Bloomberg‘s Le-min Lim tries to answer the eternal question: why are Chinese collectors spending so much money on art and antiques (as well as gems and wine)?
The Chinese won 21 percent of lots at Christie’s sale of 2,000 gems, art and antiques this week, compared with last year’s 16 percent, according to the company’s Hong Kong-based spokeswoman Kate Malin. The Chinese bought about half the 11 top lots at this sale, she said.
Lim tries to get behind the thinking of the week’s most conspicuous buyer, Wang Wei, the wife of Shanghai stock speculator, Liu Yiqian:
“The Chinese bidders are easy to underestimate because they seem so low-key,” Eric Huang, a Taipei-based art buyer and dealer, said in an interview, “but they are the crouching tigers of the art-auction market with phenomenal buying power.” Huang paid HK$15.8 million for an oil painting by Zao Wou-ki at Sotheby’s October sale in Hong Kong. “Many wealthy Chinese I spoke with say they are buying art to beat inflation,” Huang said.
China’s central bank said last month that the nation’s consumer price index, which measures inflation, will turn positive in the fourth quarter as well as next year.
“With one-of-a-kind artworks, one can keep them for a few years and expect to sell at a much higher price later, so wealthy Chinese like Liu don’t mind paying,” said Huang. Liu declined to comment and Wang said she’s buying “for the love of art.”