Chinese art market cools in wake of financial turmoil

Fri Oct 3, 2008 6:47am EDT
 
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By James Pomfret

HONG KONG (Reuters) - The bullish Chinese art market will likely come under increasing strain in the coming months amid the bleak global economic outlook, say dealers and market participants ahead of major seasonal sales in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong's twice-yearly Asian arts sales in the spring and autumn are a major fixture in the global arts calendar, attracting the world's top dealers and collectors to the city, which is now considered the world's third-largest art auction hub after London and New York.

Valuations for top-flight Asian artwork, particularly Chinese contemporary paintings have sky-rocketed in recent years, with record-breaking prices for works by blue-chip artists like Zhang Xiaogang and Zeng Fanzhi boosted by speculative frenzy.

A Zeng painting of masked figures fetched $9.7 million this spring, a then-auction record for any Asian contemporary artwork.

Global auction house Sotheby's will kick off its autumn sales this weekend from October 4-8, with a trove of Asian art up for grabs including Chinese ceramics and paintings, rare Qing treasures, Southeast Asian artwork, jewelry and watches.

But some market players say demand is waning amid the global turmoil, with prices set to cool after the sustained bull run.

"I have a lot of clients from overseas, from the States and Europe and they won't want to attend the auction because the Dow went down so much," said Kevin Lin, a fine art dealer in Taiwan.

"There will be a lot of unsold pieces let's say HK$800,000 to $HK3-4 million," Lin said of Chinese ceramics. "Prices are not going to go crazy like before, but stay at the lower estimates."   Continued...

 
<p>Figures by Japanese artist Yabuuchi Satoshi, depicting the spiritual world of traditional Japanese, are displayed in a booth at the Hong Kong International Arts and Antiques Fair October 3, 2008. The bullish Chinese art market will likely come under increasing strain in the coming months amid the bleak global economic outlook, say dealers and market participants ahead of major seasonal sales in Hong Kong. REUTERS/Bobby Yip</p>