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China Overtakes France : Leading economist says it is now number three after the US and UK

Posted By Administration, Thursday, February 7, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

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, 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 Fran├žois 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

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