Bloomberg looks at the trade in Chinese antiques through the province of Shanxi, where there was just an antiques fair:
To court buyers in Shanxi — which has a reputation for being a cultural capital of sorts — about 50 of the world’s top names in Chinese antique sale flew from Hong Kong, London and the U.S. into Taiyuan to sell millions of dollars worth of ceramics, jade and snuff bottles. The city has an average per capita income of 15,230 yuan last year, and operates two flights a week to Hong Kong. Taiyuan is an hour by flight from Beijing.
“In Shanxi, it’s hard to tell who the rich guys are,” said Ronald Chak, a nephew of Raymond who helps run one of Hong Kong antique dealership Chak’s Co. Ltd., which organized the Taiyuan fair. “You’d think some were ordinary folks and then you see them step into their Mercedes 500.”
“According to estimates from Artron, total global auction sales of both fine and decorative Chinese art in 2007 summed to approximately 2.3 billion euros,” said the European Fine Art Foundation (TEFAF) in a report published in March this year. About $500 million of items are auctioned by Christie’s International and Sotheby’s, based on company figures and estimates. The others are sold in galleries or in person. […]
Christie’s says Americans are its biggest clients in this category of art, followed by mainland Chinese and Hong Kongers. While Shanxi buyers are new to the international art-trading scene compared with their Beijing and Shanghai peers, they are gaining a name as some of China’s fiercest bidders.
“They are a force to reckon with, no doubt about it,” said Kevin Ching, chief executive of Sotheby’s Asia, who attended the Taiyuan fair. On paper, Shanxi buyers formally accounted for just $4 million of Sotheby’s Chinese antiques at its Hong Kong auctions, though the actual figure is much larger because many bid through agents in the city, he said, declining to give specifics.
There are about 51,000 people in China who have 100 million yuan or more, according to Hurun’s latest China rich list, released in April. Of these, 1,050 are in Shanxi. The actual number of rich individuals in the province is probably more than twice the number on the list, said Rupert Hoogewerf, publisher of Hurun Report, which compiles China’s rich list.