New Chinese Art Collectors “Take The Market By Storm”

Record-Setting $106.4 Million Bid For Picasso At Christie’s In New York Rumored To Be From Chinese Collector

"Nude, Green Leaves and Bust" (1932) by Pablo Picasso was sold to an anonymous bidder (believed to be Chinese) for $106.4 million earlier this month

"Nude, Green Leaves and Bust" (1932) by Pablo Picasso was sold to an anonymous bidder (believed to be Chinese) for $106.4 million earlier this month

As New Chinese Collectors branch out from their home turf and scour the globe looking for everything from Tang Dynasty antiquities to 1990s canvases by historical Chinese contemporary artists, we’ve watched prices of contemporary pieces head upward once again after dipping in the wake of the global economic crisis, read stories of Western collectors essentially giving up bidding against Chinese bidders at jade and ceramics auctions, and seen auctions of wine, watches and jewelry sell out in Hong Kong. After appearing on the scene in earnest only as recently as the last 20 years, Chinese collectors have arrived, and they’ve brought wads of cash along for the ride.

Powered equally by a desire for asset diversification and patriotism, most new Chinese collectors have focused solely on Chinese art and antiquities. This has been particularly true for “super-collectors” like Liu Yiqian and Wang Wei (previously on Jing Daily) and Chen Yu, who have virtually dominated the market for “Red Classics” of the 1950s-1970s and have increasingly collected works by top contemporary artists like Fang Lijun and Liu Xiaodong. However, along with their greater clout in the Chinese art market, Chinese collectors are now delving into western art. Much like Japanese collectors, who hit the world stage and immediately began bidding on western Impressionists in the 1980s, Mei Jianping, professor of finance at the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing and co-creator of the Mei Moses Fine Art Price Index, recently told China Daily that he believes Chinese collectors could soon send the price of Western art, especially by top Impressionists, upward.

From China Daily:

The art world is at fever pitch after an anonymous telephone bidder, now believed to be Chinese, paid a world record $106.4 million for a work by Pablo Picasso at a Christie’s sale in New York earlier this month.

The purchase of the 1932 portrait of his blonde mistress called “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” was one of a whole series of art auction scalps by mainland Chinese buyers this year.

These collectors, many of them newly rich entrepreneurs, are transforming the fortunes of the art market, which last year saw auction art prices fall globally by 30 percent, according to the Mei Moses Fine Art Index, following the onset of the economic crisis.

The world’s focus this week will be on the The Hong Kong International Art Fair, where a number of high profile works, including a $12 million Andy Warhol and a Picasso, which could easily exceed that amount, are up for sale.

The article goes on to quote Ken Yeh, chairman of Christie’s Asia in Hong Kong, who says that China’s new generation of enthusiastic and (perhaps more importantly) wealthy collectors are changing the dynamic of the global auction market:

“I think the potential for Western art in China is huge, just massive. There have been a very few Chinese people buying impressionist modern paintings since 2004 and 2005 but suddenly, since last year, there has been almost a surge,” [Yeh] said.

The auction house head believes this surge has been created by up to 20 Chinese buyers who have suddenly embarked on a mission to buy Western art.

“The Chinese mainland buyers have only just started buying impressionist works so there is a lot of potential for this to go a lot further than it already has,” he said.

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Art & Auction, Culture