Chinese art market in free fall – June 2012 ArtTactic report

Does the plummet in Chinese auction sales bode a return to a 2008 crash market?

On 22 June 2012, ArtTactic released a new report on the Chinese art market that contains signs of a significant slowdown in auction sales. China’s four highest-selling auction houses have experienced a 43 percent drop since the same time in 2011.

A photo from Sotheby's Hong Kong Twentieth Century Chinese Art sale held on 2 April 2012.

Click here to download the full contemporary Chinese art maket report on ArtTactic’s website (subscription needed).

Auction results from 2011 confirmed the Chinese art market as the largest in the world, yet results from spring 2012 sales exhibit signs of a slowing market.

The total auction sales (all categories) this spring from the Big Four (Sotheby’s Hong Kong, Christie’s Hong Kong, China Guardian, and Poly Auction) have dropped 32 percent from USD2.2 billion in autumn 2011 to USD1.5 billion this spring. The overall result is 43 percent lower than the peak of the Chinese art market in spring 2011.

Among the Big Four, China Guardian suffered the largest abatement in overall sales, with a sales total 45 percent lower than that of autumn 2011. Despite a drop of 39 percent, Poly Auction still managed to claim the top position with a USD485 million sales total, 36 percent higher than Christie’s, who came in second.

Though the sell-through rates for Sotheby’s and Christie’s spring auctions were relatively high, Asian modern works clearly outnumbered and outsold contemporary. The flight to more established artists may be a result of collectors shifting their art investments to works with greater longevity and less risk exposure.


Related Topics: art investment, market watch – auctions, market watch – recession, resources

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Chinese art market in free fall – June 2012 ArtTactic report — 3 Comments

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  3. It doesn’t seem like 2008 at all, which fell mainly because A.) Western buyers stopped buying much art in general post-economic-crash, and B.) in 2008 there were few Chinese buyers to pick up the slack.

    Now more Chinese art, whether modern or contemporary, is bought by Chinese/Asian collectors. Lower volumes in 2012 vs. spring 2011 aren’t just about buyers, they’re about supply and the quality of work on the market. People who bought good Chinese art over the past few years are hanging onto it and Chinese auction houses are having a harder time procuring the works that Chinese buyers want — hence, you see Guardian and Poly holding sourcing events in Australia and the US looking for good art & antiques they can sell back in China.

    Now that people are hanging onto the top works in their collections, volume will necessarily be down and will fluctuate in the months ahead. It’ll take a few years for the newer Chinese artists to make up for the lost revenue, but — as they did in 2010-2011 — ultimately they will.

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