Chinese vase found in attic sells for €16.2 million

The exquisite porcelain vessel was made for the Qing dynasty Emperor Qianlong and had set a guide price of a modest €500,000. (AFP)
Updated 12 June 2018
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Chinese vase found in attic sells for €16.2 million

PARIS: An 18th-century Chinese vase forgotten for decades in a shoe box in a French attic sold for €16.2 million at Sotheby’s in Paris on Tuesday — more than 30 times the estimate.
Experts at the auction house said the exquisite porcelain vessel was made for the Qing dynasty Emperor Qianlong and had set a guide price of a much more modest €500,000.
“This is a major work of art, it is as if we had just discovered a Caravaggio,” Olivier Valmier, the Asian arts expert at the auction house, told reporters before the sale.
The vase, which was in perfect condition, “is the only known example in the world bearing such detail,” he added.
Rare porcelain from the Qianlong period has been going for astronomical prices recently, with a bowl sold last April by Sotheby’s in Hong Kong for $30.4 million.
The vase — which is decorated with images of deer and cranes — was found by chance among dozens of other pieces of Chinoiserie in the attic of a house in France earlier this year.
The family had acquired it at the end of the 19th century but it has lain unloved in a shoe box in the attic for decades.
“We didn’t like the vase too much, and my grandparents didn’t like it either,” said the owner of the piece, who only got in touch with Sotheby’s in March.
It was still in the shoe box when it was presented to Sotheby’s experts for authentication.
The staggering price paid by a young Chinese collector, who was at the auction himself, is the highest ever recorded by the auction house in Paris.
“Such elaborate and challenging designs are exceedingly rare on Qing imperial porcelain,” Sotheby’s said on its website.


West End theater turns migrant camp to get London audience talking

Updated 20 June 2018
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West End theater turns migrant camp to get London audience talking

  • The Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End aims to immerse the audience in the squalid camp in the northern French port city of Calais that inspired “The Jungle.”
  • The immersive play offers a glimpse into life in the camp, telling the story of asylum-seekers, people smugglers and charity workers who used to populate it.

LONDON: London theatergoers used to spectating in comfort are in for a rude awakening after the authors of a play swapped the traditional plush velvet seating for wooden benches and covered the floor with soil to simulate the feel of a migrant camp.
The Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End aims to immerse the audience in the squalid camp in the northern French port city of Calais that inspired “The Jungle,” whose authors hope their play will stoke debate about migration.
“People often hold strong opinions about this subject because it doesn’t seem to have any immediate answer,” said Joe Murphy, 27, who co-wrote the play.
“Discussion is the only think that is going to get us forward ... and hopefully this play can provide some of that space for debate,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.
Co-author Joe Robertson said the pair had “tried to depict both the terrible conditions that existed in the Jungle camp, but also the hope that existed in that place.”
Up to 10,000 people seeking ways to reach Britain used to live in the giant slum before it was cleared by authorities in late 2016.
Immigration remains a major political issue across Europe, as well as in the United States, where the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the Mexican border has caused an international outcry.
Several European leaders including those of France, Germany, Italy and Austria are to hold talks on Sunday to explore how to stop people from moving around the European Union after claiming asylum in one of the Mediterranean states of arrival.
Murphy and Robertson, 28, based the script on their experience as volunteers in Calais, where they ran a temporary theater within the camp.
The immersive play offers a glimpse into life in the camp, telling the story of asylum-seekers, people smugglers and charity workers who used to populate it.
“There were 25 different nationalities of people all forced to live side by side often on top of each other and the phenomenal story about that place was people did make an effort to come together,” said Robertson.
Theatre-goers are invited to seat at the tables of the camp’s makeshift Afghan café, where the action unfolds.
“The closer you are to the audience the better the message is delivered,” said actor Ammar Hajj Ahmad, who plays one of the leading characters.
Ahmad, from Syria, is one of many actors from a refugee background featured in the play. Several asylum-seekers the authors met in Calais are also part of the cast.
“I am proud of this, I love telling stories ... about the many people who lived in Calais,” said cast-member Mohamed Sarrar, a musician from Sudan who arrived in Britain two years ago.
The play, which premiered at another London theater The Young Vic, last year, runs from July 5 to November.