Monday, 16 December 2013

China, Increasing Importance as New Clients in the International Art Market

In China three major auction houses compete for a slice of the growing art market in China (its $14 billion in sales last year make it the second-largest in the world after the United States). The three biggest in the world are Christie’s and Sotheby’s and third comes the Chinese Poly Auction, whose 2012 reported sales totalled "nearly $1 billion, and its auction rooms now buzz with the energy of thousands of new consumers eager to buy a piece of their cultural history or invest in the recent art boom". Sotheby’s has made available a business intelligence report to the Art Trade Gazette highlighting the importance of China as a source of new clients in the international art market ( Alex Capon, 'Sotheby’s figures show rising taste for Western art in China' Art Trade Gazette, 16 December 2013):
Key findings from Sotheby's show that in the last three years the number of bidders from mainland China active in sectors other than Chinese art has increased by 54%. Over this period, 660 bidders from mainland China competed for more than 7800 lots in these 'non-Chinese' sectors, spending a total of $378m (£241m). Chairman of Sotheby's Asia Patti Wong told ATG: "Over the last ten years we have seen a constant growth of Asian buyers buying abroad, but in the last five years, and especially the last three, we've seen a real increase coming out of mainland China in particular." 
China is predicted to become the fastest-growing source of new clients for the auction house in the next few years. Sotheby's and Christie's are clearly both making "client outreach" in China one of their major priorities. While Sotheby's continue to operate through the state-owned Beijing Gehua Cultural Development Group, Christie's have become the first foreign auction house to operate in China without a local partner.

It is quite interesting to see the contrast between the international art market's interest in this expanding new market and the insular retentiveness of the lobbyists for part of the US market (for example Peter Tompa,"Poly Rules" December 16, 2013) who only see here dangerous competition of Chinese buyers "at the expense of American collectors, museums and auction houses".

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