Chinese Art Market Driven by Mainlanders

January 10, 2011 Updated: January 11, 2011

NEW YORK—Christie’s auction house reported record-high sales for Chinese paintings and works of art, crediting the increase in Asian buyers for the total $414 million in sales during the autumn season in Hong Kong.

The house released its results, which cite that a number of Asian art collectables went well-above the expected price and note the strong Chinese buying power. Christie’s reports that 42 percent of the clients are from mainland China, while 97 percent of Chinese paintings went to bidders from mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

The Art Market Monitor reported in March that the Chinese market accounts for the largest percentage of sales in Asian art, with sales fetching proportionally more than either Japanese or Korean art.

According to the Art Market Monitor, even back in 2009, prices for Chinese works of art were approximately 150 percent more than South Asian art, and over 350 percent more than Japanese or Korean pieces.

In recent months the prices paid for Chinese paintings and porcelain, among others, is continuously way above pre-sale estimates set by the auction houses. It appears that the estimate prices are just way off the mark with the new market trends.

Look at what’s for sale, for example, a painting by one of China’s most well-known artists, Qi Baishi (1863–1957). For sale at Bonhams and Butterfield Asian Works of Art in mid December, it was expected to sell for $30,000 to $50,000. Instead, it garnered $458,000.

The Qianlong pottery works have been regularly selling for astounding prices in the millions. Bonhams had one estimated at $10,000 to $15,000. It ended up going for $7,658,000.

Tony Dai, Chinese artist and gallery owner, says he has predominantly seen the Chinese market booming. He says there are a lot of investors from mainland China putting their money into Asian art as a secure investment.

Dai says he began to see this trend about a year ago, noting that many mainlanders are investing their money mostly in traditional Chinese pieces rather than contemporary or modern works.

In an earlier interview with The Epoch Times, Paul Haig, an expert in jade and oriental antiques, spoke of a similar phenomenon. In respect to jade pieces, he noticed an influx of Chinese customers coming to buy back many pieces originally from China, driving the prices much higher.

Dai foresees the market for Chinese art to remain strong in 2011, with potential to increase.