Beijing
Non-payment at auctions in China is a “chronic problem”. Image of Beijing by ahenobarbus (via Flickr via Wikimedia Commons).

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The Global Chinese Art Auction Market Report, from artnet and the China Association of Auctioneers (CAA), revealed non-payment was “a chronic problem in mainland China”. In 2016 a larger percentage of the total sales came from high-end sales, where “payment in instalments and delayed payments are more common”, which led the overall payment rate to drop to 51% in 2016 – only just over half of the lots sold at auction were actually paid for. For high-value lots (¥10m and above), less than half were paid for (47%) in 2016.

Mirroring the wider global auction sector, the Chinese market had suffered from a reduced supply of art and antiques for sale.

Global auction sales of Chinese art and antiques slipped 5% in 2016, totalling $6.7bn, the second year in a row of decline.

However, despite the issues faced by the sector, the report revealed growth in the high-end part of the market with lots above ¥10m reaching a 29% market share in 2016—more than double the total two years ago.

Sell-through rates increased in mainland China over the past two years, returning to 51% in 2016, compared to 47% in 2015. This is still significantly lower than the sell-through rate of 2010 (58%) at the last peak.

The report said “tightening supply, coupled with the growth in sell through rates, indicate a different trajectory of market recovery than the previous market rebound in 2013, which was boosted mainly by an increase in inventory… The art-buying community continues to grow in size, diversity, and taste.”

Data came from 338 auction houses in China.