America, the Capital of Asian Art

March 5, 2015 6:48 PM

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America, the Capital of Asian Art

In the world-wide hunt to discover overlooked art trophies to resell to collectors of Asian art, dealers and auctioneers say the first spot they’re eyeing is the American mantelpiece. Carried here by centuries of missionaries, wealthy collectors, importers and immigrants, Chinese artifacts have settled and resurfaced throughout the U.S. in huge numbers compared with the scant amount that remain in China following Mao Zedong’s relic-smashing Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976. Now, in a topsy-turvy twist on the global art market, dealers say they’re locating museum-quality Chinese artworks sitting, sometimes little-noticed, in farms in Vermont, shotgun houses in New Orleans and ranches in Montana and Colorado.

Two years ago, Sotheby’s discovered a rare, 1,000-year-old white bowl from the Song dynasty sitting on the mantel of a family home in upstate New York. The amateur collectors had paid $3 for the 5-inch-wide bowl at a garage sale. Sotheby’s resold it on the family’s behalf to London dealer Giuseppe E...

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