine Art

The quality of valuation is based on a carefully designed scope of work for appraisal, your knowledge of Chinese visual culture and your professional integrity as an art consultant and appraiser. If you wish to learn how to appraise Chinese painting and calligraphy, I would recommend that you consider the following suggestions.

What Determines the Value of a Chinese Painting

  • Authenticity: Originality is the most important value feature. However, as far as Chinese art is concerned, sometimes, the value of a fine reproduction of an original work by a good old hand may exceed the value of an original new work by a less capable hand.

  • Date of Creation: Date is crucial if a Chinese painting is identified as antique piece, namely prior to 1900. The earlier, the more valuable. However, for works of the 20th century on, date of creation is less crucial.

  • Rank of Artist: Ranking the signed artist among his equals determines the value of his works: However, a famous artist does not always produce masterpieces. A fine Chinese art work by a less known artist does not mean less valuable.

  • Quality: No doublt, quality is the most important value indicator. A fine Chinese painting and calligraphy is judged by its ranking in subject matter, iconography, technique and visual appeal. A low-quality work by a famous artist carries modest value.

  • Subject Matter: This is another important value indicator. In Chinese fine arts, landscape painting ranks higher than figure painting, figure painting ranks higher than flower and bird. The visual appeal of a painting plays a role in the marketability of the work.

  • Size: The impact of size on value is determined by the rank of an artist and his artistic strength. A masterpiece can be of a very modest size. Size seems to play an important role in some auction houses. A larger-sized art work does not mean a higher value. The value of a fine Chinese painting and calligraphy is judged by its quality, the rank of its artist and the desirability of the works by the artist in question.

  • Medium: The medium of a Chinese fine art affects value. In assessing the value of a traditional Chinese paintings prior to 18th century, for example, those painted on silk is more desirable than those on paper, since painting on silk is more difficult than painting on paper.

  • Mounting Style: Either hand scroll, hanging scroll, album, or panels, etc, the mounting style of a Chinese fine art affects value very modestly. In terms of the aesthetic value, a good Chinese painting and calligraphy is not considered completed unless it is mounted in a suitable style for presentation. In the current market, a hanging scroll is better appreciated than a hand scroll. A handscroll performs better than a fan painting. A painting mounted on the decorative satin is more desirable than that on a plain paper.

  • Condition: This is one of the most important value feaature considered in the valuation. Any retouch on the pictorial surface or physical conditions (water stain or mildew, crack, etc) diminish the value of the work and also affects its marketability.

  • Rarity: The rarer the more desirable. Buy rarity and quality is the best investment strategy.


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