The China Factor - Changing Tastes?

The Wall Street Journal recently published a very good article on the Chinese art market (I know, another article on the Chinese market, but I recommend to appraisers to look closely at this article as it might be an indicator of future changes in what Chinese collectors will be buying), and the continued strength and interest from mainland China collectors. 

The article quotes a collector as saying eventually a Chinese ink drawing may well sell for more than Picasso. That is a rather heady comment, but one that given the market may prove to be correct.  On the other side of the argument is will the Chinese economy continue to grow, or will it, as many economists believe, start to slow, therefore curtailing some of the growth in the art sectors. The next year should be very interesting to see how the Chinese economy performs, and behind that how the Chinese art market will respond to economic changes, if they do in fact occur.

The article also comments how the Chinese collectors are now buying and setting pricing on items on their own accord, listening less and less to what the Western art world feels is important.  The article also looks at the Chinese market for antiquities, porcelain, jade, calligraphy and ink, furniture and contemporary.  Each short overview section has an outlook section for each sector, a section called fine print and lower cost alternatives.

The article is not only well worth reading, but I would also recommend printing it out to have on hand.

The WSJ reports

The phenomenon raises a question for art-market experts and art historians alike: If the Chinese value Ming vases over Claude Monet, how long will it take before the rest of the world follows suit? Christie's expert Eric Chang said such a recalibration would take time. "China has the power to decide which artists it values most now, but will the West go along with it? There's still a big cultural gap, but the West needs to start studying up."

The industry is already doing what it can to cater to this market. Christie's said it's hiring more Chinese speakers in its London and New York offices to handle calls from China; so far this year, art purchases by mainland Chinese collectors accounted for a fifth of Christie's global sales, up from 8% five years ago. An offshoot of Art Basel, the world's pre-eminent contemporary art fair, will debut in Hong Kong in late May, instead of February as originally planned, because locals said it hit too soon after Chinese New Year.

China's auction houses are also branching out: China Guardian, which sold $1.5 billion worth of Chinese art last year, will open an office in New York next month and another in London soon, said director Kou Qin. Beijing Poly, an art-selling branch of the Chinese military, may go public.

Collectors who can successfully navigate China's shifting terrain are reaping profits. Bill Carey, who oversees an art-investing firm in Missouri, Xiling Group, said his group bought a Qing vase for $1.1 million four years ago and just resold it for triple that amount. Other collectors are exploring niches that China's buyers have so far overlooked, including embroidered robes and photography.
To read/print the complete WSJ article, click HERE.

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