Christie’s is making leadership changes as it continues to expand its presence in Hong Kong. The auction house is taking on Kevin Ching, who previously served as an executive at rival Sotheby’s, as chairman of Christie’s Asia.
Ching will focus on strengthening the auction house’s relationships across the region and cultivating Asian collecting globally, Christie’s announced today (May 22). He will start later this week under Francis Belin, president of Christie’s Asia Pacific.
“It is an honor to be joining Christie’s at such an important and exciting moment for the business in Asia and as the region’s art and luxury market thrives,” said Ching, who is based in Hong Kong, in a statement.
Ching was the CEO of Sotheby’s Asia from 2006 to 2021. Responsible for its strategic expansion in Asia and especially mainland China during his 15-year tenure at the auction house, he helped organize the record-breaking sales of Zhang Daqian’s $47 million Mesmerising Landscape and Barbara Hutton’s $27.4 million jadeite necklace, in addition to helping organize the world’s largest exhibition of Ming Dynasty furniture from collector Grace Wu Bruce.
After leaving Sotheby’s, Ching was replaced by Nathan Drahi, the son of Sotheby’s billionaire owner Patrick Drahi. He also previously oversaw legal and business affairs in luxury products at Dickson Concepts and was a partner at Hong Kong’s Johnson Stokes & Master law firm.
“Asia’s market momentum continues to be strong and globally influential, and Kevin’s appointment is part of Christie’s long-term and strategic commitment to enhancing our business in the region,” said Belin in a statement.
Auction houses are competing for the Asian market
Christie’s brought in a record $8.4 billion in sales in 2022, according to its annual report, which noted that the Asia Pacific region is home to the fastest-growing base of new art collectors. Of the auctioneer’s sales totals last year, 26 percent involved purchases by buyers in the region, an area which also saw buyer spend increase by 10 percent to its highest value since 2015.
Auction houses have been rapidly expanding into Asia as the region’s market for artwork grows, with a new Christie’s Asia Pacific headquarters set to open in Hong Kong in 2024. With four stories and 50,000 square feet at The Henderson, a tower designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, the site will accommodate six annual week-long auctions.
Sotheby’s is also planning to open a Hong Kong headquarters next year alongside an exhibition space and salesroom located in the region’s financial and business district. Earlier this month, it opened a new site in Shanghai, in addition to launching an official Chinese website and urging bidders to place bids through the popular Chinese messaging service WeChat.
Phillips, the third largest auction house behind Christie’s and Sotheby’s, inaugurated its new Asia headquarters in Hong Kong in March with the opening of a 52,000-square-foot site.
Meanwhile, Chinese auctioneers like Poly Auction and China Guardian have expressed intentions to source more contemporary artwork and open offices abroad to meet consumer demand and compete with Western auction houses as they rebound from Covid-19 lockdowns.