Last year’s Asia-Pacific Bonsai and Suiseki Convention and Exhibit featured a high-priced, high tech, bonsai auction. Bidding was open to all convention attendees, so the trees went on display well ahead of the event. Some of the trees were awesome.
The auction also featured antique pots and stands. I was tempted to bid and very curious how much these items would fetch.
Pots and stands
The auctioneer was an experienced bonsai auctioneer and pot expert. Microphone duties fell to the talented bonsai professional Isao Omachi of Sendai.
Auctioneer and Omachi
The auctioneer opened the auction in the traditional fashion – he barked, “Sei-no!” and we clapped three times: clap-clap-clap, clap-clap-clap.
The event then got off to a rocky start. The auction followed the conventions of the Japanese bonsai community. Rather than offering set prices and soliciting bids, the auctioneer asked if we had bids, and bidders named their offers. The Japanese in the room followed this convention while some of the westerners indicated bids with gestures. Adding to the fun, translators provided English and Chinese versions of the bidding. This is where the high tech kicked in. Video projections of each tree filled a huge screen above the stage with graphics showing prices in Japanese yen, US dollars, and Chinese yuan.
The projection system worked very well, and the translators kept pace without making mistakes. Bidding, however, never really took off. Throughout the convention, many discussions had focused on the anticipation of rich Chinese buyers making the event a huge success. As over half of the registered attendees were Chinese, hopes were high. At the auction, however, most bids came from Japanese professionals. As a result, few lots sold beyond their actual value.
Shimpaku on the block
Of course, the numbers were much higher than any I’ve seen in California bonsai auctions. Good trees here went for good money.
The numbers in these photos don’t all correspond with the final bids – the trees were removed and the screens cleared right as bidding stopped.
Red pine from Korea – one of the demonstration trees
I didn’t end up bidding, but I thoroughly enjoyed the event. I’ll say more about the rest of the convention next week.