Western art deal­ers hope to lure wealthy Chi­nese

The Pak Banker - - International3 -

HONG KONG: For newly minted Chi­nese bil­lion­aires look­ing to spend their money, a nat­u­ral choice has been art and an­tiques from their own coun­try, many cost­ing mil­lions of dol­lars.

Now art deal­ers and auc­tion houses are try­ing to pitch them a harder sell: Western mas­ter­pieces by artists such as Pi­casso, whose paint­ings fea­tured in three au­tumn shows in Hong Kong.

"They are the next big wave of buy­ers, and they could af­fect the mar­ket as much as the Ja­panese did in the ' 80s," said Je­han Chu, who runs con­sul­tancy Ver­mil­lion Art Col­lec­tions.

China's rapidly de­vel­op­ing econ­omy has churned out many wealthy busi­ness­peo­ple who have made their for­tunes in in­dus­tries from soft drinks to prop­erty devel­op­ment to the In­ter­net. The coun­try is now home to the world's largest num­ber of dol­lar bil­lion­aires, ac­cord­ing to the Hu­run Rich List 2010, China's ver­sion of the Forbes list. China's new rich have been snap­ping up Asian art­work, an­tiques and other col­lecta­bles, push­ing up prices to record lev­els. That was ev­i­dent in Novem­ber when an un­named Chi­nese buyer paid $83 mil­lion at a London auc­tion for a 19th cen­tury Qing dy­nasty vase found in a sub­ur­ban house.

The ris­ing num­ber of wealthy Chi­nese buy­ers has also made Hong Kong the world's third largest auc­tion cen­ter af­ter New York and London.

Chu says a lot of the buy­ing "is largely driven by in­vest­ment rather than a love or ap­pre­ci­a­tion of art," though that is chang­ing.

In a sign of the hope that Chi­nese buy­ers are now turn­ing their at­ten­tion - and check­books - to Western art, Sotheby's dis­played 20 works at its Mod­ern Masters ex­hi­bi­tion of Im­pres­sion­ist and early 20th cen­tury art in Hong Kong last week­end, af­ter hold­ing a pre­view in Bei­jing in Oc­to­ber. -Ap

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