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A recent report publicised at the conference says only around half of the lots ‘sold’ at auction in China and Hong Kong in 2016 were actually paid for.

The British Antiques Dealers’ Association was invited to the conference to describe how regulation works in the UK.

BADA chief executive Marco Forgione, who spoke at the event last week, said: “The Chinese auction houses are aware of the challenges they face and have said they are very keen to tackle problems such as non-payment. They are looking to organisations such as BADA to see how the system of self-regulation and oversight can work in China.”

BADA president Michael Cohen added: “An increasing number of auctioneers now insist that those wishing to bid on certain high-value items must first place a substantial cash deposit before being allowed to register.”

Many Chinese auction houses ask bidders to leave deposits when they register and issue different colour or shaped bidding paddles to alert the auctioneer to the level of the deposit submitted.

The Global Chinese Art Auction Market Report published by Artnet and the China Association of Auctioneers (CAA) found non-payment in mainland China and Hong Kong was “a chronic problem”, with payment rates dropping to 51% in 2016.

Given that selling rates at these sales had also dipped to 51%, it means only one in four lots offered for sale had been sold and paid for. However, the report concluded that the art-buying community in China “continues to grow in size, diversity and taste”.


Woolley & Wallis of Salisbury reported that non-payment issues had been reduced to a small handful of isolated incidents.

Following a string of problems with online buyers defaulting, Salisbury auction house Woolley & Wallis chose not to offer its Asian art sales in November 2016 and May 2017 to online bidders.

Across the two series, director and head of department John Axford said non-payment (rather than slow payment) issues had been reduced to a small handful of isolated incidents.

Axford said he plans to return to the online bidding sphere for the firm’s November sale but all potential buyers will be asked to pay a deposit when registering.

The levy will be raised regardless of the nationality of the buyer or the nature of the lot they hope to buy.