A series of articles this weekend put the pieces together on China’s emerging place at the center of the global market for luxury goods. The New York Times documents the growth in sales of Rolls Royces in China from nearly none in 2003 to the lion’s share of the custom automaker’s production runs. In the auction market, the buying is still concentrated in luxury goods like wine and gems but art is beginning to fill in. Here the Times gives the raw numbers that drive the buying:
But China, the world’s most populous nation, has already become the biggest global car market, having overtaken the United States earlier this year. And Credit Suisse forecast last month that China’s share of global consumption would overtake that of the United States by 2020.
China’s population of “high net worth individuals” — those worth $1 million or more — surpassed that of Britain for the first time last year, according to an annual study published by Capgemini and Merrill Lynch in June. North America, Japan and Germany together still accounted for 54 percent of the global total, but the authors of the report also predicted that Asia-Pacific would surpass North America by 2013.
Last month, a list compiled by Hurun Report, a research and publishing house based in Shanghai, found that the number of known U.S.-dollar billionaires in China had grown to 130, up from 101 in 2008.
Bloomberg narrates the strong bidding for the Emperor Qianlong’s throne:
“The bidding was intense,” auctioneer Henry Howard-Sneyd said in an interview after the auction. The mood in the saleroom was “electric” when Emperor Qianlong’s throne came on the block yesterday, he said: “This shows when the right item comes along, the money is there — especially from China.”
The strength of Chinese bidding at the antiques sale defies a decade-old trend of Western dominance at the priciest end of the market. As recently as June, Sotheby’s rival, Christie’s International, said Americans were its top clients in this category, followed by the Chinese and Hong Kongers. Of the 2,400 lots offered this week, 88 percent found buyers. The focus at Sotheby’s was mostly on antiques and old paintings by Chinese masters, while contemporary works attracted less attention.
Asian players in the market, Reuters tells us, are not only emphasizing Asian works but trying to further open the market to a broader range of art that might be the beginnings of a foundation of world culture.
Misung Shim, the head of Seoul Auction, which sold a large work of British artist Damien Hirst in Hong Kong this month for $2.2 million, an auction record for the artist in Asia, sees growing opportunities beyond China’s art scene. “We are trying to open the Western art market in Hong Kong rather than the Chinese paintings market,” she said.
Market for Luxury Goods Shifts to the East (New York Times)