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Chinese buyers shaking up art auction market

Updated: 2011-02-18 10:46

By Andrew Moody and Fu Yu (China Daily European Weekly)

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He also rejects any notion the Qianlong vase was overvalued compared to the prices fetched by Western art.

"The vase is a very delicate Chinese objet d'art and is more than 200 years old. It is far less valuable than a Picasso painted in the 20th Century. The price of Chinese art is very reasonable by comparison," he says.

Chinese buyers shaking up art auction market
Zhang Lan, chair of South Beauty Co. Photo Provided to China Daily

Zhao says the buyer who bought the vase in London has also bought items at Poly auctions.

"He has a very good relationship with us. He actually paid the highest price for any art work bought at our action too. I think he buys because he is very interested in art and for no other reason," he says.

Professor Yu Ding, deputy dean of the school of humanities of the China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, says it is important to understand the psyche of those paying record prices for art.

"For me, these prices might seem unbelievable. The buyer, however, in his own heart thinks it is worth the money. You have to understand he is very rich. He probably earns 100 million pounds a year, so he is using only around half his earnings to buy such a piece."

Zhang Lan, 52, chair of Beijing-based South Beauty Co Ltd, which operates upscale restaurants and clubs around China, is one of China's so-called new rich buying art.

Her collection boasts an Andy Warhol as well as leading Chinese contemporary artists such as Fang Lijun and Liu Xiaodong. She paid $2.7 million for one of Liu's works, part of his Three Gorges series.

She believes wealthy people like her buying art can only assist in the development of arts in the country.

"It doesn't really matter whether we do it for investment or just to collect. I think investing in Chinese art, in particular, can only build the reputation of Chinese artists, giving them a stronger and more prominent position in the world," she says.

Zhang says she gets real pleasure out of investing her money in art.

"Money in itself has no life but the arts do. I think it is a pleasure to exchange inanimate money for living arts. If I see something I like, I will be determined to get it. Whether I am interested in what I am buying is the only real criteria when I make a purchase."


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