Posted by: Frederik Balfour on October 29, 2009
Never before have I dined with so much wealth. At lunch in the newly refurbished offices of Christie’s in Hong Kong, we were surrounded on four sides by a collection of art valued between $5 million and $7 million. [The range reflects the range of estimates the works are expected to fetch at auction.] The works represented some of the best 20th century Chinese and contemporary artists: a still life by Changyu, an edgy oil by Zeng Fangzhi and whimsical piece by Liu Ye. All three artists have managed to sell well even during the darkest hours for the art market in the past 12 months.
These works will go under the hammer on November 29. This time last year the Chinese art auction market was in disarray as financial storm was still gathering force and the autumn sales saw only about half of the Chinese works sold. Ingrid Dudek, senior specialist for Chinese 20th Century Art & Asian Contemporary Art explained to me her reason for optimism. “In a market that is rebounding, the seller confidence has not recovered while the buyer confidence has.” So people are hoping to snap up works now before the market really picks up steam again, while the only sellers out there are people who bought their works long before the market went ballistic between 2006 and the first half of 2008. Vinci Chang, Vinci Chang, Vice President, Head of Sale for Chinese 20th Century & Asia Contemporary Art agrees. “Right now it’s very difficult to source top works by artists” like Zhang Xiaogang and Yue Minjun whose works sold for millions during the frothy days of 2006 to 2007. “Most owners would rather hang onto them.”
That’s the nice thing about the art market. Even though the value of your assets may be distressed you can still enjoy them on your own walls. I was grateful to eat a single meal in the company of superb art works. One can only imagine the pleasure of living with them day after day.
BusinessWeek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies. Eye on Asia’s bloggers include Asia regional editor Bruce Einhorn, Tokyo reporter Ian Rowley, Korea bureau chief Moon Ihlwan, Asia News Editor and China Bureau Chief. Dexter Roberts, and Hong Kong-based Asia correspondent Frederik Balfour.