Session - 27 November 2020
From the 1990s to the present, and almost from a standing start, China established itself as a major force in the global art market. In 2017 it emerged as the second largest art market by value after the USA, according to the 2018 Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report. It has since fallen back slightly due to a number of factors both geopolitical and art market-related.
This session investigates the current state of the Chinese art market, focusing on the auction system, on technological innovations, and on broader developments in professional practice.
Research has shown that the rapid development of the contemporary Chinese art market has been largely reliant on its auction sector. Unlike the traditional western art market, the ecology of which evolved as a close symbiosis between the primary and secondary markets, China has thus far eschewed a gallery culture, instead relying predominantly on auctions. One obvious instance of its departure from established models has been a readiness to source art directly from Chinese artists’ studios onto the auction block, a practice largely anomalous in Western markets. The vigorous promotion of Chinese contemporary art by the auction houses has resulted in a bullish demand among local collectors who favour them over more international works.
The coronavirus pandemic, meanwhile, continues to convulse the international art market in unprecedented ways, not least its impact on art fairs, live auctions and the gallery system. How is the Chinese art market addressing these challenges? To what extent are private treaty sales, online auctions and other technological innovations providing a productive workaround for the market’s core institutions? What does the post-Covid future look like for the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong art markets?