Mainland China auctions are important for visibility but the action remains in Hong Kong where the domestic market crosses paths with the international market and Chinese are able to keep items offshore for investment purposes, according to this International Herald Tribune special report:
“Hong Kong represented 4 percent of group sales in 2008 and are now 18 percent of sales and growing,” François Curiel, president of Christie’s Asia, said. “Chinese paintings led the market in Hong Kong this year, with sales of $130.9 million, compared with $84.9 million for the same period a year ago.”
While Sotheby’s and Christie’s still maintain a strong hold on the market, two Chinese auction houses, China Guardian — the first auction house in mainland China, established in 1993 — and Tiancheng International, are increasing their market share. […]
But there are significant differences between the mainland and Hong Kong.
“We pay particular attention to Hong Kong because it has easy contacts with international markets and very close relations with mainland China,” Mr. Kou said. “It is the first stop for us and we’ve been keeping an eye as early as 10 years ago, but the Asian financial crisis hindered our plans,” he explained. Last October, China Guardian held its inaugural auction outside mainland China, generating 455 million Hong Kong dollars, or roughly $59 million, in sales, with a strong focus on Chinese paintings, calligraphy and furniture.
When the Hong Kong-based Tiancheng International was founded in 2011, it specifically had the Chinese art market in mind. The company set up its exhibition hall, sales room and offices in the I.M. Pei-designed Bank of China building in the Central district of Hong Kong, and is headed by the former China director of Christie’s, Wang Jie.
Niche Auction Houses Thrive in Hong Kong (NYTimes)