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The move brings to fruition one of the key ambitions of chief executive Stephen P. Murphy, who took up that position at the company two and a half years ago.

Christie's were the first international auction house to open a representative office in Shanghai in 1994, later holding sales via a trademark licensing agreement with Forever International Auction Company Limited.

Western auction houses have largely remained in Hong Kong for the purposes of China-based business, shying away from holding sales directly in mainland China without an intermediary until now because of the country's reputation for red tape, currency and tax issues, as well as regulations that might affect auctioneers' terms and conditions in relation to their clients.

Christie's have not yet revealed how they have overcome these issues, but have said that further details of the auction will be announced at a later date.