Category Archives: Investment

Chinese Art Critic Li Xianting: Collecting Chinese Contemporary Art Is A Kind Of “Cultural Creation”

“Godfather Of Chinese Contemporary Art” Advocates Collections Develop To Ensure Art Can Be Seen In China

"The Godfather of Chinese contemporary art," Li Xianting (Photo: ArtZine China)

"The Godfather of Chinese contemporary art," Li Xianting (Photo: ArtZine China)

At recent events like the Global Collecting Forum and the Songzhuang Art Festival’s Conference of Collectors of Chinese Contemporary Art, a major topic of discussion among Chinese scholars and art critics has been the need for Chinese collectors of contemporary art (and Chinese museums and galleries) to acquire more top-quality pieces while educating the public on the history, subject matter, figures and current state of Chinese contemporary art.

At the Songzhuang Festival, Chinese art critic Li Xianting — who has been called the “Godfather of Chinese Contemporary Art” — gave a speech in which he said collecting Chinese contemporary art is a form of “cultural creation” which requires the urgent attention of Chinese collectors. Since the breakout of Chinese contemporary art in the late 1970s and its development over the years, the majority of major works of art have been acquired by Western collectors, and although that is changing gradually as Chinese buyers amass their own collections, Li still sees disequilibrium in the global marketplace. By building collections of Chinese contemporary art now, and continuing to patronize Chinese artists in the same way the Medici family did in Renaissance-era Italy, Li feels that Chinese art can reach the Chinese people themselves by building a new form of aesthetic education while stemming the flow of artwork out of the country.

Artxun (Chinese) posted the entirety of Li’s speech today. Translation of excerpts by ChinaLuxCultureBiz team:

Collection is a kind of cultural creation, and in collecting contemporary art one must face value standards, but value standards in a progressing era are of a very uncertain ideological form, and collectors — through their behavior — have to confirm whether they’re actually qualified to become the builders of value standards in the era in which we live. Every major collector who made an important contribution to art history, such as the Renaissance-era Medici family or the Guggenheims, Ludwig II…the famous American and Italian Guggenheim museums, and Germany’s Ludwig Museum — named after these collectors — because of these people and places collecting artwork, some of these works of art have become critical elements of art history.

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Global Collecting Forum Held In Beijing

Forum Provides Opportunity For Western, Chinese Collectors, Curators And Artists Come Together To Discuss Future Of Art Collecting In China

Western and Chinese experts discussed a wide range of important issues in art collecting at the Global Collecting Forum in Beijing (Photo: CRI)

Western and Chinese experts discussed a wide range of important issues in art collecting at the Global Collecting Forum in Beijing (Photo: CRI)

Although the last few years have seen the rapid rise of the New Chinese Collector of contemporary Chinese art, the relatively late arrival of Chinese collectors means that the vast majority of major works of contemporary Chinese art remain in the collections of Western art collectors (such as the former Swiss diplomat-turned-prolific collector Uli Sigg, who owns around 2,000 pieces) or Western art museums and galleries. Although buying trends are changing, as more Chinese collectors and curators start to bolster their collections and diversify the artwork they acquire, one of the unique challenges that art lovers in China must face is the dearth of contemporary Chinese artwork available for view in their local museums and galleries.

With these issues — the underdevelopment of Chinese art museums and the growing interest in private art collection in China — in mind, this weekend the Global Collecting Forum was held at Beijing’s Reignwood Theater. The forum brought together a number of prominent Western and Chinese art collectors, museum curators, gallery owners and artists, whose work was shown at an exhibition which included pieces by prominent Chinese artists like Cai Guoqiang, Xu Bing, Liu Xiaodong and Wang Guangyi. According to Cultural China:

[Chinese writer-filmmaker Sun Shuyun], who was a guest at last year’s ISD forum, has met some of the world’s best-known art collectors and museum directors there. But she was somehow left with the impression that many of these “leaders of art collecting actually knew very little about Chinese art.”

The situation is expected to improve as this year’s forum brings over 30 leading art experts from Europe, the United States and Russia to meet with their Asian counterparts in the Chinese capital. Those set to show up include Baroness Kennedy QC, a trustee of the British Museum; Alexandra Monroe, senior curator at the Guggenheim Museum; and Derek Gillman, director of the US-based Barnes Foundation, a top collector of Post-Impressionist paintings.

