Chinese art collectors accounting for growing section of the market

Wealthy Chinese investors are changing the face of art collecting and are spending more and more on a range of art styles.

A recent report by CNBC talked about the trend for Chinese art collecting and investment and delved deeper into the types of art investors are now drawn to and what impact this is having on the market. The CNBC article cited a report by investment bank UBS and Art Basel, which found that China is now the third largest market for art, accounting for 20 per cent of a US$57bn market.

People really started to notice the rise in Chinese art collecting when industry insiders immediately assumed a Chinese collector had spent the US$450m paid for da Vinci’s ‘Salvator Mundi’ masterpiece in November 2017. CNBC suggests that although the purchaser was actually from the Middle East, the fact that all eyes turned to China tells us something about the state of the market at the moment.

The art market in Asia, through auctioneer Christies, who sold Salvator Mundi, rose by 40 per cent between the first half of 2016 and the first half of 2017, showing that the rise in art investment in China is happening very quickly.

Chinese art collectors are purchasing a range of different types of artworks. Pieces by established Old Masters is of course a popular approach for the very wealthiest who want to diversify their investment portfolios while adding some major heft to their personal collection. The most highly sought after are rarer works by artists whose work you only usually ever see in museums, such as da Vinci and Van Gogh.

The huge price paid for the da Vinci last year “is one more proof that blue chip fine art is big business and a great, unique way of investing where the value of your investment is only likely to appreciate,” according to Johnny Hon, chairman of venture capital firm The Global Group.

However, Chinese investors are also interested in contemporary art. Dealers told CNBC that the investors they work with from Asia are not risk-averse and like buying up pieces by living artists in the hope that they will become the next big thing.

Chinese fine art and ancient art is also, not surprisingly, high up on the list of artworks that wealthy investors are now looking to buy. At an auction in Beijing at the end of last year, a series of 12 Chinese landscape paintings by Zhang Daqian sold for US$171m, putting his work way up there with the very most valuable in the world.

Artnet and the China Association of Auctioneers said that Hong Kong is becoming a popular place for auction houses to do their business, while there has also been a major rise in the percentage of Chinese art actually purchased in Asia.

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