PARIS, July 12, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Appearing rapidly at the head of the international art scene in 2010 with an annual art auction turnover total suddenly exceeding $3 billion, the Chinese marketplace has gradually structured itself around Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, but also increasingly around Hong Kong. Indeed, since the Covid-19 health crisis, Hong Kong has become the primary art market hub in the entire Asia-Pacific region. This year, however – and for the first time in ten years – Hong Kong is experiencing a slight contraction in its art market activity. Meanwhile, mainland China is slowly returning to a growth path.
thierry Ehrmann, President of Artmarket.com and Founder of Artprice: “We have had a privileged partnership with the Chinese group Artron for over a decade, and it is this long collaboration that allows our joint reports to identify and analyze the stabilization of China’s art market, with an effective reorganization of its market”.
Two works fetched over $30 million
At $33.1 million, on 24 February 2023 in Beijing, Yongle Auction hammered China’s best fine art result of H1 for an ink on paper by Cui Ruzhuo, Rafting In Wind And Rain (2019). It was also the best result in mainland China for over five years. But it was only the 18th best fine art auction result in mainland China’s auction history, a long way behind the $140 million hammered in 2017 for the 12 drawings that make up Qi Baishi’s Screens of Landscapes (1925).
In Hong Kong, on 5 April 2023, an ink on paper enhanced with gold by Zhang Daqian, Pink Lotuses on Gold Screen (1973), was acquired for $32.1 million at Sotheby’s. The island still fosters and promotes exchanges between East and West, recording multi-million dollar results for works by Yoshitomo Nara and Yayoi Kusama and works by Pablo Picasso and Jean-Michel Basquiat. At the start of the year, canvases by Miro, Magritte, Zao-Wou-ki, and Chagall naturally blended with sculptures by Jeff Koons and ultra-contemporary works by Matthew Wong, Nicolas Party, and Avery Singer in the finest Hong Kong catalogs.
In total, Artprice has detailed data for nearly 16,000 fine art lots sold at auctions throughout China between 1 January and 30 June 2023. Hong Kong retains the highest average fine art lot price in the world (just under $230,000) with 2,600 works generating $595 million (incl. buyer’s fees). But mainland China’s data is also honorable with over 10,000 lots fetching an average price of $78,000.
+180% growth in mainland China
While the art market is experiencing a sharp contraction in almost all Western countries, mainland China has posted relatively positive figures for H1 2023. Although it is still far from its exceptional performances of ten years ago, the country’s fine art auction market generated almost three times more turnover than in H1 2022, which was hampered by the country’s zero-covid policy at the time. However, the recent dynamism may have been boosted by sales that were simply rescheduled from last year; so it remains to be seen if the second half will post equally buoyant figures.
The performances of Chinese auction houses China Guardian, Poly, Yongle, Rombon, and Xilling have once again become all the more important since Western auction operators are no longer hosting sales in mainland China for the time being. Their sales have been entirely focused on Hong Kong, consolidating a turnover that has been growing steadily over the last two decades.
There is little doubt that the international art market is eager to see key works by the superstars of contemporary Chinese art resurface on the market. In H1 we saw several 7-digit results for works by Chen Yifei, Liu Ye, and Zhou Chunya, among others, and Bonhams sold Zeng Fanzhi Mask 2000 No. 3 (2000) for $3.1 million in Hong Kong. This result is consistent with those recorded ten years ago for the same series, but the works of these great names of ‘new Chinese painting’ have been circulating with much less intensity, and their masterpieces have been surprisingly discreet in auction rooms over the past three years.
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