‘The way that art moves is end­lessly fas­ci­nat­ing’

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS HK - By DUAN TING in Hong Kong tingduan@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

The art auc­tion busi­ness is the per­fec­tion com­bi­na­tion of the com­mer­cial world and also in­tel­lect, ac­cord­ing to Christie’s Chair­man of Asian Art Jonathan Stone.

The in­dus­try is not just about the own­er­ship of rare art­works, but also the trans­feral of great art to future gen­er­a­tions and to de­velop the ap­pre­ci­a­tion of art.

“We are a com­mer­cial en­ter­prise, but at the same time, we are the cus­to­dian of ‘the gold’ through our hands. Work­ing in the in­dus­try is like be­ing part of the flow of cul­tural his­tory. For me, the way that art moves is end­lessly fas­ci­nat­ing.”

Artis­tic ap­pre­ci­a­tion

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing with a mas­ter’s de­gree in his­tory from Peter­house, Cam­bridge Univer­sity, Stone worked in mar­ket­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion in Ja­pan. But it was his burn­ing love for art, his­tory and cul­ture that led him to quit his job and pur­sue a de­gree in art his­tory.

He com­pleted his mas­ter’s in art his­tory from the Cour­tauld In­sti­tute of Art at the Univer­sity of Lon­don, and Stone re­calls he wanted to find a job that com­bined his busi­ness ex­pe­ri­ence with his love of art. That led him to Christie’s in 1999.

Stone had worked his way up the lad­der and cur­rently serves as the com­pany’s chair­man of Asian Art, over­see­ing the busi­ness, spe­cial­ist and sale as­pects of its Asian Art category for auc­tions and pri­vate sales all over the world, in­clud­ing in Hong Kong, Lon­don, New York and Paris.

“All the time, we are deal­ing with the most won­der­ful ob­jects. Ev­ery year, thou­sands of ob­jects pass through Christie’s’ hands, so we have the priv­i­lege to be able to see, touch and feel the ob­jects. It’s like liv­ing in a mu­seum, but be­ing closer to the ob­jects.”

While it is a priv­i­lege to han­dle great pieces of art, Stone says “at the same time, we are do­ing busi­ness and make money for our share­hold­ers”.

Asia ad­ven­ture

In 2000, Stone moved to Tokyo and was later appointed rep­re­sen­ta­tive di­rec­tor of Christie’s Ja­pan. Now flu­ent in Ja­panese, he de­scribes the ex­pe­ri­ence in Ja­pan as “won­der­ful”, and es­pe­cially with an English ed­u­ca­tion, be­ing ex­posed to an­other coun­try’s cul­ture changed his world view. It also in­tro­duced Stone to the beauty of Chi­nese art.

“For­tu­nately for what I’ve done sub­se­quently, the wealth of Asian art that is in Ja­pan is su­pe­rior.”

Stone was appointed in­ter­na­tional busi­ness di­rec­tor of Asian Art in 2005 be­fore as­sum­ing his cur­rent po­si­tion in 2011. Un­der his di­rec­tion, Christie’s sales of Asian art world­wide have in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly, while his role in de­vel­op­ing Asian art as a sales category has also con­trib­uted to Christie’s rapid growth in Asia.

It has seen the es­tab­lish­ment of Hong Kong as Christie’s third-largest sales mar­ket and a ma­jor hub in the global art mar­ket.

Stone says it’s im­por­tant in the auc­tion busi­ness for peo­ple to be able to trust the ex­perts. These spe­cial­ists must also up­hold re­spon­si­bil­ity and in­tegrity in the en­tire auc­tion process when deal­ing with clients. Al­though their job is mul­ti­fac­eted and com­plex, he says they must bal­ance their duty to clients and be sen­si­tive to­wards busi­ness.

It’s im­per­a­tive for peo­ple work­ing in the auc­tion busi­ness to be open­minded, and be able to work and lis­ten to peo­ple from var­i­ous cul­tures and na­tion­al­i­ties, he says.

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