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Chinese Acquisition Of Scottish Cashmere Producer Todd & Duncan “Sewn Up”

Ningxia Zhongyin Becomes First Chinese Firm To Take Over A UK Cashmere Company, Eyeing Growth Of Domestic Market In China

Ningxia Zhongyin is one of the world's top producers of cashmere fibers -- with its acquisition of Todd & Duncan, it has greatly increased its global footprint

Ningxia Zhongyin is one of the world's top producers of cashmere fibers -- with its acquisition of Todd & Duncan, it has greatly increased its global footprint

Cashmere, a major contributor to the economy in China’s mid-western Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, has quickly become big business in China, as more companies in Ningxia attempt to move beyond producing raw cashmere and into the much higher profit-margin sector of finished product exports. Of the major cashmere producers in Ningxia, in the last few years the Ningxia Lingwu Zhongyin Cashmere Company has emerged as the most ambitious, with executives making it clear that the company wants to not only capture the lucrative Chinese domestic market but also the even more lucrative overseas market.

To secure both groups of customers, the company has set out to acquire marquee foreign brands, which have the brand history and pedigree to appeal to Chinese luxury consumers. Last year, Zhongyin made its first moves to try to acquire the Scottish firm Dawson International, a deal that ultimately fell through but showed Zhongyin’s intentions to break into the Scottish cashmere market. From China.org:

In 2008, the Ningxia-based Lingwu Zhongyin Cashmere Company entered into negotiations to take over 120-year old Dawson International, widely regarded as the world’s number one cashmere business. Although the takeover talks were called off on June 4, the bid was an indicator of the ambition of Ningxia’s emerging cashmere giants.

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Chinese Buying Drives Sotheby’s Hong Kong Sale To $170 Million

Bidders From Mainland China Dominate As Expectations Are Surpassed In Landmark Autumn Auction

Chinese contemporary artist Liu Ye's "Portrait of L" sold in Hong Kong for $209,000 over its high estimate

Chinese contemporary artist Liu Ye's "Portrait of L" sold in Hong Kong for $209,000 over its high estimate

Over the last week, we’ve followed the Sotheby’s autumn auction in Hong Kong, which included sales of everything from fine wine to antiquities to contemporary Chinese and Asian art, noting that sales were well above estimates and sell-through rates were promising. Today, in a wrap-up of the sales, Le-Min Lim of Bloomberg illustrates how this series of auctions, led by Chinese rather than American buyers, represents a major shift in auction buying trends:

The total beat both the presale estimate of HK$950 million and last year’s auction, which raised HK$1.1 billion ($141.7 million at that time), half its forecast, three weeks after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s September 2008 failure.

“The bidding was intense,” auctioneer Henry Howard-Sneyd said in an interview after the auction. The mood in the saleroom was “electric” when Emperor Qianlong’s throne came on the block yesterday, he said: “This shows when the right item comes along, the money is there — especially from China.”

Chinese collectors have come out in force over the last year, recognizing quality lots and quickly developing a sophisticated eye for collection-worthy wines and paintings. In terms of antiquities, an area in which Chinese collectors have more experience, however, they seemingly can’t be beat:

The strength of Chinese bidding at the antiques sale defies a decade-old trend of Western dominance at the priciest end of the market. As recently as June, Sotheby’s rival, Christie’s International, said Americans were its top clients in this category, followed by the Chinese and Hong Kongers. Of the 2,400 lots offered this week, 88 percent found buyers.

The Chinese also bought the priciest wines and oil paintings by masters and contemporary art. Over the weekend, a Chinese buyer paid a record $94,000 for a 6-liter bottle of Chateau Petrus 1982; another spent HK$7.3 million for a 1984 oil-and-color on paper by Li Keran at the auction of classical Chinese paintings; while a third spent HK$36.5 million on a mid- 1950s oil-on-board painting, “Lotus et Poissons Rouges” (“Lotus and Red Fish”) by deceased Chinese master Sanyu.

While this article claims contemporary art underperformed, I think the sell-through at the contemporary Asian art auction speaks for itself. If lumping together all of the pieces at the contemporary auction — which included Chinese, Japanese and Korean artists in one large sale — I would say the final tally is brought down significantly by the Japanese and Korean artists, who sell, on the whole, for significantly less than quality Chinese contemporary artists.

