China's growing base of wealthy art collectors has done more than push up the prices of Chinese antiquities and contemporary art over the last year. This base has also caused the prices of works by Chinese old master to skyrocket, reflecting the diversity of interests among these collectors. While many New Collectors are looking at revolutionary-era works, increasingly collectors are validating the work of old masters and causing the prices of their works to levels previously only seen among western masters like Rembrandt.
As a Wealth Report article points out today, the rising prices, and rising appreciation, of Chinese old masters could embed them among the ranks of history's greatest artists:
At a Christie's European Old Master auction in December, the highest selling works was Raphaël’s Head of a Muse, fetching a record $42.7m, or double its estimate. Chinese artist Wu Bin's Eighteen Arhats, also sold by Christie's in November "only" fetched $22.1m, but this was five times estimate.
Old Masters in Europe remain steady sellers. But works by Chinese old masters, like Wu Bin (1573-1620), Shi Tao (1642 - 1707) and Zheng Gong, have rocketed in price this year, above traditional European artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and Rembrandt, according to data provider artprice.com.
The article goes on to note that much of the reason for the rapid ascendance of Chinese old masters is the result of the success that Sotheby's and other auction houses have had in Hong Kong over the course of 2009 (a development we've watched closely over the last few months):
Five Chinese masters joined the top ten this year, ousting Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Andrea Del Sarto, Francisco Goya y Lucientes, William Blake and Rembrandt, all of whom were previously considered permanent members, according to artprice.com.
This is partly due to Sotheby's and Christie's holding more auctions in the region, to take advantage of growing demand, with sales in Peking and Hong Kong being held in May, June and November.