The third-largest auction house in the world, Beijing Poly International Auction, recently raised $330 million in IPO to expand its global reach. While it may be a while until it is able to compete with the major auction houses of the West, the move has some predicting a quick ascendency for China in the fine art market. Chinese art collectors have traditionally shown the most interest in contemporary Chinese art, however with changing tastes and expansion efforts to increase the number of private museum in mainland China, more and more pieces of Western art are moving to the far east. For art collectors, this may mean a trip to Beijing for high-profile fine art auctions in the future.
The Chinese auction house is part of the multi-billion dollar state-run conglomerate Poly Culture Group Corporation. Poly Group was started in 1992 by the Chinese military, doing business in real estate, arms trading, minerals and entertainment. Its total assets amount to 382.9 billion yuan, which converts to about $61 billion. As a result, Poly International Auction is the largest auction house in China and the third largest in the world, despite being only 22 years old.
East meets West
The growing demand for Western art in Eastern markets has begun to drive the exports of Western masterpieces to Chinese museums. China has been rapidly expanding its number of mainland museums in recent years, currently hosting almost 4,000 nationally. This is well beyond the goal of opening 3,500 museums by 2015 and is more than the number of museums in Italy, Britain and the Netherlands combined. While these museums will likely focus on work by local and regional artists, many are planning to exhibit Western works for educational purposes.
The surge in popularity of Western art in China is being met by a growing interest in contemporary Chinese art in the West. Artists like Ai Weiwei and Zeng Fanzhi have made great strides into western art markets. The last Venice Biennial featured 350 Chinese artists and major museums such as the Guggenheim in New York and the Musee d'Arte Moderne in Paris have made major moves toward exhibiting more contemporary Chinese art. With the growth of auction houses in China, collectors can expect to see increased access to and from the Far East.
Art collectors can browse the lots of fine art auctions from around the globe at iCollector.com.