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Characteristics of The Chinese Art Market in 2017 (Art Market Monitor of Artron , AMMA)

The “Quality over Quantity” strategy of Chinese Art Auction Market has paid off

In 2017, the Chinese Fine Art market continued to shift away, at a steady pace, from a  » Speed Seeking » auction strategy to a « Quality seeking » one. No doubt, in the future, the high-end and high-value lots will continue to appear in the auction markets. According to the available statistics from Art Market Monitor of Artron (AMMA), in 2017 the Chinese Fine Art market offered 280,800 lots, remaining at a similar level compared to 2016; however, the sold rate dropped by 3% with a result of 31.84%. It is worth mentioning that, although the total transaction volume has been decreasing in the past three years, the turnover of Chinese fine art auction in 2017 has actually reached a new high at $5.103 billion, a 5.44% rise compared to last year’s figure. So, after the “speculative bubble” movement, the Chinese fine art auction market has seen a moderate success in adjusting lots structures and improving lots quality, especially in the continuous offering high-end and high-value lots. This success has definitely boosted the confidence among art collectors and investors.

Fine Art Auction Sales Trend in China (2008-2017)

Fine Art Auction Sales Trend in China (2008-2017)

Fine Art Auction Turnover Trend in China (2008-2017)

T2-Fine Art Auction Turnover Trend in China (2008-2017)

According to the available statistics from Art Market Monitor of Artron (AMMA), in 2017 Chinese mainland’s Fine Art auction had a $3.832 billion turnover; but Hong Kong had a slightly higher sold rate with 49.02%, which was 1.55% higher than the mainland’s. In the city rankings, the top 10 of the Chinese Fine Art auction cities by value are: Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, China Taipei, Nanjing, Jinan, Tianjin, and Xiamen. The fine art market prosperity in these cities can be credited to: the balanced developments of the local art environment, relatively stable and organized primary/secondary markets, and academic developments i.e. auctions, exhibitions/art fairs, art education, etc.

Share of Fine Art Auction Turnover in China (2017)

Share of Fine Art Auction Turnover in China (2017)

The exceptional performance of the Chinese art market in 2017 was not unexpected. On the one hand, due to the uncertainties in real estate and stock markets, more cash flowed into high-quality, rare, and authentic works of art which were considered to have a steady return. Plus, the market is gradually accepting the art and antique markets as ideal opportunities for long-term investment. On the other hand, Chinese collectors and investors have been seen to return to traditional Chinese works of art. Although a few years ago, the substantial success of western art on the international market attracted a large number of Chinese collectors and investors away from the Chinese art, after the down-turn, those collectors and investors refocused on the artworks with traditional Chinese cultural values, especially high-quality, rare, and authentic Chinese works of art.

Chinese Painting and Calligraphy – High-quality Works were in the Market

In 2017, the Chinese Painting and Calligraphy market had a good result with 269,400 lots offered, 82,400 artworks sold, and a turnover of $4.173 billion. By value, it was achieved 5.31% growth compared to last year, and a 4% growth compared to 2015. This is partly due to auction houses securing important commissions. The high-value and high-quality artworks: over $100 million, successfully attracted attention from the art collectors. Also investing in Chinese painting and calligraphy artwork, was considered to be an ideal hedge against inflation and risk by the investors, resulting in a capital flow into the Chinese Painting and Calligraphy market.

Chinese Painting and Calligraphy Auction Sales Trend in China

Chinese Painting and Calligraphy Auction Sales Trend in China

Chinese Painting and Calligraphy Auction Turnover Trend in China

Chinese Painting and Calligraphy Auction Turnover Trend in China

According to the available statistics of Art Market Monitor of Artron (AMMA), the sold rate of Classical Chinese Painting and Calligraphy in 2017 was 34.09%, the lowest in the last three years. However, the total turnover was the highest since 2015. This year turnover increased by nearly 5% compared to the figure in 2016, and by 50.81% compared to the figure in 2015. Therefore, 2017 was the year of Classical Chinese Painting and Calligraphy. At a time of overall economic downturn, the fact that collectors were still willing to buy and sell their high-quality Classical Painting and Calligraphy works in auction, fully demonstrated that the value of Classical Chinese Painting and Calligraphy was highly recognized by the market and was not affected by the overall economic downturn.

