L&T debate panel
Lyon & Turnbull, in partnership with ATG, hosted a debate during the Asian Art in London festival about the next generation and future forecasting. From left, panel chair Nixi Cura, a programme director of Arts in China for Christie’s Education, Paul Ruitenbeek, a consultant at Feng-Chun Ma, Asian art consultant Li-Chun Hu and dealer Mark Slaats at Littleton & Hennessy. Photograph Courtesy of Justin Webb Photography.

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Asian art consultant Li-Chun Hu, dealer Mark Slaats at Littleton & Hennessy and Paul Ruitenbeek, a consultant at Feng-Chun Ma, argued the power and speed of digital technology is vital to the trade of Asian art as those buying and selling are much younger in China than in the west.

Slaats said: “In the west many dealers are over 50. In China the average age is 25. Many are second generation and they are working in their parents businesses.

“They are using social media to their advantage. We used to see them come to us and take photos of half our exhibition and at the beginning we thought it was annoying. But it works. That is how they operate.”

Hu said WeChat, the free messaging app from China, is a major platform for buyers, collectors and dealers in China.

She referenced the unofficial 'grey market' of groups running auctions on WeChat as an example of how technology is disrupting the market.

The discussion, at a debate hosted today by Lyon & Turnbull in partnership with ATG as part of the Asian Art in London festival, focused on the next generation of dealers and collectors.

The panel highlighted the difference in age between the west and China in particular.

Hu added: “Younger people know how to communicate quickly around the world with the use of technology.”

Feel Before You Buy

But despite the prevalence of digital communications in the buying and selling of works of art, the panel of experts did not believe works should be bought online without being viewed first.

Slaats said: “You need to see and feel something. You shouldn’t buy if you have not seen it.”

Hu added: “My clients will buy from photos but it will affect the price they are willing to pay. If they have seen it they have more confidence to buy and will pay more at auction.”

The panel was chaired by Nixi Cura, a programme director of Arts in China for Christie’s Education, who questioned whether the prevalence of technology can help build data to predict and forecast trends.

Slaats said that the amount of available data is overwhelming and analysing the whole market is very difficult.

Ruitenbeek said: “Inspiring collectors is how a trend can be started.”

The debate, at Asia House in London, was held among the works being offered for sale tomorrow at Lyon & Turnbull’s Fine Asian Works of Art.