Christie’s recent round of Hong Kong sales is the first to show a dip in the total sale volume—down from HK$3.26bn to HK$3bn or around 8%—which has the Financial Times in a bit of swivet.
Christie’s sales saw record attendance, says Eric Chang, head of Asian 20th Century and contemporary art. However, there is no doubt that buyers are much more cautious in the face of economic instability, he adds. By diversifying into newer art markets, he says, Christie’s should be well-placed to weather the current slowdown.
“Hong Kong has matured as a market and we are offering a much broader range of works. Japanese and Korean collectors have been very active this week and they are very interested in south-east Asian, especially Indonesian, works. The Hong Kong market is no longer just about Chinese art,” he says.
Candy Chuang, chairperson of local auction house Treasure Auctioneer, is also feeling fairly upbeat at her autumn auctions. Average hammer prices, the cost before the seller’s commission, are going up despite the volume of sales going down, she says. Chuang is confident that demand from mainland China, where most of her clients come from, will remain strong because there is a shortage of things to investment in.
Chuang goes on to say that her auction house is going deeper into China’s grittier cities in search of buyers. Remember that in China a regional city is still larger than most in the West.
Kelly Crow in the Wall Street Journal reminds us that mainland demand remains even if there was a dip in Hong Kong and Taiwanese buying last week:
“We’re in a slightly cooling market,” said Christie’s wine expert David Elswood, adding that buyers “feel they can afford to wait and see where the market is going.”
Bidding was also thinner than usual for top-end porcelain and contemporary art, categories that aren’t as universally coveted in Beijing as say, Chinese paintings.Painting prices continued to soar, from Qing-era landscapes and calligraphy on scrolls to modern oil abstracts by Zao Wou-Ki and Chu Teh-Chun. […]
Richard Kan, a Hong Kong engineer who collects everything from Greek coins to Chinese ceramics, said he doesn’t expect mainland buyers’ demand for scroll paintings to wane anytime soon: “They’re easy to carry” back to the mainland, he joked
Auction Houses Prepare for Leaner Times (Beyond BRICs/Financial Times)
Mainland Buyer Ride to Rescue in Hong Kong (Wall Street Journal)