In 2017, the Modern Painting and Calligraphy market also developed significantly. According to the available statistics of Art Market Monitor of Artron (AMMA), from 2015 to 2017, the Modern Painting and Calligraphy sector has constantly decreased by volume, but increased in value. The total market turnover in 2017 was 18.72% higher than last year, and 27.37% higher than in 2015

Although the Contemporary Calligraphy and Painting sector drew less attention in comparison to the Classical and Modern sectors, auction houses have retained many successful and unique contemporary artists after years of adjustment and screening. In the Contemporary Calligraphy and Painting market, the artists can be divided into three groups, « Classic, Mainstream, and Avant-garde ». Zhang Ding, Li Xiaoke, Jia Youfu, and artists with years of training in the Classical painting style constitute the “Classic” group of artists. Feng Yuan, Shi Guoliang, Chen Ping and those who integrate both traditional artistic styles and innovation in their painting, represent the major group of “Mainstream” artists. And Zhu Xinjian, Li Jin, Zhou Jingxin and other New Literati Painting artists are the “Avant-garde” artists in the Contemporary Calligraphy and Painting market.

The Chinese Oil Painting and Contemporary Art market’s Steady Recovery

In 2017, the Chinese Fine Art auction market for Oil Painting and Contemporary Art achieved a turnover of $965 million with 6,794 lots sold. Although the number of lots sold has fallen by 2.16% year-on-year, the overall auction turnover had risen by 2.18%. The results of “Quality-Seeking” and “Lots-Structure Adjusting” auction strategies are obvious.

Oil Painting and Contemporary Art Auction Turnover

Oil Painting and Contemporary Art Auction Turnover

Oil Painting and Contemporary Art Auction Average Price Trend in China

Oil Painting and Contemporary Art Auction Average Price Trend in China

In 2017, Chinese Fine Art auction market experienced good overall conditions and the market for Oil Painting and Contemporary Art was stable. Oil Painting and Contemporary Art revenues only accounted for about 10% of those for achieved for the total revenue of the Chinese Art auction market. However, the average annual price of the lots sold rose, i.e., in 2014: $93,000; in 2015: $102,000; in 2016: $136,000; in 2017: $143,000. In the long run, it has shown positive growth. The average price of Oil Painting and Contemporary Art in 2017’s autumn auction was $135,700 which was the highest among fine art auction categories.

