Christie’s Hong Kong sale cycle over the last week brought in just under HK$3000 or ($386m) which was down around 20% from the previous year’s nearly $500m in sales. The Wall Street Journal says that’s a reflection of a broader trend for wealthy Chinese to buy art offshore and shift in taste from Chinese artists to Western ones as seen in the purchase of a Van Gogh still life at last month’s marquee New York Impressionist and Modern sales:
The overseas buying is one reason why prices for art have tumbled in China over the past two years. China’s art market soared to $14 billion between 2003 and 2011, according to Chinese art information provider Artron, before plunging 33% in 2012. The market has gone nowhere since then, according to art-market data tracker Artprice.com . […]
There are other reasons for the decline. China’s anticorruption campaign is hurting sales of art, which is no longer being given as gifts to government officials. A slowing economy and less-exciting artwork being offered are also factors. Chinese artists are trying to sell their works to overseas collectors to broaden their global appeal, according to experts.
“Chinese collectors’ overall purchasing power hasn’t gone down, but it has become more scattered as their interests diverge,” said Kelly Ying, co-founder of Art021, an art fair in Shanghai. “Many are now buying artworks by non-Chinese artists who are less known in China.”
The Journal goes on to explain the effect this shift in taste is having on the mainland’s artists:
The fall in buying inside China has taken a toll on the sales of many Chinese artists. Works by artists such as Mr. Zhang and Mr. Zeng have sold at the low end of the expected price range.
“In the past, people kept pushing prices of Chinese artworks higher because they know they can flip them in a few months,” said Martin Bremond, an art-market consultant and former head economist for Artprice.com.
“That time is over. They are now buying more Western art because they can sometimes get a bargain on them” compared with Chinese art, he said.