Last week we discussed the overall effect of Asian buyers on the Impressionist and Modern sales. This weekend, the Wall Street Journal’s Mary Lane has some details on the bold interest in works on paper that is coming from Chinese buyers:
At both Sotheby’s and Christie’s, a number of mostly Chinese-speaking collectors from Asia are flocking to works on paper by Picasso, Egon Schiele, Henri Matisse and Francisco Goya.
In last week’s evening sale, Sotheby’s said a record number of Asians participated, buying 25% of the auction house’s works on paper. Christie’s noted the same percentage of its work on paper went to Asian bidders at its evening sale.
Since 2010, the number of Asian buyers of Impressionist and modern works on paper is up 213%, according to Christie’s, and Asian buyers of Old Masters on paper are up 150%.
Even a mediocre oil painting by Picasso can cost upward of $45 million. (In February, a lone bidder from Asia paid that amount at Sotheby’s for Picasso’s “Woman Sitting Near a Window,” which was estimated at $40 million.) A top drawing, by contrast, can be fought over and won for only a fraction of that cost.
“They’d rather have the best quality drawing than a so-so oil work,” says Ms. Wong, mentioning a seasoned Asian buyer who paid $12.4 million for “Lovers—Self-Portrait With Wally,” a Schiele drawing sold at Sotheby’s by Vienna’s Leopold Museum in February.
It is worth noting that the comparable percentage from Christie’s—namely, that Asian buyers took home 25% of the works on paper from the evening sale—is going to a far smaller number because the evening sales have far fewer works on paper than sold during the day sales devoted to works on paper.