Chinese Collectors Keep Pushing Top-Tier Art Prices Through The Roof

Recently Ranked The World’s Second Highest Valued Artist By Auction Revenue

A woman looks at a painting entitled 'Tiger' by famed Chinese artist Qi Baishi in Hong Kong in 2010

This past Monday, canonized Chinese artist/painter Qi Baishi’s Ode to the Motherland (1954) fetched a whopping 72 million yuan (US$11.4 million) at Beijing Poly’s autumn auction in Beijing. Depicting a red crown crane gazing at the red sun as it sets over the ocean, the work started off at 40 million yuan only to soon be doubled in value. Although it is known that Ode to the Motherland was originally a gift to Mao Zedong in 1954, more recent provenance remains ambiguous, including the auction donor.

Qi’s paintings are the perfect example of the types of works the increasingly pragmatic Chinese collector is looking for, confirming consistently rising prices among blue-chip art and antiques. (Even as buyers ignore lesser-quality examples.) Just last year a work by Qi — who was recently ranked the world’s second highest valued artist by auction revenue, ahead of Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso — sold for $65 million at an auction in Beijing.

As Jing Daily projected back in September,

Influenced by slower economic growth at home, auction houses expect that Chinese collectors may show even greater discretion at upcoming sales. This is probably a safe bet, as they’ve become more discerning in the artists and segments they’re buying anyway. What this means is: don’t expect to see Chinese collectors buying top-flight Western art this fall. Do expect to see them bidding selectively and focusing on the most “solidly performing” Chinese artists, such as Zao Wou-Ki, Qi Baishi, Zhang Xiaogang and Zeng Fanzhi.

As Carson Chan, managing director of Bonhams Asia, told the Times, “I think Chinese buyers are now buying more carefully and more selectively…They will only invest in pieces that have both a historical significance and art value. So you have to have extremely clean provenance and background, and this goes across the board between paintings and ceramics.” 

Although more detailed information about the sale remains undisclosed, it’s a safe bet that other surfacing works by Qi will enjoy the same, if not higher, levels of extravagance as top-tier Chinese art continues to perform strongly.


Art & Design, Market Analysis