Late in the last decade, the auction houses made a conscious decision to relocate Chinese Contemporary art sales to Hong Kong in both an offensive and defensive move. The goal was to generate more domestic interest in the artists of Asia among the newly wealthy collectors of China. But the defensive side of the move seemed to recognize a slowing interest among Western collectors in living Chinese artists. Some prominent collections amassed by Westerners were sold.
Curiously, works by Chinese Contemporary artists have begun to seep back into sales in New York and London. Jing Daily points out that London’s upcoming Contemporary art sales contain a number of important Chinese works. The Zhang Xiaogang above will be offered in Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening sale. The auction houses anticipate strong competition from Western and Chinese buyers; and they’re coming into London with momentum built in Hong Kong a few weeks ago:
Christie’s Hong Kong did particularly well in the spring sales, coming within a hair of its high estimate of $22,866,350 with a total take of $22,628,450. Christie’s also sold the highest-priced lot of the season, Zeng Fanzhi’s Society, which went for $3.38 million. In all, 14 of the artist’s works were sold, generating $10 million, accounting for 13 percent of the overall Chinese contemporary art sales for the season, and creating high expectations for the work now coming on the block in London.
The prominence of Chinese artists at the upcoming sale reflects London’s position as a growing global hub for Chinese contemporary art, as European collectors continue to gain interest and wealthy Chinese buyers travel abroad in ever-increasing numbers. It’s a trend that will be augmented in coming years by the continued mobility of China’s wealthy, and the construction of the recently announced new Chinese financial district at London’s Royal Albert Dock.