Although best known as an expert in Chinese art, Lark Mason began his career as a generalist in American and European fine and decorative works of art. He gained his experience as a dealer in fine arts and antiques while in college, and graduated Sotheby's Works of Art Program in London. He joined Sotheby's as a General Appraiser with Sotheby's Appraisal Company in New York in 1979. At Sotheby's as a general appraiser, he regularly valued private and museum collections of American and European fine and decorative works of art. He is a generalist in Asian art, and is a specialist in Chinese art and noted authority in Chinese furniture.
Connoisseurship of Chinese Furniture, Wang Shixiang, Art Media Resources, Joint Publishing, Hong Kong, 1990; Translator
Journal of the Classical Chinese Furniture Society, Autumn 1991, Understanding Joinery in Chinese Furniture
Journal of the Classical Chinese Furniture Society, Winter 1992, Questions of Authenticity
The San Francisco Craft and Folk Art Museum, Classical Chinese Wood Furniture, September 1-November 1, 1992; Introduction: Chinese Furniture and American Collectors
Orientations, January 1992, Examples of Ming Furniture in American Collections Formed Prior to 1980 Classic Chinese Furniture of the Qing Dynasty, Tian Jiaqing, Philip Wilson and Joint Publishing, Hong Kong, 1995; Translator
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Essence of Style: Chinese Furniture of the Late Ming and Early Qing Dynasties, 1998; Introduction
Orientations, December 1998, Review: Classical Chinese Furniture in the Living Environment – Examples from the Kai-Yin Lo Collection
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Classical Chinese Furniture, Paragon Publishing, 1999; Introduction Kaikodo Journal, Spring 1999, In the Company of Spirits
Asian Art, Antique Collectors' Club, London, 2002
Beijing World Art Museum, China Millennium Monument, Beijing, Chinese Archaic Furniture Masterworks and International Seminar, January 2008 Chinese Furniture and Western Collectors: a History of Collecting and Connoisseurship
Parsons School of Design, New York, Instructor, 1981-1985
New York School of Interior Design, New York, Instructor, 1990-92
The Doctor S.Y.Yip Symposium on Classic Chinese Furniture, Hong Kong, 1992
Sotheby's Education, Filled with Favors, Bathed in Blessings, Chinese Imperial Heritage: Chinese Furniture, December, 1996
Michael C. Carlos Museum, Chinese Ceramics, Guest Lecturer, Summer 1996
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Classical Chinese Furniture and the Built Environment, Lacquer Furniture, the Other Tradition, June 10-12, 1999
New York University, Adjunct Faculty, Current New York University, Symposium, Exotic Wares from a Distant Land: The China Trade for the Western Market, 2001
Chinese Export Silver, The Once Lost Art: A Look At; A Forum, with Introduction by Dr. H.A. Crosby Forbes, Peabody Museum, Salem Massachusetts, 2002
International Society of Appraisers Annual Conference, Philadelphia, PA April 2003, Jade, Ivory, and Lacquer: What Are You Really Looking At?
Trammel and Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art, Dallas, Texas, Texas Collects, 2008
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Ming and Other Things, June 22, 2008
Trammel and Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art, Dallas, Texas, Consulting Curator, 2005-2009
Chinese furniture is a sublime art form that frequently is described as transcending the time and place of manufacture. It is one of those rare categories of art that appeal across generations and cultures. Part of the appeal is visual; the striking wood grain of huanghuali and the subtle beauty of zitan and other woods, combine with spare, beautiful and functional forms that were engineered over hundreds of years to provide the greatest strength with minimal use of material. The earliest scholarship on the subject of Chinese furniture is fairly recent, beginning in the first quarter of the 20th century. Early collectors in China, both western residents and Chinese, purchased furniture in the markets of Beijing and other cities, and those objects are today the basis for many major museum collections.
While at Sotheby's, Lark Mason was the expert responsible for Chinese furniture. Beginning in 1985, he organized regular sales of Chinese furniture in New York and in Hong Kong and in the process helped create the foundation of what is now an international market and audience of scholars, collectors, and dealers. Thousands of chairs, tables, cabinets, and numerous other forms sold through Sotheby's during his tenure are today in private collections and museums throughout the world. Building on the expertise and ground-breaking work of Gustav Ecke and Robert H. Ellsworth, he and others popularized the subject through international symposia, exhibitions, and written articles. In 1988 Lark Mason was invited by Wang Shi Xiang, the eminent Chinese expert and author of Classical Chinese Furniture, to move to Beijing to assist him in the translation of his life-long work, The Connoisseurship of Chinese Furniture. Sotheby's granted him a sabbatical to assist Wang Shi Xiang and following the completion of this project, he translated Classic Chinese Furniture of the Qing Dynasty, by Tian Jia Qing. In addition to establishing record auction prices for the sale of Chinese furniture, he was instrumental in promoting higher standards for the conservation and restoration of furniture, which had not been common practice. In addition to his work at Sotheby's, he has extensive experience advising museums, private collectors, and dealers about Chinese furniture and woods used in the creation of Chinese works of art.
His role with Chinese furniture continues to the present, acting as an advisor and consultant to private individuals and institutions.
Lark Mason began his auction career at Sotheby's in 1979, and during that time oversaw and participated in numerous landmark sales. He has a complete knowledge of the art auction process and brings this expertise to projects ranging from the sale of a few objects to complicated situations with thousands of objects across dozens of categories and in multiple locations. He is the owner of iGavelauctions.com an auction company with affiliates located throughout the United States and abroad.
Determining the appropriateness of a group of property for auction begins with understanding the goals of the client. Timing and value are critical components of any sale. An auctioneer must define the audience and understand the appeal of the objects that are to be sold prior to setting a date and developing a marketing and promotional strategy.
Once agreement over terms has been reached, the property is removed from the original location, and the cataloging and photography process begins. One of the challenges of processing large numbers of fragile items through auction is handling. Lark Mason has developed a unique approach that minimizes handling time and provides maximum protection for art works while in transit from one work station to another. Padded boxes are used to transport works and the cataloging process is streamlined to minimize the number of steps required. The auction sale is the culmination of hours of hard work by a team of experts and specialists. Following the sale, payment collection begins, and the consignor is sent updates of the results and suggestions for reoffering works that failed to meet the minimum price.
While auctions can provide an excellent means of bringing interested parties together, they require near-perfect orchestration to produce the optimum outcome. Lark Mason's experience as an expert at Sotheby's, as Director of Online Auctions for Sothebys.com, and creative force behind iGavel, Inc., enable him to provide guidance and expert advice for owners of works of art that are considering the auction alternative.