Unlikely Collectors In Far-Flung Rural Areas Gaining Notoriety For Massive Antiques Spending Sprees
We have written several times before about the growing role of Chinese art collectors in a number of art classes, from Chinese antiquities to contemporary Chinese art, and as the global downturn affects the buying and collecting habits of more established collectors, antiques dealers from Hong Kong, the UK and the US have flocked to new “fairs” in mainland China, where “coal tycoons” — often unassuming (but sometimes ostentatious) individuals who have built vast fortunes on the rural provinces’ coal deposits — are quickly becoming a major collector base. As Le-Min Lim writes for Bloomberg, this new collector base has rapidly becoming one of the most motivated (and willing to spend top dollar) of all global antiques buyers.
While Westerners still dominate the most-expensive segment of this market at auction, they are increasingly being challenged by buyers from mainland China, according to John Berwald, of New York-based dealership Berwald Oriental Art.
Christie’s says Americans are its biggest clients in this category of art, followed by mainland Chinese and Hong Kongers. While Shanxi buyers are new to the international art-trading scene compared with their Beijing and Shanghai peers, they are gaining a name as some of China’s fiercest bidders.
“They are a force to reckon with, no doubt about it,” said Kevin Ching, chief executive of Sotheby’s Asia, who attended the Taiyuan fair. On paper, Shanxi buyers formally accounted for just $4 million of Sotheby’s Chinese antiques at its Hong Kong auctions, though the actual figure is much larger because many bid through agents in the city, he said, declining to give specifics.
There are about 51,000 people in China who have 100 million yuan or more, according to Hurun’s latest China rich list, released in April. Of these, 1,050 are in Shanxi. The actual number of rich individuals in the province is probably more than twice the number on the list, said Rupert Hoogewerf, publisher of Hurun Report, which compiles China’s rich list.