Agence France Presse has a story that tries to stoke the idea that art market’s recovery has been primarily driven by Chinese buying. There is no doubt that in the market for Chinese Works of Art, there has been strong buying by mainland collectors often willing to pay prices well over the estimate range.
Christie’s recently released numbers, however, show that overall rebound in the art market is not primarily driven by the Chinese. Although domiciles are very hard to pin down from auction house numbers, Christie’s says that the number of new buyers in 2010 remained in proportion to the overall market.
That is to say, new buyers from China were less than 20% of the total number of new buyers, according to Christie’s. That should be taken into account reading these quotes from Christie’s Asia head, Francois Curiel:
But it is not just Chinese works that are commanding high prices thanks to the last raised hand at an auction belonging to an Asian buyer.
An anonymous telephone bidder, believed to be Chinese, paid a world record $106.5 million for Pablo Picasso’s “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” at a Christie’s sale in New York in May. It was expected to sell for $80 million.
“Mainland Chinese are our main buyers, not only in Hong Kong where they are about 80 percent of our buyers, but also in New York, in London, in Geneva, in Paris,” said Curiel.
“They are absolutely everywhere now when there is a piece of fine Asian contemporary art, Chinese works of art, Chinese calligraphy and even Western art.”