Chinese Auction House Beijing Poly Primed For IPO?

Beijing Poly Ranked Third Globally In Sales Last Year By The Conseil des Ventes

This painting by Wu Guanzhong sold at Beijing Poly for $9.8 million last month (Image: Artnet)

This painting by Wu Guanzhong sold at Beijing Poly for $9.8 million last month (Image: Artnet)

This week, Skate’s Market Notes writes that the Beijing-based auction house Poly International Auction may soon go public, noting that a Poly IPO would make it the world’s second-largest publicly traded art company, trailing only Sotheby’s. Over the past few years, business has been good for Poly, with the house’s contemporary and traditional Chinese art, antiques, wine and baijiu auctions making it to the third-largest auction house in the world, in terms of sales, according to the latest report by the Conseil des Ventes. As a look at the Skate’s Top 5,000 shows, Poly has sold 137 works of art, coming to a grand total of nearly $712 million, about half of the grand total from Christie’s sale of 2,196 works ($13.5 billion) and Sotheby’s sale of 2,332 pieces ($13.8 billion). Big-ticket items, it seems, are Poly’s bread and butter in China.

From Artnet:

PIA’s IPO is in preparation, Skate’s maintains, a move that has already been blessed by its Communist Party Committee overseers. The surge in PIA auction volume — Skate’s estimates that 2011 sales should exceed $250 million — reflects not only increased demand for Chinese art but also the intention to float the company on the local stock exchange. Skate’s suggests that Poly’s IPO valuation could exceed $1 billion.

Top lots at Poly include the 14th-century Yuan Dynasty master Wang Meng’s scroll landscape drawing ($62.1 million), 20th-century artist Qi Baishi’s album of 13 paintings of flowers and insects ($13.9 million), and Wu Guanzhong’s 1975 painting of a flowering shrub ($9.8 million).

Skate’s is not entirely sanguine about the Chinese art market, however. “It would be unfortunate, of course, to learn that the major driving force behind recent deals in the $10 million-$60 million price range at Poly International Auction has been purchases by the state or the People’s Liberation Army for their various museums.” Skate’s sees no hard evidence of any market manipulation, however, and also notes that one thing is sure: more price records for Chinese art can be expected in the fall.

As Jing Daily wrote this past May, over the past several years Poly has gradually started to dominate the Chinese contemporary art market, as its ability to more directly reach new mainland Chinese collectors vis-a-vis Sotheby’s and Christie’s (which can only operate in Hong Kong) and procure better art have given it a distinct advantage. Now, by throwing around the idea of a massive IPO, Beiing Poly again will stoke rumors that the company plans to move quickly into overseas markets. In a recent Forbes interview, Poly International Auction managing director Li Da said her company is thinking of opening an outpost in New York in order to increase its customer base, and Tsinghua University visiting professor Kai-Yin Lo has said that “overseas expansion by Chinese auction companies is part of wider globalization of Chinese art today.”



Art & Design, Market Analysis