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Art market still strong amid financial crisis
Updated: 2009-03-30 18:44

BEIJING -- On opening day of the Early Spring Auction held by the Beijing Poly International Auction Co. Ltd., more than 400 buyers crowded into the salesroom. Late comers had to wait for extra seats. Even with the current global financial crisis, art lovers couldn't stay away.

Attendance is just one reason Chinese auction houses remain optimistic about the industry, which has been changing the way it does business to stay in business.

"This year we chose art work very carefully. We accepted fewer works priced as high as 10 million yuan, but it doesn't mean costly works cannot be sold. People will buy as long as they are good," Ma Zhefei, assistant to the general manager of the Beijing Poly International Auction house told Xinhua.

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On March 27, or opening day for calligraphy and paintings, the auction house sold about 80 percent of the items it put up for bidding. Sales totaled more than 17 million yuan (2.5 million US dollars), which the company called a "pleasant surprise".

The same day last year, Poly International sold 52 percent of items up for bid for 9 million yuan.

"Two main factors stimulated our auction performance. First, we included more low-price items than last year to attract more buyers. Also, we increased the number of items without a starting price, which means buyers could start bidding from zero yuan. It's like a sale," said Liu Jing, Beijing Poly spokeswoman.

Sales at another auction house also remained strong this year.

Kou Qin, vice president of the China Guardian Auctions Co. Ltd., said, "It's for sure that the economic crisis will have some effects on the domestic art auction market. But arts, unlike finance, insurance or the manufacturing industry, are not at the forefront of the global economy, so impact is limited."

On its opening days, Saturday and Sunday, Guardian Auctions sold 88 percent of its items, totaling 106 million yuan in sales. There were no comparative figures from opening weekend in 2008, however, in its four-day Spring auction it did 993 million yuan in business.

"The figures this year are pretty big. Usually, it's good enough to have around 70 percent of items sold," said Deng Jing, who is in charge of marketing at the Guardian.

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