Some deep need to obfuscate is driving Reuters’s recent art market coverage. First, the news service began to define an 80% sell-through rate as a failed auction when viewing the Chinese Contemporary results in Hong Kong last week. Now the financial news service imagines that Chinese collectors will rescue the up-coming Frieze auctions from fears of another financial shock:
One “wild card” this week could be demand from Asia’s growing number of ultra-wealthy collectors. A few years ago it was Russian oligarchs who were snapping up much of the world’s most expensive art. Now the focus is firmly on China as the land of the “modern-day Medicis.”
Recent sales at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong gave a mixed picture of Chinese demand for art and luxury goods. The auctions raised $411 million in spite of difficult conditions on financial markets, yet the total was down from April and of the works on sale, contemporary art struggled most with more than a fifth of lots unsold.
Chinese buyers have had an impact on the overall art market as the volume of trading in Chinese works of art, artifacts and various forms of painting has exploded and added billions to the art market’s annual turnover. Chinese collectors have had far less impact on sales in the main auction centers of London and New York. Though there have been some isolated and impressive purchases of Modern art, especially rumors of Chinese buyers acquiring substantial works by Picasso and others, those buyers do not account for a significant portion of the Impressionist and Modern market.
More important, Chinese buyers are nearly invisible in the Contemporary art market that dominates Frieze Week. So how these “modern-day Medicis” will become the focus of this week is hard to explain.