Overseas auctions of Vietnam's antiques: good and bad

 VietNamNet Bridge – Antiques collected from wrecks in the sea of Vietnam have been auctioned overseas for several times. Along with profit, Vietnamese specialists also learned expensive experience.

Quang Ngai blockades the shipwreck with 500-year-old antiques
Shipwreck yields treasures dating from 14th century
Treasures in Ca Mau shipwreck (photo)



Antiques collected from a sunken ship in Binh Chau commune, Quang Ngai province.


Artifacts from shipwrecks: magnets to the world

Seabed Exploration Company has determined that at least 40 ancient wrecks in the sea of Vietnam are available for salvage and excavation.

This company is "anxious" when treasures of antiques, mainly oriental porcelain are being in the bottom of the ocean, while these antiques are very attractive at international auction houses.

In addition, through this huge volume of antiques, historical mysteries of trade are gradually revealed. The five ancient wrecks in the waters of Vietnam, containing hundreds of thousands of Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese porcelain have contributed to re-draw the ceramic road journey in the East Sea, with Vietnam as one of the links.

For a long period, Vietnam was considered as a secondary link, an intermediate stage of this journey, and its ceramics were undervalued compared to Chinese ceramics. However, since the shipwreck in Cu Lao Cham was excavated (1997 - 1999), international experts have had a different view about Vietnam.

More than 240,000 ceramic artifacts dating back to the 15th – 16th centuries, of which, 150,000 deep-blue glazed ceramic items are defined to come from the Chu Dau ceramic village in the northern province of Hai Duong, have made experts stunned.

They make the doubt that China was not the only producer of deep-blue and white glazed ceramic items in the past more stable because Vietnam also has a history of producing and exporting deep-blue and white enameled ceramics. This event makes the value of artifacts found in wrecks in Vietnam to rise, both literally and figuratively.

The famous auction house Sotheby's organized an auction of ancient ceramic items from the ancient ship in Cu Lao Cham in the Netherlands. After that, Christie's hold an auction of ceramic artifacts from an ancient ship in Binh Thuan in Australia.

Though it has not been excavated yet, but after experts determined that pottery items (mainly Chinese origin) of the wreck in Binh Chau commune, Quang Ngai Province, are oldest among the antiques collected from shipwrecks in Vietnam, it is predicted that the wreck will attract attention of international experts. An overseas auction of antiques from this ship may be organized.

Overseas auctions: be careful

Based on the results of two previous auctions of antiques from the ancient ships in Binh Thuan and Cu Lao Cham, one can optimistically think about the upcoming auction abroad.

In particular, after the auction in Australia, the Vietnamese delegation cheerfully announced that all 16,000 items were sold out, earning around A$1.6 million.

The antiques of the wreck in Ca Mau also brought about approximately US$3.9 million from the auction in the Netherlands.

However, Mr. Doan Anh Tuan, Director of the UNESCO Center for Heritage Conservation and Study, said that deducting taxes, travel costs, accommodations, etc., Vietnam actually earned half of the reported figures. In theory, overseas auctions of Vietnam are successful but actually the result is opposite.

Tuan suggested organizing auctions at home in order to earn more profit for the state budget and at the same time advertise for Vietnam’s culture and tourism, which overseas auctions are unlikely to do.

M. Lan
 
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