China is the third most important art market by
value, replacing France, which has long held the coveted spot, after New
York and London, a leading economist has said.
A report by Dr Clare McAndrew, who runs a
research company Art Economics, commissioned by the organisers of The
European Fine Art Fair (Tefaf), Maastricht, and including both auction
and dealer data, found that by the end of 2006, China had already become
the fourth largest global art market by value, with a 5% share. The US,
UK and France were at 46%, 27% and 6% respectively.
The report did not go beyond 2006, but Dr McAndrew told The Art
Newspaper that "the trend has continued in 2007 and I would estimate
that China has now overtaken France." In 2005, China accounted for only
3.7% of the global market, according to analysis from Artprice.com,
whereas France was at 6.6%.
In the contemporary art market, the driver of the recent boom, China had
already taken over from France by the end of 2006 (February 2007, p46).
At this point, Dr McAndrew found, China had a 20% share of total sales,
the same as the UK.
The increasing presence of international galleries in Beijing, together
with initiatives such as the ShContemporary art fair, which launched in
Shanghai last year, are contributing to China's influence as a global
art market centre. "The international centres of art mirror the
international financial centres," said Robin Woodhead, chief executive
of Sotheby's International.
Auction prices have proved more lucrative in Hong Kong than in China for
the past few years. In 2007, Sotheby's and Christie's made around $800m
in the region, while their combined Paris salerooms made nearly half
that amount at around $440m. The priciest lot to sell at auction in Hong
Kong last year was Cai Guo-Qiang's Set of Fourteen Drawings for
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, 2002, made with gunpowder and
depicting a 20 minute firework display commissioned by the Chinese
government. It sold at Christie's for HK$74.2m ($9.5m), setting a new
record for Chinese contemporary art at auction.
Hong Kong looks to be consolidating its global market position while
sale totals from Paris are closer in volume to other European regions,
such as Geneva and Amsterdam.
Christie's, which is owned by French luxury goods magnate François
Pinault, is the top auction house in France, but its Paris sales fell 6%
to $253m in 2007; Sotheby's saw its sales double to $167m.
"The French market is not just about auctions," said Jussi Pylkkanen,
president of Christie's Europe. "In the 20th century, France provided
the artists who are now the leading lights of the impressionist and
modern fields, and the heirs to their estates still live there. We
source a great number of works in France."
By Melanie Gerlis
For The Art Newspaper