New York’s Asia Week wraps up today, concluding a flurry of exhibitions, talks, and auctions centered around Asian art. To address the rising global presence of Chinese collectors in the auction world, one of the main events focused on China in particular was the March 12 summit “The Chinese Art Market—Present and Future” hosted by art market information site artnet and the China Association of Auctioneers (CAA).
Featuring high-profile speakers and moderators such as Asia Society Museum Director Melissa Chiu, President and Director of China Guardian Auctions Wang Yannan, and Managing Editor of Yishu: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art Zheng Shengtian, the event brought together industry professionals from both the United States and China to discuss emerging trends in the Chinese art market, collector needs, and the main issues faced by auction houses doing business in mainland China.
In order to learn more about what the future holds for China’s massive auction market, we talked to event speaker and artnet News Editor in Chief Benjamin Genocchio about topics such as the importance of hosting the event in New York, the dynamics between small and large Chinese auction houses, and how new international players will affect the mainland market.
What inspired artnet to host a China-focused event, and what were the benefits of holding the event in the United States and not China?
China is now by some measures the world’s second-largest art market, and it still offers unmatched potential for future growth. We knew it is a topic of great interest to all our clients and gallery members.
New York has arguably the greatest concentration of influential art world stakeholders. We thought it would therefore be beneficial to invite the most senior representatives of the Chinese auctions to gather and share their perspective with another group of very influential industry leaders.
There is a lot of interest about the Chinese art market but not enough understanding yet from the West, and this kind of large-scale symposium has never been hosted before this year. As the market leader we feel it’s the right timing to host this educational event in New York. And the Chinese market is fast developing.
We first started a data collaboration with CAA last year. Late in 2013, we co-published the inaugural collaborative report, “The Global Chinese Antiques and Art Auction Market Annual Statistical Report: 2012“, the first report of its kind to publish auction results from mainland China that have been vetted by a third-party organization with insider knowledge of the state of the art market in China. For the first time, comprehensive data on the overseas Chinese market is now readily available to industry leaders on the mainland. Through this partnership, the Chinese market can be viewed with a renewed emphasis on quality and accuracy, with the hope of bringing a new standard of transparency to the Chinese art market.
What are some of the most important issues in China’s auction industry today as highlighted by the talk?
Settlement and payment issues, data transparency, and the balance of power between the secondary market and the primary market.
When we read about Chinese auction houses in English-language press, it’s usually about the largest two, Beijing Poly and Guardian. How important are the smaller houses to the Chinese auction market?
There are about 200-300 auction houses, of which the Guardian and Poly are the obvious leaders and taking up majority of the market share, therefore having more influence on the market.
A few other auction houses, such as Council and Hanhai, are also growing fast and increasing in their scale. However, the market is jointly built by everyone, and each market participant can have influence on the overall market.
Beijing Poly is now the third-largest auction house in the world behind Christie’s and Sotheby’s. How much do you think it will impact the global auction market in the coming years?
It’s hard to predict as they have only been active in China, and therefore only have influence there. However, Poly Culture has recently been listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange. We are excited to see more of their future plans to expand into the global auction market.
Christie’s and Sotheby’s both expanded into mainland China last year. How much competition will these companies pose to the Chinese auction houses?
Chinese national law prevents Christie’s and Sotheby’s from auctioning antiquities.
They bring their international brand and expertise into mainland market, but they are also bounded by their own rules (unlike local houses), and their expertise and networks may not always be as deep as those of the local houses.
Has artnet expanded its coverage of China as the market has grown?
Yes, we are actively expanding into the Chinese market, and forming exciting partnerships with important local media and influencers such as Caijing, Sina, Bazaar Art, etc.
We are also working on a Chinese version of the site by end of this year.
Does artnet plan to host more China events in the future, and will you be holding any in China?
Absolutely. We are actively building our brand in China. For instance, we certainly hope to host a similar event with CAA in China.
Visit artnet News for more information.