China advances [03/18/2010 08:52]
The world’s third largest art auction marketplace, China has posted exceptionally dynamic results even during its economic deceleration. And yet at the start of 2009, the meltdown of Contemporary art prices and the success of the Pierre Bergé/Yves Saint Laurent sale in Paris ($265m from Fine Art) suggested that China would be relegated to 4th position behind France.
Not so; in fact the Chinese market continued to flourish in 2009, and while the rest of the world's principal art markets contracted, China’s posted substantial growth. Its annual revenue from Fine Art ($830m) in 2009 represented 17.33% of the global market versus 7.83% in 2008. The three leading auction houses – Poly International, China Guardian and Beijing Council – produced half of that total (almost $400m) and the Hong Kong branches of Christie’s and Sotheby’s generated $200m.
To attenuate the losses stemming from the contraction of top-end Contemporary art prices (which had experienced explosive inflation between 2004 and 2008), the auction houses restricted their offer and moved rapidly into other price brackets and segments. In fact, they managed to sell just as many Contemporary art works as they did during the boom years by offering less speculative names and refocusing their top-end offer onto Modern art and above all Old Masters, generating new world records right in the middle of the global market’s malaise.
This winning strategy allowed 15 Chinese hammer price – including one contemporary – to join the TOP 100 of the world’s best-ever auction results.