Young at heart, and they love art

Un­der-40 col­lec­tors are be­com­ing big play­ers in the na­tion’s auc­tion mar­ket, re­port­sHuang Ying

China Daily (Canada) - - BUSINESS -

Ayoung gen­er­a­tion of Chi­nese col­lec­tors with eclec­tic tastes is as­sum­ing a grow­ing role in the na­tion’s art auc­tion mar­ket, and they’re set to lift the for­tunes of their con­tem­po­raries who paint and sculpt, said in­dus­try of­fi­cials.

“Young buy­ers and col­lec­tors from China are emerg­ing as grow­ing pow­ers in the mar­ket. Un­like the clas­sic col­lec­tors, who are mostly in their 50s or 60s, this younger group has demon­strated more in­ter­na­tional taste in pur­chas­ing art, and they’re read­ier to ac­cept Western art and cul­ture, said Cai Jin­qing, pres­i­dent of China op­er­a­tions for global auc­tion­eer Christie’s In­ter­na­tional Plc.

By “young”, Cai means be­low the age of 40. “Most of them have stud­ied over­seas and tend to be more open to the newthings,” said Cai.

“Cul­tural val­ues change with time, and young art buy­ers and col­lec­tors are more at­tracted to the work of people close to their ages,” said You Yang, deputy di­rec­tor of the Ul­lens Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Art, a Bei­jing-based non­profit art in­sti­tu­tion.

And as young col­lec­tors take a grow­ing role in China’s art mar­ket, the na­tion is be­com­ing a more im­por­tant player in the global art in­dus­try.

In 2013, China re­mained the world’s sec­ond-largest art mar­ket af­ter the United States, with a 24 per­cent share, ac­cord­ing to the Euro­pean Fine Art Foun­da­tion.

Af­ter a slump in 2012, in­flu­enced by the global and na­tional eco­nomic slow­downs, art sales rose last year in China, the foun­da­tion said.

In 2012, global art mar­ket sales dropped 7 per­cent yearon-year to 43 bil­lion eu­ros ($58 bil­lion), mainly due to a 30 per­cent con­trac­tion in­China’s art mar­ket.

Mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary art­works cur­rently ac­count for only a small por­tion of to­tal sales, but with the rise of young col­lec­tors, this seg­ment has huge po­ten­tial for de­vel­op­ment.

“Among do­mes­tic auc­tion houses, mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary art­works only con­sti­tute a tiny part of their portfolios, which means that it’s quite a promis­ing sec­tor in the fu­ture,” said You.

In 2013, China’s art mar­ket recorded sales of 11.5 bil­lion eu­ros, up 2 per­cent.

“Young col­lec­tors are des­tined to be the back­bone of China’s art mar­ket, but I

AUC­TION TRANS­AC­TION VALUE IN 2013 think that Chi­nese cul­ture will have more in­flu­ence on them as they age and Chi­nese art­work will dom­i­nate the mar­ket in the years to come,” said Xu Xiaol­ing, China rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Euro­pean foun­da­tion.

Also, young col­lec­tors’ pur­chas­ing power is lower than that of their elders, said You.

“You would find that most of the big-ticket mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary pieces are pur­chased by clas­sic Chi­nese col­lec­tors, be­cause they have the money for them,” said You.

“Young col­lec­tors buy the art­work within their means, which will rise over the next fewyears,” he added.

A num­ber of global auc­tion houses es­tab­lished of­fices in China, and they have been com­mit­ted to cu­rat­ing lo­cal art as well as help­ing lo­cal young artist­sand­col­lec­tors to de­velop, ac­cord­ing to You.

As early as 1994, Christie’s set up an of­fice in the Chi­nese main­land. In April 2013, it re­ceived a li­cense from the govern­ment to op­er­ate in­de­pen­dently in the Chi­nese main­land, the first global auc­tion house al­lowed to con­duct such op­er­a­tions in the mar­ket.

The Chi­nese main­land has be­come one of Christie’s four busi­ness re­gions where it op­er­ates in­de­pen­dently, the other three be­ing Europe, the Amer­i­cas and the rest of Asia.

“The op­por­tu­nity in the Chi­nese main­land is quite big, so it de­serves its own at­ten­tion,” said Steven Mur­phy, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Christie’s, in an in­ter­view with the 21st Century Busi­nessHer­ald news­pa­per.

An­other in­ter­na­tional auc­tion­eer, Sotheby’s, is also ex­pand­ing in China. In 2012, it set up a joint ven­ture with Sta­te­owned Bei­jing Ge­hua Cul­tural De­vel­op­ment Group, through which Sotheby’s was li­censed to con­duct auc­tion busi­ness in the Chi­nese main­land.

Sotheby’s holds an 80 per­cent stake in the joint ven­ture, know­nas Sotheby’s (Bei­jing) Auc­tion Co Ltd.

In the Chi­nese main­land mar­ket, do­mes­tic auc­tion houses such as Bei­jing Poly In­ter­na­tional Auc­tion Co Ltd and China Guardian Auc­tions Co Ltd are the largest com­peti­tors for global auc­tion­eers such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

Poly’s sales climbed from 6.1 bil­lion yuan ($989 mil­lion) in 2012 to 7.9 bil­lion yuan in 2013, whileChina Guardian’s sales grew to 6.6 bil­lion yuan from 5.2 bil­lion yuan dur­ing the same pe­riod.

In 2012, the two do­mes­tic auc­tion houses ac­counted for 20 per­cent of the mar­ket, while Christie’s and Sotheby’s took 15 per­cent.

“Global auc­tion­eers are still get­ting used to the lo­cal mar­ket,” said You.

Art mar­ket ob­servers said that chal­lenges fac­ing global auc­tion houses in the do­mes­tic mar­ket in­clude fig­ur­ing out lo­cal col­lec­tors’ tastes and adapt­ing to the pol­icy re­stric­tions and busi­ness cul­ture.

But the global play­ers’ en­try into the Chi­nese main­land is un­doubt­edly a boost to the auc­tion busi­ness, in­dus­try an­a­lysts said.

“Global auc­tion­eers have brought new ideas to the mar­ket, as well as their more ad­vanced op­er­at­ing mod­els and man­age­ment. The strength­ened com­pe­ti­tion will drive the art in­dus­try’s de­vel­op­ment in the Chi­nese main­land,” said Xu.

Global auc­tion­eers are re­stricted from run­ning auc­tions for Chi­nese cul­tural relics in the mar­ket, in­clud­ing Chi­nese tra­di­tional paint­ingsand­cal­lig­ra­phy, porce­lain and antiques.

Ac­cord­ing to the foun­da­tion’s re­port, high taxes, re­gional pro­tec­tion and lo­cal col­lec­tors’ low ac­cep­tance of ex­otic art will make it dif­fi­cult for China to over­take the US as the cen­ter of in­ter­na­tional art trade. Con­tact the writer at huangy­ing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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