Enid Tsui follows up on China Guardian’s coup last month when it made a massive sale in Beijing of Huang Binhong’s Yellow Mountain (1955) for 345 million yuan (HK$396 million.) Huang hasn’t been among the platinum-plated names in Chinese classical ink painting like Zhang Daqian and Qi Baishi until now. But Tsui suggests there’s a bit more going on behind the scenes with this sale than simply the emergence of a new name in Chinese Classical painting.
First of all, the sale marks the arrival of China Guardian’s Guo Tong as powerful force in Mainland sales. Second, the Mainland is showing strength again after years of sales migrating to Hong Kong. Finally, the return of big prices in art in China itself may be a signal that other asset sectors are too clogged with government controls. The spillover is coming back to the art market.
Controls on capital leaving the country mean cash has to be stored in China at a time when there are fewer assets that can be accessed. The Huang was bought be a company, not an individual, adding to the speculation.
Here’s Tsui speaking to Guo:
Beijing-based Guo is adamant that China is the place to buy and sell Chinese paintings now that the money has returned after four sluggish years. “It used to be true that the best works were in collections outside China, and sales in Hong Kong and elsewhere were in an advantageous position. But that is no longer the case,” she says. “Top Chinese paintings are appearing more in China. Some, like Yellow Mountain, have been in China all along. Others were brought back by Chinese collectors. New, younger collectors are also more open-minded and very well-informed, so they appreciate artists who are lesser known but who appeal to them on a personal level.”
“After 2011, the market was cooler, partly because of a real shortage of liquidity as companies saw slower growth, partly as a response to prices going up too quickly before, and partly because of the government’s anti-corruption drive. Sales in 2014-15 were nearly 40 per cent less than in 2011,” says Guo.
Chinese art market has its mojo back, China Guardian Beijing’s spring auctions show (South China Morning Post)