Kevin Ching, CEO of Sotheby’s Asia, at the Jewellery and Watches preview in Chengdu.

– We are traveling around China this month to preview our forthcoming Hong Kong Spring Auction series, and last week we went to Chengdu. Sotheby’s has been holding preview exhibitions in mainland China for 15 years, but this is the first time we have ventured outside of Beijing and Shanghai.

Scenes from Chengdu.

Founded as early as 310 B.C., Chengdu is the capital of China’s Sichuan Province, which is famous for its pandas and spicy food.  Chengdu is the gateway to Western China and, with an urban population over 7 million and a GDP of US$82 billion, it is an important centre for commerce, retail and foreign investment. China Daily, a leading Chinese newspaper, recently voted Chengdu to be the 4th most livable city in China, though many find the city a little grey and damp.

Left: A visitor admires a piece from our forthcoming Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite Sale. Right: The Shangri-la Hotel.

Our two-day exhibition at the Shangri-la Hotel was devoted to watches and jewellery, including an 8.01-carat Emerald-cut Fancy Vivid Blue Diamond and Diamond Ring with a low estimate of over US$11 million. It was very well attended, and the local press turned up in great numbers, eager to find out more about our objects on display as well as Sotheby’s future plans for China and, in particular, Chengdu. Many of those who came to the preview were amazingly knowledgeable about watches and jewellery.  There were, of course, exceptions.  One gentleman asked if we could sell the watch he was wearing for him at the preview, but we explained how the auction process works.

The Chengdu experiment was successful, and the department experts are eager to come again in the autumn.  The potential to reach new clients is very exciting, but deep down, I think they are already craving the local specialty: spicy rabbit head hotpot!

One of the many Chengdu restaurants serving spicy rabbit head hotpot.