Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Chinese challengers to Sothebys and Christies

In the past five years, there has been a massive expansion in the market for Chinese art as China's millionaires and billionaires begin to invest in art and rediscover the heritage of their homeland. As a result in the space of little more than a decade, from very modest beginnings, Chinese auction houses have come to rank among the biggest in the world. In this period rivals have emerged in China that present a major challenge to long-established art auctioneers such as Christie's and Sotheby's (which until now together had almost dominated the sale of fine art, jewellery and antiques across the globe), such is the extent of the manner in which the tastes of China's newly affluent art collectors are transforming the global art world.
According to French auction body Conseil des Ventes, half of the world's top 20, and five of the top 10 houses are now Chinese. Six years ago, Beijing Poly, China's biggest auction house and now the world's third largest, did not exist. China Guardian, the world's fourth largest, has only been operating since 1993. China Guardian took $606m (£386m; 450m euros) at its autumn auctions in Beijing in November, more than the $412m Sotheby's took at its Hong Kong auctions in October. Christie's took $367m at its November Hong Kong auctions. Beijing Poly's parent company, part of a sprawling conglomerate said to have links to China's military, is also rumoured to be preparing for a stockmarket flotation. If successful, it would make it the world's second-largest publicly traded art industry company after Sotheby's.
Katie Hunt, 'The Chinese challengers to Sothebys and Christies', BBC News - Jan 31, 2012

So, I wonder what the Chinese market is for dug up "minor antiquities" looted from southeastern European Roman sites, or Late Roman Bronze coins? Will the Chinese market overtake the voracity of the US and western European market for such 'play the archaeologists/connoisseur' geegaws? Will the latter become a backwater in a few decades time? Will Chinese buyers ask the right questions of their suppliers and cut out the dodgy dealings?

Vignette: Reawakening the tradition of the Sung elite? Shen Kuo.

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