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.