Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Christies' Reports Growing Influence of Chinese Collectors

By Le-Min Lim Jan. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Mainland Chinese are buying more art at Christie’s International’s auctions in New York and Europe as their purchases “rose significantly” last year using wealth produced by a growing economy, Christie’s said. Mainland China residents bought the most-expensive items at Christie’s New York jewelry auction in October and more than doubled their purchases of Chinese art last year at sales in London and New York, said Andrew Foster, president of Christie’s Asia, in a statement. Nine of the 10 priciest items at the second part of a Paris auction of Yves Saint Laurent’s effects in November were bought by Asians, Christie’s said, without saying how many were Chinese. The past two years have seen the Chinese outbid Americans and Europeans for top-end Asian antiques and gems at art sales in Hong Kong, the world’s third-largest auction market after New York and London. Now, the Chinese are expanding their collection beyond traditional art to include watches, wine, jewels and some Western art, said Foster. “The trend is crystal clear,” said Foster, who’s also Christie’s chief operating officer. Asia’s “wealth is migrating to art and lifestyle purchases, and not only in Hong Kong.” Hong Kong is leading the global recovery in the art and auction markets, said Foster. Like rival Sotheby’s, the company holds biannual sales in the city. In 2009, Christie’s Hong Kong sales tallied HK$2.7 billion ($348 million), with buyers paying 27 percent more per lot at the second auction than the first. Foster said “passion” is returning to the Hong Kong art market. “The head evaluates, but the heart rules the art market.”