Beijing-based auction house China Guardian is reported to be launching a sales programme in Hong Kong this autumn.
Having just announced a sales turnover of
RMB2.5bn (around £250m) for the first half of 2012, a statement on
the company's website announced that the Hong Kong subsidiary,
launched in May, will hold its debut sale in October, which
coincides with Sotheby's headline sale series andFine Art Asia, the
leading art and antiques fair.
It is widely acknowledged that taxes,
red tape and restrictive rules have severely limited the appeal of
mainland China as a place to do business for international auction
houses, while the recent loosening of regulations and tariffs in
Hong Kong have only added to its attractions as a sales venue where
other advantages includes the Freeport status of Harbor City, as
well as its user-friendly transport system and infrastructure.
Encouraging firms to give mainland China
more of a chance is unlikely to get any easier in the wake of the
arrest at the end of March of two senior members of staff of the
art handlers Integrated Fine Art Solutions.
Accused of undervaluing imported works in a
bid to avoid tax, German Nils Jennrich and Chinese Lydia Chu,
respectively the general manager and operations manager, have been
held in custody ever since amid firm denials of any wrongdoing on
their part or that of their employers. Integrated Fine Art
Solutions have also said that they do not carry out valuations.
What has raised eyebrows on an equally wide
scale has been the reported seizing of a client list from another
fine art shipping firm as well as the demand for client details
from Christie's and - it is thought, though not yet confirmed -
Sotheby's to be handed over to the Chinese authorities as part of
the ongoing investigation.
Questions are being asked as to whether the whole state-backed
operation is merely a smokescreen to acquire valuable client
information and to clear the way for a domestic competitor to
parachute in and take over as much import business as possible.