According to Thierry Ehrmann, founder and CEO of Artprice, the world leader in art market information, “this unprecedented news represents a turning point in the history of the global art market: China is now the number 1 in terms of Fine art auction revenue”. It took just three years for China to jump from third place (previously occupied by France) in 2007 to first place in 2010, ahead of the UK and the USA, the grand masters of the market since the 1950s.
To reverse the polarity of the global art market from West to East, China has done without artifices such as hypothetical or extrapolated figures from art galleries (an opaque market compared to public auctions) or even that of furniture or traditional Chinese art objects (the prices of which are shooting up worldwide). Since the 1950s, the reference ranking for the art market has been that of Fine Art at Public Auctions.
In 2010, China accounted for 33% of global Fine Art sales (paintings, installations, sculptures, drawings, photography, prints), versus 30% in the USA, 19% in the UK and 5% in France.
Moreover, there were 4 Chinese artists in the Top-10 ranking of global artists by auction revenue for 2010 (vs. 1 in 2009), the lowest of who generated $112 million dollars during the year. QI Baishi was in second place behind Andy WARHOL and ahead of his compatriot ZHANG Daqian; XU Beihong took sixth place with a total of $176m and FU Baoshi was ninth. The younger generation of Chinese artists is now imposing itself even more forcefully that their older counterparts: More than half of the 2010 global Top 10 of Contemporary artists are Chinese (ZENG Fanzhi, CHEN Yifei, WANG Yidong, ZHANG Xiaogang, LIU Xiaodong and LIU Ye) compared with just three Americans (Jean-Michel BASQUIAT, Jeff KOONS and Richard PRINCE).
The heart of the market now beats in Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai, the new driving hubs of the global art market. In 2010 Sotheby’s Hong Kong revenue amounted for 2%. At the same time, Christie’s 2010 Hong Kong total was 2,5% and China’s big 4 annual revenues were: Poly International (7,4%), China Guardian (5,32%), Beijing Council (2,07%), Hanhai Art Auction in Beijing (2,74%).
Not only has China’s economic strength (second global power in 2010) boosted its art market and projected its culture around the world, but China’s art sector has benefited from the support of its government and of Chinese collectors who are as patriotic as they are prompt to invest. China has understood the Power of Art in the history of nations. In addition, the number of auction records for Chinese artworks is bound to increase as the number of Chinese billionaires rises by 20% per year through 2014 vs. 5.6% p.a. for the rest of the planet.