Chinese collectors keep autumn auctions alive

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Global Times, October 14, 2009
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Qianlong's dragon throne went to a Chinese collector for $11.07 million.

Qianlong's dragon throne went to a Chinese collector for US$11.07 million. [Global Times/CFP] 

With autumn auctions in full swing after opening in September, Chinese buyers have been making headlines in the international auction world with their enthusiasm for buying art, both antiques and modern works, stunning foreign sellers and collectors alike.

At Sotheby's Hong Kong Autumn Sales, held from October 3 to 8, the extremely active participation by a large group of buyers from the Chinese mainland created a media sensation.

The total sales of over US$168 million was 88 percent higher than Sotheby's Spring Sales this year, said to be a sign of a rebound in China's art market and the auction giant's strengthening presence in the region.

Different from Sotheby's past auctions in Hong Kong, which were dominated by Western collectors, this time collectors from the mainland played a very important role.

During the six-day long auction of a wide array of works, including Chinese antiques and modern paintings, contemporary Asian works and rare watches and jewelry, one of the highlights was a dragon throne, 1.4 meters wide, believed to belong to Emperor Qianlong (1711-99) of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

About 20 buyers joined the fierce competition as the throne was being auctioned, raising their paddles with great fever. Among the bidders, most were Chinese buyers, according to famous Chinese collector Ma Weidu who witnessed the bidding process.

As the hammer fell, the eye-catching antique went to a Chinese collector, fetching an extraordinary US$11.07 million, five times higher than expected.

Patti Wong, chairman of Sotheby's Asia, described the participation of Chinese collectors as "notably stronger" and said it was a vital factor if the market in China was to recover steadily.

The presence of Chinese buyers has not been confined to their homeland. Autumn auctions overseas have also seen participation increase. At the September 14 to 15 auction at Christie's New York, sales rallied to US$23.94 million and were labeled "an unmitigated triumph" that would not have been reached without the enthusiastic participation of Chinese new buyers, according to a report by the New York Times on September 25.

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