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SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Move over Chinese contemporary, the head of one of Asia's leading private art auction houses sees Southeast Asian and Korean works as the next big thing on the Asian scene -- which he predicted would hold up against the troubles roiling the world's financial markets.
Daniel Komala, CEO of Larasati Auctioneers, told Reuters that Southeast Asian and Korean artworks were bargains compared to the record-setting prices of Chinese contemporary works, and their quality was just as good.
"We have to thank Chinese art for dragging up the rest of Asia, but the party has to end and contemporary works are experiencing something of a correction now," Komala said on Tuesday ahead of Larasati's October 11 "Pictures of Asia" modern art auction in Singapore.
"The next big thing is a mixed bag, and Southeast Asian and Korean art are making big progress," he said, naming Korean artists Yi Hwan Kwon and Lee Yong-Deok, as well as Indonesian R.E. Hartanto among his favorites.
Larasati, which held its first auction in Singapore in the middle of the SARS respiratory disease crisis in 2003, hspecializedas always specialised in Asian art.
It also holds sales in Europe and Komala said the auction house had helped bring reknown to several Asian artists including China's Yue Minjun and Indonesia's Nyoman Masriadi.
For the past few years, auction rooms in London, New York and Hong Kong have crackled with fierce interest in Chinese contemporary art as prices broke record after record.
But the global financial turmoil appears to have caught up with this red-hot market, with bidders failing to buy top-flight paintings on Saturday at a major Sotheby's auction in Hong Kong, a key twice-yearly barometer of market sentiment among the world's top collectors.
Komala said he expected "overpriced" works of art to suffer, but believed the Asian market as a whole was still resilient because there was demand from legions of newly rich in the rapidly growing economies of China and India, as well as the oil-fueled boom in the Gulf.
"When any kind of financial crisis happens some people will get very poor, but for some people its a zero-sum game and we now have a lot more people with a lot more money," he said.
"It would be naive to say that if there was a meltdown all over the world the art world would not be affected, but we also have to realize the art world is a little bit different than the real world," Komala added.
Editing by David Fox