Daily Archives: June 28, 2009

Chinese Antiques Collectors Rapidly Becoming Global Force

Unlikely Collectors In Far-Flung Rural Areas Gaining Notoriety For Massive Antiques Spending Sprees

More than 1,000 collectors took part in the Taiyuan antiques fair, held in north China's Shanxi Province. Image © CCTV

More than 1,000 collectors took part in the Taiyuan antiques fair, held in north China's Shanxi Province. Image © CCTV

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.

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Dunhill Fuses Brand And Lifestyle In Shanghai

Bar, Part Of Dunhill Flagship Store At Plaza 66, Extends Dunhill’s British Style  And Traditional Atmosphere

The Aquarium by Kee in Plaza 66, Photo © Shanghai Daily

The Aquarium by Kee in Plaza 66, Photo © Shanghai Daily

Plaza 66, a sprawling office and mall complex in Shanghai’s Jing’an District, recently unveiled the new Aquarium by Kee bar, part of the Alfred Dunhill flagship store. Designed to be an after-work sanctuary for the area’s businesspeople, the 40-seat bar extends Dunhill’s sophisticated style to every aspect of its decor as well as its drinks list.Unique marketing efforts like this are nothing new to Dunhill’s China operations, which last year built the world’s fourth Alfred Dunhill “Home” in Shanghai, following London, Paris, and Tokyo. These “Homes” are designed to represent the sort of lifestyle promoted by Dunhill (as well as their products), and function as private clubs that, as Dunhill CCO Sven Gaede said, “are not just retail environments, but will also incorporate ancillary services such as a club, restaurant, spa, and barber shop, as well as bespoke tailor services and Bentley chauffeur services.”

In Shanghai, Dunhill is extending their exclusive marketing tack to appeal to many (primarily male) luxury buyers’ desire for “sanctuaries.” With few places remaining in this bustling city to have a calm drink or relax among other businesspeople, Dunhill is basically importing the old British model of the men’s club to Shanghai, where China has always had its own versions of this. Mixing them together — and throwing retail into the mix — Dunhill is scoring what I would consider a marketing coup. Brand-Lifestyle tie-ins have become incredibly successful in Asia in recent years (Just look at the “Passion for Creation” exhibition in Hong Kong), and Dunhill’s male-centric strategy will probably pay dividends. Their brand is already well-established in China among middle-aged luxury consumers, so they have to go beyond simple brand-building to brand sustainability and flexibility — what works in Shanghai may not work in Beijing or Chongqing.

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