Remember what you have been told about the Chinese contemporary art market? Well, now might be a good time for a rethink. The market is changing fast, and some developments can be downright misleading.
Here are the five most often heard myths, and why they should be consigned to the dustbin.
The market in China has grown faster than any other markets in the world over the past ten years, with its fair deals of side effects – positives and negatives.
What we are witnessing now is as impressive as its growth:
its capacity to change and adapt to new realities, in a fraction of time compared to the Western art market’s long history.
By Alexandre Errera (source and full article here)
1. It’s All About Speculation
The Myth: There are no collectors, only investors. Chinese are great gamblers, and art, as an unregulated market is nothing but another Macau. Just look at the number of art funds in China: they represent a whopping 70% of the global market, according to Deloitte.
The Reality: Art funds usually close quickly, and are increasingly under the scrutiny of the government. In addition, there are real Chinese collectors, who don’t focus on profit, and instead spend the money to open museums or foundations, such as K11 or the Long Museum. There are also serious galleries and artists, for whom selling to the right person is more important than printing an invoice. They’ve learned the lessons. Are there still buyers who speculate? Of course – but just like in any other art market in the world.
2. It’s All About Forgery
The Myth: Forgery, fakes, copies, you name it – the entire art market in China is full of it. They are the rule, not the exception. These fakes are so good that even the experts cannot tell the difference. Take the example of an ink painting by Chinese master Qi Baishi, which “sold” for $65.4 million two years ago, but still sits in a warehouse because of doubts over its authenticity. In turn, this creates inflated numbers for the market.
The Reality: No question that fakes are a major problem when dealing with antiquities and traditional art in China, but this is not the case with contemporary art. The artist is alive, and the studio can authenticate works quite easily. It seems obvious, but this reason alone precludes the contemporary art market in China to become flooded with fakes. Are figures inflated? This debate is endless, but what is certain is that while China was nowhere on the map 10 years ago, it’s now in the top 3 markets in the world.
3. There Are No Rules
The Myth: Put a work at auction in China, and pray to be paid. Buy a work at auction, and pray to get delivered. Forget about rules in the private sales market. And good luck taking your claim into a Chinese court.
The Reality: This is changing fast. Why did China recently welcome Christie’s and Sotheby’s in their territory? It’s not for charity. It’s to learn and adjust. As Mr. Zhang, Head of the Auction Associations in China said: “Bringing Western auction houses was like putting a crocodile in a pond. It makes the fish swim faster.” As the Chinese market opens up, it will have to embrace more standards and rules in order to compete globally, not just locally. That will, in time, create a more transparent market.
4. It’s Only a Local Market
The Myth: Only Chinese collectors buy contemporary art from China and they don’t buy anything else.
The Reality: The market is becoming far more international. Buyers of Chinese contemporary art are from all over the world, and this will increasingly be the case. On our platform, artshare.com, we now see about 40% of the buyers coming from Western countries against 60% from the local market. With the number of international venues increasing quickly for Chinese artists, no doubt that this trend will continue. Similarly, as Francois Curiel, CEO of Christie’s Asia told us in a video interview, “Chinese buyers are also beginning to buy European and American contemporary art.” A recent example of this was when Wang Jianlin, China’s richest man, bought a $28 million Picasso at auction.
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