Tag Archives: art collectors

Chinese Auction Buyers Find “Treasures For The Taking”

High Proportion Of New Chinese Collectors Boosting Sales As Economic Mood Remains Relatively Tepid In More Mature Markets

Up for auction in Hong Kong on October 6: Ai Weiwei's “A Gift from Beijing (set of three works)”

Up for auction in Hong Kong on October 6: Ai Weiwei's “A Gift from Beijing (set of three works)”

Next week, Sotheby’s will hold one of the most anticipated auctions of the season, its autumn auction of contemporary Chinese and other Asian art, in Hong Kong. For this closely-watched sale, the location is no coincidence. According to recent stories in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, The Economist and dozens of art blogs, mainland Chinese buyers have rapidly become one of the fastest-growing buyer and collector groups in the world. Considering art collection was virtually nonexistent for much of the last 60 years in China (and probably significantly longer than that), many newly wealthy Chinese are taking advantage of the readjustment in prices of pretty much anything up for grabs at auction to bring home everything from Chinese antiquities to contemporary art by living artists.

Whether they are doing this more for personal reasons (decorating their house while holding on to something of great financial value which is expected to grow along with the Chinese yuan) or for patriotic reasons remains to be known. My assumption is that there is a little bit of both involved.

In the run-up to the October 6 auction in Hong Kong, a spate of auctions of Chinese art have taken place over the past few weeks, with Chinese bidders going far beyond the estimates and shocking many observers. The new Chinese collector has, in many ways, signaled his arrival by the manner in which he’s seemed completely impervious to either the global economic slowdown or auction trends, and is quickly building a reputation as willing to spend, brash, motivated and savvy.

This week, on Economist.com, the Chinese collector’s knack for repatriating Chinese art is examined, with the writer concluding that auctions — as a buyer’s game — are all about who brings the money and who’s willing to spend it. At recent auctions (and, I would have to assume, future auctions) many of these individuals are mainland Chinese:

Anyone who believes the art market has been felled by the financial crisis should have been in New York earlier this month for the seasonal auctions of Chinese bronzes, furniture and ceramics. The salerooms at Sotheby’s and Christie’s were overflowing with bidders, more than three-quarters of them from Hong Kong, mainland China and Taiwan. Extra Mandarin-speakers, all of them fluent and young, had been taken on specially to handle additional telephone bidding from Asia.

Auction Houses Taking New Approaches In Asian Markets

Auction Houses Combining Popular Lots To Attract Even More New Chinese Collectors

Up for auction next month at Borobudur's Singapore auction of contemporary Asian art and fine wine: Xu Bing's "Free Bird"

Up for auction next month at Borobudur's Singapore auction of contemporary Asian art and fine wine: Xu Bing's "Free Bird"

With emerging bidders like the New Chinese Collectors, seen in action at recent auctions of Chinese antiquities (and by other auction attendees throughout the summer), taking the spotlight and garnering the attention of major auction houses like Sotheby’s, smaller auction houses have taken the buying trends of these new bidders to heart and retooled their Asia strategies to appeal to these buyers and drive growth in the region.

In recent auctions, Indonesian auction house Borobudur has combined two of the Chinese buyers’ favorites — contemporary art and fine wines — into combination lots at their Singapore auctions. By undertaking this kind of Asia-centric initiative like combination auctions, Borobudur is likely to attract more mainland Chinese buyers, hoping to double up on good art and wine and bring back a decent-sized haul from Southeast Asia.

Rise Of New Chinese Collector Continues As Chinese Antiquities Remain “Recession Proof”

Astronomical Prices Paid For Historical And Quality Pieces In Recent Asian Auctions Defies Global Economic Woes As More Chinese Collectors Get In The Game

In October, Sotheby's will put on a large-scale sale of Asian art in Hong Kong. Will The New Chinese Collector continue to flex his (or her) muscles at that sale?

Since good works by historical artists like Yue Minjun are becoming more scarce, Chinese collectors are expected to continue to flex their muscles in upcoming auctions of Chinese contemporary art

Hardly any industry has escaped the global economic slowdown unscathed, and art is no exception, but recent auction results indicate that the art market — or at least pockets of the art market — are coming back to life. As the Wall Street Journal reports today, in some recent auctions some pieces have sold for exponentially more than their estimates, surprising collectors and market analysts alike. The common bond shared by most of these pieces? They were Chinese — or, if not Chinese, Asian:

Last week, the longest string of Asian art sales since the Zodiac clock dispute was held in the U.S.—and amid the most entrenched art-market recession in nearly two decades, the auction prices of many more than a handful of pieces went through the roof. At the Sotheby’s sale of works from the collection of Arthur M. Sackler, for example, the auctioneer sang out fast-rising numbers, first in English, then Chinese, as if he were rising in the elevator of some fantastically tall Hong Kong skyscraper.

The emergence of the New Chinese Collector is a subject we’ve followed pretty much since our inception, and is a subject that is endlessly fascinating simply because it’s such a new phenomenon. While, technically, Chinese people have collected art for a few thousand years — with the exception of a few Mao-era decades where the practice was virtually nonexistent but for a few elite art lovers here and there — the New Chinese Collector has only existed for around 20 years, and arguably even less than that. This collector base was out in full force in recent auctions of Chinese and other Asian art — in New York, London and Hong Kong — and the motivation, desire and intensity of the Chinese collector is becoming somewhat legendary right before our eyes.

