Current Trend Shows That Chinese Contemporary Art Volume In 2010 Could Approach 2007 Levels
This week, ArtTactic released its newest Chinese contemporary art market confidence survey, which — as expected, considering the success of this spring’s auctions in Hong Kong and mainland China — shows a 27% positive increase in confidence over December 2009, with a majority of respondents believing either that the Chinese contemporary art market has rebounded or will do so within one year.
Over the past 18 months, the emergence of the mainland Chinese auction house as a strong regional force and the growing clout of new Chinese collectors has injected a serious dose of optimism into the market, and led ArtTactic to conclude that the current trend sets out the possibility that Chinese contemporary art volume in 2010 might even come close to pre-crisis historical levels.
Highlights of ArtTactic’s latest report:
- 71% of respondents believe the market has already rebounded (35%) or will do so within one year (36%). This is significantly higher than in December 2009, when only 22% of respondents said they thought the market would rebound within a year or earlier.
- The 27% positive increase in the Chinese contemporary art confidence indicator is driven by substantially better Hong Kong and mainland Chinese auction results in the first half of 2010, as well as pick-up in primary market activity.
- 53% of respondents believe the market will go up over the next 6 months, 39% belive it will level out, and 8% believe the market will fall.
- The Confidence Indicator (which now sits at 73) suggests that a significant amount of optimism has re-entered the Chinese art market, and the primary driver for the Chinese contemporary art market going forward will be economic growth.
- The lower end of the Chinese contemporary art market (works priced below US$50,000) has the highest market confidence, although the top end (works above $1 million) shows more positive than negative sentiment — reflected in the success of blue-chip artists in this year’s spring auctions.
- The speed of the recovery in the Chinese contemporary art market has accelerated in the first half of 2010.
- The strong growth in the domestic auction house volume suggests that market share is shifting away from Hong Kong towards the Mainland. Last year showed the strength of the domestic collector base and the ability of domestic auction houses to attract top quality consignments.
- Top 10 prices reveal the difference between domestic and international taste. Although there are overlaps with blue-chip artists like Liu Ye, Yue Minjun, Zhang Xiaogang and Liu Xiaodaong, mainland Chinese auction houses focus on Chinese contemporary oil paintings by artists like Guo Reunwen, Yang Feiyun and Shi Chong. Conceptual artists like Ai Weiwei, Zhang Huan and Cai Guo-Qiang who are popular at auction in Hong Kong are rarely seen in Mainland auctions.
- The Chinese contemporary art market currently consists of two parallel markets: one catering to domestic demand and the other catering to a predominantly international art market. In terms of growth, the domestic market is having the upper hand.
- Sell-through rates at Sotheby’s and Christie’s Hong Kong have risen significantly, approaching 80% and rising, over an autumn 2008 low of slightly more than 60%.
- The average Chinese contemporary artist confidence indicator stands at 60.1, up 14.4% from December 2009. A total of 84% of the contemporary artists in the survey have shown a positive increase in their short-term confidence levels.
- Zeng Fanzhi has moved from rank 18 to rank 2 on the artist confidence indicator, Cai Guo-Qiang has risen from rank 13 to rank 4, and Yang Fudong is in the top position for the second time in a row. Other artists in the top 10 include Zhang Huan, Xu Bing, and Ai Weiwei.
- In the long-term artist longevity indicator, Ai Weiwei shares the top spot with Cai Guo-Qiang, with no change in the artists rounding out the top 10, which include Yang Fudong, Zhang Huan, Xu Bing, Zeng Fanzhi and Gu Dexin.
Comparisons to 2008 Survey
In ArtTactic’s February 2009 Chinese contemporary art confidence survey, which indicated the dramatic effect the global economic crisis had on the international art market, pessimists outweighed optimists some six to one, the market indicated a lack of confidence about top artists (although optimism remained somewhat high among Chinese contemporary mixed-media artists). Following 18 months in which Chinese collectors have become increasingly motivated and interest in art collecting among Chinese corporations and museums has grown, however, the change in confidence levels is rather striking.
- Confidence Indicator: 15.9 (Feb. 2009) vs. 73 (Sep. 2010).
- The level of speculation in the Chinese contemporary art market, as of September 2010, is down 8.3% from February 2009.
- 72.7% of respondents had a negative view of the current- and short-term prospects for Chinese contemporary art (Feb. 2009) vs. 71% having a positive view in September 2010.
- Zeng Fanzhi’s confidence indicator has risen dramatically, from 56 in February 2009 to 86.7 in September 2010.
Jing Daily Conclusions
Looking at the upward trajectory in prices for top contemporary artists and taking the fact that prices are headed towards — but are not yet at — historical levels indicates that it’s still a good time to buy blue-chip Chinese contemporary artists, particularly those whose buyers overlap between domestic Chinese and international collectors. As works by these artists, especially Liu Ye, Zeng Fanzhi, Cai Guo-Qiang, Ai Weiwei and Yue Minjun, are increasingly snapped up by mainland Chinese collectors and sold by mainland Chinese auction houses, they’re likely to only get more expensive and harder to find in coming years.