Cover Story

Chinese artists make a splash

Updated: 2011-02-18 10:50

By Zhang Haizhou (China Daily European Weekly)

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Art market powers ahead with roaring records

Undeterred by the financial problems in Europe and the United States, the global art market is poised to maintain its upward streak this year, judging by the record sales at the recent Sotheby's art auction in London.

Chinese artists continued to make a splash on the global artscape with record prices for several artworks, as eager buyers continued to snap up masterpieces for long-term investments.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's pile of 100,000 hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds weighing up to 100 kg was sold for 349,250 pounds (415,180 euros) at the Sotheby's auction on Feb 15.

The price of the artwork is nearly three times its pre-sale estimate of 100,000-120,000 pounds.

The Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening sale in London attracted roughly 300 bidders, with most of the buyers from the US and Europe.

Though the "Sunflower Seeds" was not the most expensive item at the sale, it set the trend for the 58 subsequent artworks, as it was the first piece on the block, say art experts. described the sale as a "cracking start" for the whole evening.

The sunflower seeds are currently on display at the Turbine Hall of the London-based Tate Modern art gallery.

Each of the porcelain sunflower seeds has been hand made and painted by specialists in the small-scale workshops of Jingdezhen in East China's Jiangxi province. Jingdezhen is known as "Porcelain Capital" of the world and has been producing quality pottery for over 1,700 years.

Alexander Branczik, director and specialist in Sotheby's Contemporary Art Department, says there was an overwhelming response from collectors for "Sunflower Seeds".

Zhang Hongxing, senior curator in Chinese art at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, says the Sotheby's sale will help more Chinese contemporary artworks find a place in mainstream art world.

"There's a rising interest in Chinese art, especially contemporary art, in the West. It's closely related to China's rising international status. Chinese art works are getting more and more popular," Zhang says.

"Compared to traditional art, contemporary art, which is more closer to today's culture, is gaining more prominence."

This Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening saw 59 lots of artwork put up for sale and netted more than 44 million pounds, beating initial estimates of 30.4 million-43 million pounds.


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