If the world did not have problems enough speculating about future failures of single currencies and the threat of climate changes. The US and Europe are now competing with a very serious and rapidly growing Asian art market. China is the elephant in the room of many discussions concerning politics, economics, and the environment, yet the contemporary art market did not appear to be a topic of contest with record sales coming from the major art auction houses across Europe and with the success of Frieze in New York recently. It appears that this may be an area that China, at the very least, is also exploring more seriously.
It was not until 1985 that art auction houses existed in China but the growth has been overwhelming in more recent years. The first auction house in Shanghai was established in 1993 and by 1994 other auction houses had established themselves and were reaching a record $3.9million in sales. The figures and growth of the Chinese market are not all that they seem. Unfortunately a large portion of the data recorded with regards to the Chinese art market is reported by the Art Market Research Center which is closely linked to the Chinese ministry of culture and has limited verification by outside sources. This creates problems establishing the actual growth of the market and conducting research into the importance and sales of contemporary art as opposed to work that is classified as “antiques”.
The UK should remain open to the idea of increasing the sales of Asian art through it’s vast network of art auctions and private sales. Asia remains a largely untapped resource in the contemporary art world and although China appears to be at the forefront of discussions, other Asian countries are producing innovative and cutting edge work that could be incorporated and explored further in the UK and Europe. This stream of thought appears to be trickling into the art market concise of Britain through recent shows that have included the work of Ai Weiwei and the upcoming major sale of South Asian artists taking place at Bonhams in June. The Asian art market is booming yet that is no reason for Europe and Britain to fear as a greater understanding of how the market works in Asia is reached and meaningful relationships and exchanges are created.
Words: Portia Pettersen Image based on painting created by: Zhang Xiaogang