In terms of the Chinese artists up for grabs in the contemporary sale, selling rates were excellent, with 5 of the 6 Zeng Fanzhi paintings up for auction going for well above than their high estimates, Yue Minjun’s “Hats Series – Two Lovers” selling for $372,000 over its high estimate, and works by top Chinese artists like Liu Ye, Wang Guangyi, and Huang Yongping destroying pre-sale estimates.

New ArtTactic Podcast On Corporate Art Collection

ArtTactic has a great podcast available for download today, a discussion about corporate art collection featuring the Director of the JP Morgan Chase Collection, Lisa Erf.

The podcast can be downloaded here.

China’s Rural Areas Show Potential To Drive Future Economic Growth

“Seeds Of Change” Starting To Appear In Formerly Destitute Areas, Motivating Entrepreneurs To Develop Remote Countryside

China's rural areas remain far behind the wealthy east coast in terms of economic development. If entrepreneurs have their way, this will change over the next few decades

China's rural areas remain far behind the wealthy east coast in terms of economic development. If entrepreneurs have their way, this will change over the next few decades

For years, China’s hinterlands have benefitted little from the huge economic growth that has transformed the country’s prosperous east coast, remaining underdeveloped and relying mainly on agriculture mainly as a result of their remoteness and often harsh terrain. If an article in today’s Financial Times is accurate, though, the next few years may be seen as a turning point for the mainly rural provinces in China’s interior. As much of China’s future growth will (or should) depend on domestic consumption and investment rather than foreign exports, the country’s interior — with its plentiful and comparatively cheap land and labor and delayed development (making it something of a “blank slate” for business) — should, if development is done correctly, make it one of China’s main engines of economic activity for decades to come. While this is obviously easier said than done, a number of motivated Chinese entrepreneurs have set out to do everything possible to make rural China prosperous, and — given the right mix of time and incentive — they might just be successful.

From James Kynge in today’s FT:

Reforms in rural finance, the monetisation of agricultural land and social welfare appear poised to turn China’s countryside from an indigent backwater to a driver of national economic growth over the next five to 10 years…Goldman Sachs has invested successfully in a leading sausage-maker. Wahaha Group, China’s biggest beverage company, owes its buoyant earnings performance largely to the rural market, where it commands a 60 per cent share. Rural China has also been a main force this year behind the surging sales of cars with a capacity of under 1.6-litres.

The fact that China’s second- and third-tier cities are the country’s major hope for sustainable business is well established. But what about the country’s fifth- and sixth-tier cities? With the sweeping changes already brought about by land privatization (perhaps downplayed by Chinese media, but a revolution in itself) and rapid commercialization of rural areas like Hubei, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shandong, Henan and Shanxi (as designated by the FT), still relatively impoverished and underdeveloped areas, the next 10 to 20 years could prove a windfall as companies invest in large-scale infrastructure projects (wind & hydro power plants), rail, housing, farms and heavy industry. The effect on common people’s lives could (hopefully) be dramatic.

Much like America’s continued economic strength was built largely on the development of its interior, China’s best option for growth based less on exports will be to lift its central and western provinces out of the centuries-old poverty that remains a plague in many areas.

Luxury Car Sector Continues To Thrive in China

New Models, Stimulus Package Continue To Drive Growth In World’s Top Automotive Market Despite Global Woes

China is one of Audi's most reliable and profitable markets; As Chinese luxury auto brands emerge, will they retain their dominance?

China is one of Audi's most reliable and profitable markets; As Chinese luxury auto brands emerge, will they retain their dominance?

The sustained growth seen in the Chinese automotive market over the last year has shown that the vast Chinese market — vast both in size and in potential customers — still has plenty of room to grow. For luxury carmakers, who’ve had a tough year in markets like North America and Europe, recent figures that show Chinese buyers are still motivated to part with their cash are welcome, to say the least, as formerly reliable customers in the US and other major economies think twice before signing on the dotted line.

According to this Wall Street Journal Asia article, growth in the Chinese market has been unprecedented in recent months for foreign luxury automakers, and with the stimulus package — aimed at infrastructure projects — taking effect, companies like Audi (a favorite of China’s government elite), BMW (the flashy entrepreneur’s choice) and Mercedes (the mark of a true “sophisticate” in China) expect to see their fortunes continue in the years ahead:

Audi’s sales in China rose 37% in September from a year earlier to more than 15,000 cars, marking a new record level in terms of monthly vehicle sales, the Ingolstadt, Germany-based auto maker said.

