Chinese art market soars as int’l investors look east

A report published this week by UBS and Art Basel showed that the Chinese art market reversed a two-year decline with sales leaping 14% last year to a total of $13.2bn.

The Art Market 2018, an annual report analysing the global art industry and produced by UBS and Art Basel, reveals that the US was the largest market worldwide, accounting for 42% of sales by value. China leapfrogged the UK to come second with 21% market share. Britain is in third place with 20% of the global market, followed by France.

Asia accounted for 23% of global sales in 2017, while Asian buyers made 15% of global transactions through intermediaries. Chinese buyers alone have taken the lion’s share with 10%, a significant increase compared to the much thinner 4% of 2016 which again shows the continued growth of purchasing power in Asia.

A major investment opportunity
Art has become increasingly recognised as a major investment opportunity, with Chinese and Asian art experiencing particularly steep appreciation in value. The industry has grown partly on the back of huge auctions of modern and contemporary Asian art held by large auction houses such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s in Hong Kong and Shanghai, in particular.

Yet compared with other industries, the global art market is notoriously difficult to value and monitor.

Nonetheless the dizzying rise of some artists’ work is exemplified by China, home of such stars as Ai Weiwei and Yue Minjun. In December, Qi Baishi’s set of ink-brush panels, Twelve Landscape Screens, sold for $141m – the first time a Chinese artist’s work has sold for more than $100m.

The online art market has grown by 72% over the past five years, reaching an estimated value of $5.4bn in 2017. Art fairs accounted for 46% of sales through intermediaries in 2017 and aggregate sales were priced at $15.5bn.

Christopher Copper-Ind
Christopher Copper-Ind is Publisher and Editor of International Investment.

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