Biography charts rise of legendary art dealer

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The Qing Dynasty item is among Chang's collections. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Over the past two decades, Chang has been a regular bidder in mainland salesrooms. And he is always easy to spot: He always sits in the front row, wearing a colored suit and a Panama hat. His fashion style reminds people of the laokele, a word in the Shanghai dialect for "old clerk", which refers to people who dress in the neat, stylish manner of the 1920s and'30s.

But the people whom he competes with in the bidding race have changed dramatically. There are now an increasing number of deep-pocketed, homegrown entrepreneurs-turned-collectors who are active players in the market.

"There are so many rich people these days," Chang says. "They no longer go to the salesroom but bid on the phone or online.

"It's very difficult for dealers to buy something good at a relatively low price."

He says he never imagined that the art market in China would grow into the big, extensive network it is today. "Objects that could fetch tens of millions used to be rare, but now, the price often exceeds the 100 million yuan threshold.

"I want to see how the market (for Chinese art) will evolve. There will be even greater changes over the next 50 years."

But however the times may have changed, Chang believes a true collector always pursues items that are genuine, topnotch and well-preserved.

"I tell people to buy nothing but antiques. You think of them from time to time. You take them out and appreciate them, and that makes you joyful."

When Chang was in Beijing for the promotional event, he was asked by an audience member about what he dreams about accomplishing at his age.

"My dream? To name all the museums in the world after me!" jokes Chang.

A self-taught connoisseur, Chang says his best teacher had been museums, which taught him what museum-quality objects should look like. He made two donations from his collections to the Suzhou Museum in the 1990s.

"I will leave my collection to the public," he says. "That is, to the museums and galleries."

The Qing Dynasty item is among Chang's collections. [Photo provided to China Daily]
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