In the January-to-September period, Audi’s sales totaled 108,859 vehicles in China, up 20% from a year earlier.

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Hong Kong Now World’s #1 Wine Auction Market, Surpassing London & New York

Sotheby’s Fine Wine Auctions Sell $8 Million Over The Weekend As Chinese Collectors Dominate In Hong Kong

Hong Kong is now the world's top wine auction market, having surpassed London and New York

Hong Kong is now the world's top wine auction market, having surpassed London and New York

This weekend, Sotheby’s began a five-day string of auctions in Hong Kong — continuing until October 8 — with auctions of fine wine from the cellars of two anonymous American collectors. Though one of the world’s newest hubs for wine, due to a combination of ending wine duties, encouraging mainland buyers to take part in wine auctions, and growing demand both in Hong Kong and in mainland China, Hong Kong has within a few short years become the world’s #1 auction market for wine, overtaking traditional leaders London and New York. From James Pomfret in Reuters:

“Asian buyers represented 99 percent of buyers in this two-day sale,” said the head of Sotheby’s international wine department Serena Sutcliffe. “Hong Kong has become Sotheby’s most important wine center, ahead of very successful auctions in New York and London,” she added in a statement.

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The Yuan’s Growing Global Reach: How Will It Affect The Art World?

Increased Interest In Buying “Portable China” By Domestic Bidders At Auctions Around The World Has Wider Implications

Economist Ha Jiming sees a fully internationalized yuan within the next decade

Economist Ha Jiming sees a fully internationalized yuan within the next decade

Today, a piece on the internationalization of the Chinese yuan by Ha Jiming, the chief economist at China International Capital, China’s largest investment bank, was published on Forbes.com. Ha believes that — within the next decade — the yuan will be a fully internationalized currency, and that the implications for this will be important and far-ranging:

Not long ago, China’s currency, the yuan, wasn’t traded beyond the country’s borders. Yet in the next 10 years, it will become fully internationalized and join the ranks of the world’s main reserve currencies, beside the dollar and the yen.

The global march of the yuan is an extension of China’s success since the launch of its economic reforms 30 years ago. The status of a currency is commensurate with the economic power of a country. The U.S. share of global GDP, for instance, increased from 10% at the turn of the 20th century to 20% after World War I, raising the dollar’s importance; the rise in Japan’s share of global GDP from 7% in 1970 to 16% in 1988 also elevated the yen’s role as a reserve currency.

[T]he internationalization of the yuan will benefit China in general by increasing the appeal of Chinese assets and pool of investment funds. This is similar to what happens when a company’s stock becomes a blue chip. International demand for yen assets increased significantly in the 1980s, as did global demand for U.S. assets at the turn of the century.

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Shanghai Developer Plans Luxury Home Furnishing Store “With A Twist”

Ausen Real Estate Development Set To Invest US$22 Million In Luxury Home Furnishing Retail Complex, Due To Open Next Year

Ausen World will bring a Western-style furniture shopping experience to Shanghai

Ausen World will bring a Western-style furniture shopping experience to Shanghai

While announcements of new large-scale real estate projects in China are nothing new, nor are they particularly exciting on the whole, Ausen Real Estate Development Co.’s recently-announced plans to open a massive home furnishing retail complex near Shanghai next year stand out. Set to be located in Xinbang, in Shanghai’s Songjiang District (less than an hour’s drive southwest of downtown), the austerely named Ausen World Brand Home Furnishings Center will include features not often seen at furniture stores, including a hotel and restaurant for shoppers who prefer to make a weekend out of their shopping trips. Although slapping a hotel onto a massive furniture store isn’t exactly unheard of, it most certainly is unusual.

According to company spokespeople, Ausen World‘s main focus will be on American and European furniture, popular but often poorly understood by Shanghai-area residents. The center will also include Premium home furnishing areas designed to emulate “DIY” stores like the Home Depot. From Furniture Today:

Another unusual feature for a Chinese retail center will be the presence of on-site interior designers, who can help consumers with home design and product choices.

In a statement, Ausen said it intends to be a door to the Chinese market for Western brands. It will offer help with operating in the country, including support of import entry, logistics and storage.

Zhang said he believes the center will offer a “family feel” that is missing from most Chinese retail spaces, with a rewarding consumer experience for shoppers and their children. An Australian company will design the “eco-garden” look of the complex, including outdoor leisure areas.

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