It was only a few years ago that we were regularly treated with stories of Chinese buyers descending upon regional auction houses and bidding up five-figure estimates into seven-figure works. That trend has faded and now the middle market for Chinese works of art is suffering. High-quality items have held their value but the demand-inflated middle-market is not pulling back, according to James Tarmy’s excellent piece on Bloomberg:
That absence of euphoria has a lot to do with the fortunes of mainland Chinese collectors, who in recent years fueled unprecedented growth in the Asian art market. “In the past 25 years I’ve had my gallery, if we had 10 active collectors of what I was selling in New York, we were busy,” said Eric Zetterquist, whose Upper East Side gallery specializes in Asian ceramics. “There are probably 10,000 collectors in the field in China.”
As the Chinese economy continues to slide, many of those buyers have pulled back dramatically—not from the top of the market[…]—but from the middle market, where objects sell for around $20,000 to around $90,000.
“In a difficult economy—which we can all admit we’re in—who are the people who are most affected?” asked Lark Mason, the chairman of Asia Week New York. “The people who have fewer resources.”
That’s a relative term—these are still small, collectible objects that sell for more than a Mercedes—but the middle-market slump is unmistakable.
China’s Slump Casts a Pall on Dealers of Asian Art (Bloomberg Business)