Chinese Auction Houses Lead World Market, Study Says

nude green leaves and bust by picasso Chinese Auction Houses Lead World Market, Study Says

Some believe that Picasso's "Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur," which sold at Christie's New York for $106.5 million, the most ever paid for an artwork at auction, was purchased by a Chinese collector. (Photo: Christie's)

The rapid ascent of the Chinese art market and auction business is far from a secret at this point, but an article in the The New York Times about the phenomenon makes a few key points about developments in that field, including the fact that, according to art-market research company Artprice, Chinese auction houses may now be the world leader in sales, moving $8.3 billion of goods a year.

In addition, Chinese bidders are also suspected of winning major lots at various international auctions in recent years. Some believe a Chinese bidder nabbed the Picasso that sold for a record-setting $106.5 million at Christie’s New York last year, and a Chinese bidder is known to have acquired a $31 million Imperial scroll painting at an auction in France in March, a record for an auction lot in that country.

Christie’s Asia president François Curiel told The Times that wealthy Chinese collectors are seeing “the Arnaults and the Pinaults of the world” and their hefty art holdings, and they want to keep up. Mr. Curiel explained, “They see works of art on their walls, and think, ‘If I want to be not just a millionaire but someone who plays with the big boys, I’d better be someone who collects art.”

On the other hand, the dealer-turned-MOCA Los Angeles director Jeffrey Deitch urged observers to avoid making broad generalizations about the market. “It’s always individuals — it’s not ‘the Chinese,’ ” Mr. Deitch told the paper. “It’s important to understand who you’re talking about.”

Sotheby’s vice chairman for Asian art Henry Howard-Sneyd offered this characterization of the new Chinese buyers: “These are successful business people with huge amounts of money at their disposal.”