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Putting heart into the art

Updated: 2013-12-23 09:25
By Li Xiang ( China Daily)

In the meantime, European art fairs such as the European Fine Art Fair, have been keen on bringing Western artwork to the Chinese market as the first step to expanding Chinese demand.

"We feel there is lot of potential in China because figures show about 90 percent of art trading has taken place in the home market," Vellenga says. "So it makes sense for us to be present there, instead of only focusing on Chinese buyers traveling to Europe and the US."

Meanwhile, the art market in China that is largely dependent on a few top collectors at the top end of the value chain is slowly seeing middle and lower-end branches develop.

"Apart from the purchases at the top end, Chinese buyers have also been active in the entry level market - where sales prices start at approximately 500 euros ($680), often resulting in fierce competition," says De Vos from Christie's.

Patricia Ederhy, president of Les Puces de Saint Ouen, the largest flea market in Paris, says Chinese purchases accounted for more than 20 percent of the market's total sales revenue of 350 million euros for last year.

"I think in five years the Chinese will overtake the Americans as the biggest clients of our market because they are not only interested in Chinese art but also European art, for example, the French artwork from the Napoleon III period," she says.

To increase sales' accessibility to the Chinese buyers, international auction houses are also competing in online auction sales.

"Accessibility is key," De Vos says. "Our inaugural season of online-only auctions attracted 39 percent new buyers last year. In the first six months of this year, 46 percent of buyers at online-only auctions were new to Christie's."

The auction house conducted two exclusive online sales of Chinese artwork in July, the first exclusive Internet opportunities for collectors, De Vos says.

Liberalization issues

One of the problems for art buyers such as Dalian Wanda Group is that it will be subjected to a stiff import tax of $6 million if it plans to ship the Picasso painting back to China, experts say.

High transaction and import taxes have made China one of the most expensive and complex markets to do cross-border art trading, experts say.

Zhang Chunyan and Wang Mingjie in London contributed to the story.



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