Christie’s auction house posted record-breaking sales results for 2013 today, and based on a breakdown of its numbers, one group of buyers in particular had a major impact on its success: new Chinese collectors.
According to its annual sales report, Christie’s saw a 2013 intake of $7.13 billion—the highest annual auction house sales total in the history of the art market. Amounting to 16 percent growth, the auction house’s sales saw a huge boost from its 44 percent growth in Asia sales. New collectors were also a key factor, accounting for 30 percent of all buyers and 22 percent of all global sales.
Many of Christie’s new buyers likely hail from a pool of new Chinese collectors, who are growing rapidly in number as incomes rise and hard assets remain an important investment in China. Christie’s saw 32 percent growth in its 2013 Hong Kong sales, and its inaugural mainland sale in Shanghai brought in an additional $24.9 million. It plans to continue to pursue mainland buyers in 2014, with two auctions slated for Shanghai. The first is scheduled for April 26, and will feature Asian and international 20th century and contemporary art. Christie’s also plans to open a new multipurpose gallery in Hong Kong in February, where it will hold auctions, exhibitions, lectures, and classes.
“Our strategy to invest in new markets such as China, new channels such as Private Sales and online sales, and to build on our position at the leading auction house, has enabled Christie’s to grow,” said Christie’s CEO Steven P. Murphy.
Christie’s gained this unprecedented mainland access in April, when it was granted permission by the Chinese government to hold auctions without a Chinese partner. Not long after, owner François-Henri Pinault donated to China two zodiac head bronzes that had been looted from the Qing dynasty Summer Palace in 1860 after they had sparked a massive controversy at a Christie’s sale in 2009.