For most people, selling properties to buy a few pieces of stone sculpture is unthinkable.
But that’s exactly what a Chinese lady did when she became obsessed with the works of Lin Fei, one of the top artisans in the field.
Lin’s father is also a renowned sculptor whose recurring motif is the bear.
Lin Fei inherited his father’s talent, but his subjects and style are completely different.
Influenced by western art, Lin Fei applies his Chinese stone carving skills to create a series of nude women sculptures.
The lady from Fuzhou, a city in the southern province of Fujian, is said to love Lin Fei’s craft so much that she sold her entire property portfolio and used the money to collect his masterpieces.
Fuzhou is a major source of Shoushan stones, which are rocks formed from the earth’s movement 100-200 million years ago.
They were often used by ancient emperors in making royal seals.
The Fuzhou lady was so keen to acquire Lin Fe’s works that she often placed an advance order as soon as she heard he was doing a new project.
Exchanging real estate for sculpture — stone carvings that typically come in sizes that fit in the palm of your hand — is the height of folly, you might say.
The truth is years of economic boom in China fueled a tremendous demand for collectible items. From antiques to contemporary paintings, these works fetched prices that continued to surge over the past decade.
What made Shoushan stones unique is each stone has its own natural shape, color and texture, posing big limitations and challenges for artisans in the creation process.
After years of mining, the supply of Shoushan stones, which cannot be found anywhere else in the world, has almost dried up, further fanning speculation.
The market value of Shoushan stones is said to have jumped 10-20 times over the past decade, and much more so for rare pieces done by famous sculptors.
Not a few Chinese nouveau riche have joined the ranks of these art collectors in recent years.
Lin Fei’s works can easily fetch 1 million yuan (US$153,000) in auctions these days.
So that “stupid” woman from Fuzhou is now sitting on a huge fortune. Had she instead held on to her real estate assets, she would be suffering from the current property glut in China.
But as seasoned collectors put it, you must love these stones more than their value in the market.
Otherwise, it’s hard to take the plunge to buy them, resist the temptation from bidders and hold them for years with nothing to compensate you but the sheer pleasure of looking at these exquisite works of art.
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