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Late-18th century automaton clock sells for $3.7 million

The sale of a enamel, paste-set musical automation clock for $3.7 million, became the highest auction result to come out of German this year, and the most paid for an item at a livestream Auctionata sale, when the clock was sold during the June 20 Important Asian Art Auction.

BERLIN — The online auction house Auctionata has set a new world record for an Asian work of art sold in an online

Musical automation clock

Musical automaton clock that set records when it sold for $3.7 million during a June 20 auction. (Photo courtesy Auctionata)

auction. In its 259th auction ‘Important Asian Art’, on June 20, which was broadcast online via livestream, a rare enamel, ivory-mounted and paste-set musical and automaton clock from the late 18th century sold for $3.7 million (including buyer’s premium). This makes it the highest auction result in Germany in 2015, and the most expensive object that Auctionata has sold since the start of its livestream auctions in May 2013.

The rare masterpiece of Chinese clock-making stems from the Guangzhou workshop and was offered for a starting price of $332,000. Overall, the clock attracted more than 1,000 interested auction participants from 35 countries. After a fierce 10 minute bidding battle between six bidders from Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and New York, the museum-quality piece was ultimately sold to the well-known business man and investor Liu Yiqian from Shanghai.

Liu owns one of the most important art collections in China, which is displayed in the Long Museum in Shanghai, which he founded with his wife. In the past, Liu has received great attention for several purchases of extremely important Chinese works of art, for example when he bought the so-called ‘chicken cup’, a small porcelain cup from the Ming dynasty, for $36 million at a British auction house, in April 2014.

Liu Yiqian comments: “I am more than happy to be the winning bidder for this amazing piece of craftsmanship. Auctionata is providing the auctions of the 21st century, where bidding via livestream is just so convenient, even over an iPhone app.”

View a video clip of the sale of the clock during the auction....


Imperial Chinese clocks from the Guangzhou workshop are among the most sought-after works of art from the Qing Dynasty. Only very few of them are privately owned, and have ever been available on the art market. Auctionata is thus the first auction house to have offered such an object of Chinese origin in Germany. The musical automaton clock represents the magical mountain Penglai, which is known as the home of the ‘Eight Immortals’ of Taoism. The mountain with a waterfall is made with utmost precision and decorated with many small figures, representing the Eight Immortals, their attendants as well as the Three Star Deities. The fully functional automatism sets most of the figures, the pagodas, the waterfall and a richly decorated yin-yang symbol in motion, presenting a fascinating spectacle.

Dr. Arne Sildatke, Senior Specialist for Asian Art at Auctionata, explains: “I am thrilled with this great result! It reflects the historical value of this museum-quality automaton clock and the rarity of its Chinese theme. Curating an auction with such an important artwork is an experience beyond description. The record price of $3.7 million is a very strong signal of our international clientele and proves that Auctionata has secured its position as one of Europe’s premier marketplaces for Asian art.”

For more information about Auctionata, including the auction schedule, visit

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