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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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Europeans remain keen to get a piece of this buying action. In Hong Kong's Central district on Queen's Road, Edouard Malingue, son of the founder of the famous Galerie Malingue in Paris, opened a gallery in September.

Chinese buyers shaking up art auction market
Edouard Malingue, son of the founder of Galerie Malingue in Paris. Photo Provided to China Daily

One of its first events was a Picasso exhibit showing 40 works ranging from $330,000 to $15 million, which attracted a lot of interest from mainland buyers. The gallery will specialize in 20th Century European and American art.

"I looked at opening a gallery in London or New York but Asia seemed a much stronger market than in the West. It was also a place with fewer galleries and wasn't somewhere where everything had been previously done by someone else in the art world," says Malingue.

"I thought about locating in Singapore but Hong Kong was closer to the mainland. I discarded either Shanghai or Beijing because the administration is cumbersome and the import taxes are really frightening."

Malingue says a number of people from the mainland attended his Picasso exhibition.

"They tended to ask interesting questions about Picasso and his creative process. Some were very specific about investment and the potential return they could get after six months, a year or two years," he says.

The gallery owner says a sign any market was taking off was when you had interior decorators at art fairs and exhibitions.

Chinese buyers shaking up art auction market
Jonathan Stone, Asia managing director of Christie's. Photo Provided to China Daily

"In places like Miami and New York they are everywhere and you are beginning to see that here. I am confident of the decision to have a gallery here to cater for the Chinese," he says.

Within the art market in Hong Kong there is a sense of anticipation about Art Hong Kong, the annual art fair held in May. One of the key questions again this year will be whether there will be more interest from the mainland.

Last year's event attracted 46,000 visitors, up 65 percent on the previous year and works by the leading contemporary artists such as Damien Hirst were sold to Chinese collectors.

"There was certainly an upswing in the VIP attendance from the mainland and there were a number of high profile sales," says Magnus Renfrew, the fair's director.

"I think the Chinese market is going to play an increasingly important role over the next five to 10 years."

"When people have their houses, their yachts and their cars, they begin to look for other ways to express their wealth."

Renfrew says the number of Chinese people buying art at the moment can be exaggerated.


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