The Changing Art World - Power Base Shifting East?

Anders Petterson writing for the Artnewspaper has a very interesting article that combines issues of economic growth, the art world and possible shifting power bases. As the Chinese economy continues to grow, while the US and European countries continue to show signs of slow growth or worse (Greece, Ireland to name only a few )the art world power and influence base is slowly shifting east, and not necessarily to the Hong Kong offices of Sotheby's or Christie's.

Petterson points out that Hong Kong sales for Sotheby's and Christie,s have totaled a combined $554 million, while mainland Chinese auction house has totaled $497 million during 2010, it best year ever.

The American and European economic frailty is now starting to impact and again slow the growth of contemporary art. More will be known after the fall auctions, but the earlier signs of growth in this sector are showing some signs of cooling.
The article is very interesting and should be a must read for appraisers.  The question is can China maintain its growth, and when may the US and European economies rebound.  If all world markets were functioning at a high level, prices within many fine and decorative arts sectors would certainly improve.

Petterson states

Whilst the Western economies are struggling many of the larger emerging markets are still growing at neck breaking speed. China and India are both forecasted to grow close to 10% in 2010, closely followed by Brazil’s 7.5%. China also became the second largest economy in the world this year.

As a result of the changing world economic order the global art market could also be on the verge of a structural geographical shift, mainly towards the East. Recent Sotheby's auctions in Hong Kong supports this thesis, when a jam-packed week of auction sales raised a record $400m—the highest ever for a sales season in Hong Kong.

Another interesting aspect is what is happening in mainland China. Despite Sotheby's and Christie's domination of the international trade in Chinese art, it's the local auction houses such as Poly and Guardian that are experiencing the strongest growth.

Although the main growth has been in the traditional collecting categories such as Chinese ceramics and antiquities, as well classical Chinese paintings, the Chinese contemporary art market is currently experiencing a rapid recovery towards 2007 levels. Again, domestic players, such as Poly Auction, are showing strong commitment to this collecting category. In Spring 2010, Poly Auction achieved a turnover of $22.6m for contemporary Chinese art, which was 45% higher than Christie’s and 57% higher than Sotheby’s.

Whilst major sale records used to be achieved in Hong Kong, this year has shown the strength of the domestic collector base, and the ability of domestic auction houses to attract top quality consignments. Poly Auction’s spring sales (all categories) from 2010 became the highest ever grossing auction season in mainland China. The total of $497m was significantly higher than Christie’s Hong Kong ($297m) and Sotheby’s Hong Kong ($257m) and shows a clear indication of the strength of mainland Chinese buyers.
To read the full Artnewspaper article, click HERE.

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