Top 20 Chinese Oil Painting and Contemporary Art auction performances in 2017

Rank Artist Artwork Hammer Price ($) Auction House Auction Date
1 ZAO Wou-Ki (1921-2013) 29/01/64 (1964) 26,063,885 Christie’s Hong Kong 25 Nov. 2017
2 CHEN Yifei (1946-2005) Warm Spring In The Jade Pavilion (1993) 22,600,151 China Guardian 19 Dec. 2017
3 ZAO Wou-Ki (1921-2013) 29/09/64 (1964) 20,496,874 Christie’s Hong Kong 27 May. 2017
4 ZENG Fanzhi (b. 1964) Mask Series 1996 No. 6 (1996) 14,145,551 Poly Hong Kong 3 Apr. 2017
5 Andy WARHOL (1928-1987) Mao (1973) 13,272,398 Sotheby’s Hong Kong 2 Apr. 2017
6 ZHU Yuanzhi (1906-1963) Wheels: Industrial New York (1932) 13,210,676 Sotheby’s Hong Kong 30 Sep. 2017
7 SAN Yu (1901-1966) Flowers In A White Vase (1930) 9,984,281 Christie’s Hong Kong 27 May. 2017
8 SAN Yu (1901-1966) Léopard (1931) 9,964,078 Sotheby’s Hong Kong 30 Sep. 2017
9 SAN Yu (1901-1966) Vase Of Chrysanthemums With Red Ground (1930-1940) 9,781,745 Ravenel 4 Jun. 2017
10 ZAO Wou-Ki (1921-2013) 09/01/63 (1963) 9,540,608 Sotheby’s Hong Kong 30 Sep. 2017
11 ZAO Wou-Ki (1921-2013) 24/03/59-31/12/59 (1959) 7,698,987 Poly Hong Kong 2 Oct. 2017
12 LUO Zhongli (b. 1948) Spring Silkworm (1982) 7,475,435 China Guardian 19 Jun. 2017
13 SAN Yu (1901-1966) Pink Chrysanthemums In A White Vase (1931) 7,470,122 Poly Hong Kong 3 Apr. 2017
14 WU Guanzhong (1919-2010) The Great Fall Of Tanzania (1975) 6,736,614 Poly Hong Kong 2 Oct. 2017
15 ZHOU Chunya (b. 1955) China Scenery (1993) 6,693,122 China Guardian 19 Dec. 2017
16 SAN Yu (1901-1966) Bouquet Of Marguerites (1931) 6,525,620 Christie’s Hong Kong 25 Nov. 2017
17 ZAO Wou-Ki (1921-2013) 08/11/1979 (1979) 6,380,892 Christie’s Hong Kong 25 Nov. 2017
18 WU Dayu (1903-1988) Flower In Vase (1950s) 6,258,503 Xiling Yinshe 23 Dec. 2017
19 Gerhard RICHTER (b. 1932) Abstraktes Bild (679-2) (1988) 6,152,853 Sotheby’s Hong Kong 30 Sep. 2017
20 Jean-Michel BASQUIAT (1960-1988) Water-Worshipper (1984) 5,695,867 Sotheby’s Hong Kong 2 Apr. 2017
© AMMA

According to Art Market Monitor of Artron (AMMA) available statistics, in the top 100 works by value in China art auctions in 2017, 28 of them were Oil Painting and Contemporary Artworks. 82.14% of the 28 works were painted by Chinese artists. Collectors have recognized the works by Chinese artists, they were willing to offer high prices for works with high academic value or for iconic works by masters.

Among these, 20th Century artist’s work proved to be both more numerous and more expensive. For example, Zao Wou-Ki’s oil painting « 29.01.64 », which combines Abstract Expressionism and Abstract Calligraphy, took the top spot in last autumn’s auction with $25.9 million at Christie’s Hong Kong for a total turnover of $155.7 million.

In addition, the Early 20th Century Oil Painting section also had remarkable results. The success of famous artists, like Chang Yu and Wu Dayu attracted the attention to this market and boosted collectors’ confidence. Chang Yu’s personal turnover reached $36 million. His works were sold in multiple auction houses including Sotheby’s Hong Kong, Christie’s Hong Kong, Ravenel Auction Taipei, and Beijing Poly’s International. His work « Flowers in a White Vase » fetched $10.4 million breaking the auction record for his flower paintings. As market awareness for this category is gradually raising, auction houses must optimize their sales structures and offer better quality artworks if they want to succeed in the market.

Chen Yifei, Zeng Fanzhi, Luo Zhongli, and Zhou Chunya are four Chinese Contemporary artists in the top 100 Chinese art auction by value in 2017. They had a total turnover of $53.67 million. The late oil painter Chen Yifei 1993 work « Warm spring in the jade pavilion » sold for $22.6 million, leading the top 100 list. Also this year, the works by non-Chinese artists in Hong Kong auctions also yielded some good results. Artists like Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Yayoi Kusama all had high-value lots sold, which promoted the development of Chinese Oil Painting market. After the previous adjustment of the auction market, the current market tends to appear more calm and rational. With the increase in appreciation, and the development of connoisseurship in society, the future of Chinese Oil Painting market will become more stable and steady.

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