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Chinese Art Collectors Buying In NYC, Expect Trend To Continue In HK Auctions

New York Auction Of Ancient Chinese Antiquities Draws Fevered Bidding, High Proportion of Mainland Chinese Collectors

The rising influence and enthusiasm of mainland Chinese art collectors is a subject we revisit very often, because the long-term implications of a strong domestic collector class could be huge for owners (or potential buyers) of Chinese art of all classes — from antiquities to contemporary Chinese art. At this week’s auction of Chinese antiquities from the Sackler collection, which brought in $3,285,875 — triple the low estimate — and was 97% sold by lot (99% sold by value), all of the elements that we feel will completely reshape the Chinese art world over time — mainland collectors and intense competition for scarce pieces from historical artists or rare antiquities — came to the forefront. This chart from Art Market Monitor speaks for itself:

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While the huge gap between the estimates and realized prices is noteworthy, as it indicates strong bidding, what I feel is most important about this chart (and, to be more specific, the results as a whole) is the overwhelming proportion of Asian buyers. While, as usual, this chart does not specify the buyers’ countries of origin, from other reports (and previous trends) we can be fairly confident that these buyers are primarily mainland Chinese. With 80% (or, at least, most of that 80%) being Chinese, and the highest bidder at the auction being a private buyer, these auctions give us a good sense of the possible future of Chinese arts auctions.

Up for auction in Hong Kong on October 6: Ai Weiwei's “A Gift from Beijing (set of three works)”

Up for auction in Hong Kong on October 6: Ai Weiwei's “A Gift from Beijing (set of three works)” -- Estimate: US$ 30,800-44,800 (HK$ 240,000-350,000)

With upcoming auctions like Sotheby’s Autumn auction in Hong Kong on October 6 expected to draw a similar high proportion of Chinese buyers, it appears the era of the Chinese art collector is ramping up. While they are still a relatively small group (based on population and compared to the number of western collectors), over the past few years Chinese buyers have indicated that they are often willing to spend whatever it takes to get a piece of art that means something to them — whether on a personal or patriotic level. A good example of this was yesterday’s sale of an imperial desk set, which belonged to the Qing Dynasty emperor Qianlong — who remains a popular figure in Chinese history. As Art Market Monitor reported today, this desk set brought in $1.4 million — over an estimate of only $30,000. I would have loved to be in that room when bidding was going on.

(Via Art Market Monitor)

(Via Art Market Monitor)

Another piece of good news in the Asian art world comes from Sotheby’s this week, as their vice chairman of Asian Art, Henry Howard-Sneyd, said ahead of today’s sales of Chinese and other Asian art, “We’re aiming as high as we can.” As Reuters notes, Sotheby’s is confident that the art market in Asia is in a good place right now, as evidenced by recent sales and trends that suggest a resistance to the global economic woes that are keeping many western art buyers indoors at the moment:

A rare mother-of pearl inlaid black lacquer wine table, dating to the Wanli Period (1573-1620) that once belonged to Mrs. Nelson Rockefeller, is expected to be among the top selling items in one of two Chinese works of art auctions on Wednesday. It could fetch up to $600,000.

Also included in the sale is a pale celadon jade carved brushpot, Bitong, dating to the 18th century that could sell for as much $400,000, and a large bronze figure of an 11-headed and multi-armed Avalokitesvara, one of the most important Buddhist deities, with an estimated price tag of $200,000.

“We see the price and interest in Asia art going higher and higher,” Howard-Sneyd added.

Forty lots of Chinese furniture from the collections of Dr Arthur M. Sackler, a psychiatrist, businessman and philanthropist, will also go under the hammer on Wednesday.

Sales Surprisingly Brisk At The HK 09 Art Festival

Organizers Looking To Make Annual HK Festival Asia’s Answer To Art Basel, Frieze As Local Collector Base Grows

The Hong Kong International Art Fair is rapidly becoming a major annual destination for art lovers, collectors, galleries, and museums

The Hong Kong International Art Fair is rapidly becoming a major annual destination for art lovers, collectors, galleries, and museums

Hong Kong’s large-scale HK 09 International Art Fair, which we profiled last week, is off to a successful start. As James Pomfret writes, the “burgeoning international art fair…aimed at tapping Asia’s growing pool of contemporary art collectors has shown positive signs of shrugging off the global economic downturn.”

New collectors from the mainland, as well as Western and other East Asian collectors, are taking to the festival’s auctions, held by Western and Asian auction houses, to snatch up works during one of the best buyers’ markets in recent history. As Pomfret goes on to indicate, the organizers of HK 09 are looking to establish the festival as Asia’s answer to the Western art fairs like Art Basel in Switzerland and Frieze in London:

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The Rising RMB And You: What Does It Mean For Art Collectors?

As China’s Currency Becomes Increasingly Global, Will Collectors Of Chinese Art Benefit?

As the RMB appreciates and becomes more convertible, Chinese assets like art look to be a smart hedge. Painting: Chinese contemporary artist Qi Zhilong's "A Chinese Girl In Male Military Uniform No. 2" (2006)

As the RMB appreciates and becomes more convertible, investing in Chinese assets like art looks like an even better option. Painting: Chinese contemporary artist Qi Zhilong's "A Chinese Girl In Male Military Uniform No. 2" (2006)

In recent months, a number of high-profile Chinese and world economists have increased their calls for the creation of a truly “global currency,” which would diminish the US dollar’s role as the de facto international currency sooner rather than later. Although this concept is still far off, as these economists concede, definitely within the next 10-20 years the dollar’s primacy will be challenged, if not completely nonexistent.

Although this is not some kind of dollar apocalypse, but rather a readjustment of the global economy based more on a realistic global picture. In the post-Cold War, post-BRIC-growth world, we are seeing the world economy pluralize rapidly. So a global currency will require an accurate portrayal of this multipolarity — thus, it is unlikely that the next global currency will be “from” one country. Rather, it is likely to be a multi-currency basket, or “supracurrency” — as the governor of the People’s Bank of China, Zhou Xiaochuan, himself called for in March.

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