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Norther Song Dynasty Ding bowl (Image courtesy Sotheby’s)

From the sheer amount of amazing Chinese pottery discovered at random tag sales, you’d think front yards were just crawling with thousand-year-old vases. Sotheby’s just sold a Chinese bowl from the Northern Song Dynasty for $2.2 million. It was originally bought for a meager $3.

The Associated Press reports that the seller bought the bowl, a small, monochromatic vessel simply decorated with lightly incised leaves, at a tag sale in 2007. They had it displayed in their living room for several years until they became curious about its value, and got what I assume was a pleasant shock. Sotheby’s estimated its value at $200–300,000, but given the current vogue for Chinese antiquities and the rise of a Chinese collecting class, the sale price rocketed to around ten times that.

The five-inch-wide bowl dates back to the 10th century and is identified with “Ding” ware. The Ding style, created in Hebei province, consists of “small utilitarian wares such as dishes and bowls, generally left in their natural form undecorated,” according to the catalog. It’s a beautiful piece of dishware, but we’re assuming no grain of rice will ever touch it again.

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Kyle Chayka

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...

4 replies on “$3 Chinese Bowl Sells for $2 Million”

  1. How does this happen? Um, maybe because art collecting is the very embodiment of commodity fetishism? “A commodity appears at first sight an extremely obvious, trivial thing. But its analysis brings out that it is a very strange thing, abounding in metaphysical
    subtleties and theological niceties.” –which, in this case, are attributes worth as much food for 200 families for an entire year.

    1. In China? It’s not even a contest. History has shown, nothing is more renewable than hungry masses.

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