The importance of China as a source of new clients in the international art market has been highlighted in a business intelligence report made available to ATG by Sotheby’s.
The information compiled by the auctioneers
in advance of their first major sales activities in Beijing last
month, indicates the level of increasing interest from Chinese
buyers in non-Asian art categories.
However, despite this rising trend, it has
been announced that proposals for a possible
TEFAF Beijing have been put on hold for now.
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
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."
Among the list of Western paintings knocked
down at Sotheby's London to buyers from Greater China (which
includes ethnic Chinese based in Taiwan and Singapore) since 2007
was a Claude Monet waterlilies study at $36.7m (then £18.5m), while
in New York a Canaletto view of Venice sold at $5.7m (£3.8m) to a
Chinese buyer. Chinese underbidding also boosted Sir Lawrence
Alma-Tadema's The Finding of Moses to a spectacular
$35.9m (£23.4m) record at Sotheby's New York.
Furthermore, in November this year at
Christie's New York, a Picasso portrait of his two youngest
children sold to Wang Jianlin, China's wealthiest man, for $28.2m
With China predicted to become the
fastest-growing source of new clients in the next few years, a
number of buyers have already bid for the most expensive pieces
works right from the start.
"Some of these clients have already been
active at the top of the Chinese art market in Hong Kong, for
example," said Ms Wong. "They are familiar with the auction process
and have the money and confidence to enter other categories at the
top level. Their bidding is more noticeable at evening sales than
"We've been staging auctions in Hong Kong
for 40 years and initially a small percentage of clients were
interested in including Western art in their collections. But that
figure is rising all the time, especially as Chinese people travel
more and their children study abroad. Buyers use online databases
to study the art market so there is particular confidence in
The report reveals huge growth in activity
from Asian clients generally over the last five years. During this
period, 5500 clients made bids in a total of 58 'non-Asian' selling
categories, spending no less than $2bn.
With the bulk of that sum spent on
Contemporary, Impressionist and Modern art, as well as jewellery,
this was an increase in spend of more than 200% on the previous
five years (2003-07).
Sotheby's and Christie's are clearly both
making "client outreach" in China one of their major priorities,
but one interesting difference is that Sotheby's continue to
operate through the state-owned Beijing Gehua Cultural Development
Group (Sotheby's hold an 80% stake in the joint venture registered
as Sotheby's Beijing (Auction) Company Ltd with Gehua holding 20%),
while Christie's have become the first foreign auction house to
operate in China without a local partner, staging a sale in
Shanghai in September.
Ms Wong confirmed that Sotheby's would
continue working with Gehua.
Art at Sotheby's where Chinese
clients were the buyer or bidders*
• Edvard Munch, The Scream -
estimate: $80m-100m. Underbid: $73m
• Claude Monet, Nymphéas - est:
$19.8m-29.8m. Sold for: $36.7m
• Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, The Finding
of Moses - est: $3m-5m. Underbid: $35.9m
• Pablo Picasso, Femme Assise Dans Un
Fauteuil - est: $20m-30m. Underbid: $29.2m
• Auguste Rodin, Penseur. Taille
de la Porte, bronze - est: $4m-6m. Underbid: $10.25m
• Canaletto, Venice, A View of the
Redentore - est: $5m-7m. Sold for: $5.7m
• Caspar David Friedrich's View towards
Arkona - sold for £242,500.
• Ed Ruscha, Untitled (Cass), 1972
Silkscreen - est: $100,000-150,000. Sold for: $122,500
*This includes ethnic Chinese clients from
Taiwan and Singapore.
All prices quoted in this table and the main article include
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