Christie's upbeat on Chinese art as credit crisis bites

Fri Oct 10, 2008 3:54am EDT
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By Miral Fahmy

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Auction house Christie's is confident global demand for Chinese and Asian art will remain firm at its autumn Hong Kong sales despite the global financial crisis seemingly cooling sales at rivals Sotheby's this week.

This week, the troubles roiling world markets put a damper on Sotheby's major biannual Hong Kong sales, which netted around half the expected total of over HK$2 billion ($258 million) with numerous unsold lots in categories like Chinese 20th century and contemporary paintings, fine Chinese ceramics and jewelry.

But wealthy collectors so far immune to the global financial crisis and solid, quality art are infusing global auction house Christie's with confidence ahead of its Hong Kong sales in November.

Jonathan Stone, international business director for Christie's Asian Art departments, told Reuters on Friday the auction house was banking on the artworks on offer, from several private collections, as well as a larger "collecting base."

"We feel confident about the auctions," he said during a preview in Singapore of the November 29-December 3 sales.

"We've got some good works, and some reasonable estimates and very nice collections in every category, and good property in any circumstances sells well. Chinese buying remains very strong of pieces of Chinese taste and also the number of new people who want to get into the art market has never been greater."

In addition to fine wines and jewelry, the sales include Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art -- popular with collectors -- classical Chinese paintings from the Ping Y. Tai Foundation, imperial Chinese lacquerwear from the Lee Family collection and a collection of Chinese contemporary art belonging to Oscar-winning Hollywood director Oliver Stone.

The total estimate for the artwork sales is about HK$102 million ($13 million).   Continued...