Chinese Collectors Buoyed Smaller Auction Houses In 2010

Strong Buying Among Chinese Collectors Was Instrumental In Sotheby’s, Christie’s 2010 Success, With Smaller Houses Benefitting As Well

Chinese collectors were instrumental in British auction house Woolley & Wallis's record-breaking sales last year (Image: Woolley & Wallis)

Chinese collectors were instrumental in British auction house Woolley & Wallis's record-breaking sales last year (Image: Woolley & Wallis)

It turns out that a rising tide of Chinese collectors lifted all ships (in the auction world) last year. While we were aware that new Chinese collectors were some of the most enthusiastic buyers of Chinese contemporary art, Chinese traditional art, antiques and fine wine at the London and Hong Kong outposts of auction juggernauts like Sotheby’s and Christie’s, this week the much smaller British auction house Woolley & Wallis announced that it had posted record revenue in 2010 — virtually all due to the buying of Chinese clients. All told, Woolley & Wallis posted £23.36 million (US$36.23 million) in sales last year, a whopping 97% increase over £11.65 million in sales in 2009, and far beyond the £6.7 million and £8.15 million it pulled in in 2008 and 2007, respectively.

From the Antiques Trade Gazette:

Much of [last year’s] landmark total was the result of two sales of Asian works of art that totalled just shy of £16m (£7.3m in May and £8.6m in November) and specifically the consignment of Chinese imperial jades from Crichel House in Dorset.

With four carvings selling for more than £1m each (Woolley & Wallis have now registered six of the nine seven-figure sums achieved outside London), these alone brought £9m.

However, the Salisbury Salerooms’ chairman Paul Viney told ATG it had also been a solid year in other categories, with seven of W&W’s nine specialist departments showing an improvement on 2009 and furniture, silver, jewellery and decorative arts all selling more than £1m.

Although Woolley & Wallis’s performance last year is impressive, as the Antiques Trade Gazette points out, it fell short in its efforts to become Britain’s top regional auction house in 2010, thwarted by the sale of one notorious £51.6 million (US$83 million) Qianlong vase by Bainbridge’s last November.

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Art & Auction, Culture