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Chinese Art Market Today


Even for Collectors, Donating Art to a Museum Can Be Tough (August 12, 2017, New York Times) is a very interesting story about the dilemma of donating art to museum or a charitable organization. Paul Sullivan identifies a few important issues relevant to donation. Sullivan concludes that donating art to a museum is complicated, easy or difficult? depending on what you are donating and to whom you are donating. Most collectors make donations to enjoy a tax deduction. If the work goest to a museum, the donor gets the full deduction. If the art goes to a nonprofit where art is not central to this mission, the donor is eligible for only the value of the piece when it was purchased. Then, what would happen to your intended donation? 1) Any museum would say "Thank you, thank you and thank you," if you donate a Picasso worth $6 or $7 million. 2) The donation would be easier when a museum asks for it first. 3) An average donation is difficult to get approval. Being turned dowm is a reality. 4) The musuem might ask for additional money in the form of an endownment to accept your art. 5) Museums are concerned about provenance or authenticity. How to ease art collectors' stress on donating art to a museum or charity? Art professionals have some practical suggestions: 1) donating to charities where the art may be displayed or sold to finance projects; 2) donating to a midsize regional musuem or an encyclopedic museum where your works will be a focus.

As an art historian (Ph.D. in Chinese art and Tibetan Art), I support the musuem's stand on the issues. In my professional opinions, 1) a museum should be selective by accepting only works of high quality and rarity. 2) A museum should be self-sufficient by having the resources to store the donated art of average quality, if accepted. 3) A musuem should honor the patrimony laws that protect artifacts while accepting donations of questionable provenance or authenticity.

Chinese's Art Market is Booming-But Not for Foreigners (Feb. 25, 2017, by Deborah M. Lehr)The demand for Chinese art and antiquieties is booming. But despite the buying frenzy, China's domestic market remains highly controlled, with the government restricting foreign firms' access while agressively encouraging Chinese firms to expand overseas. ... China's homegrown auction market has developed rapidly. Of the world's top ten auction houses, six are now Chinese-and all but one is just a decade old. Christie's and Sotheby's in China are still banned from selling "cultural relics" meaning any artworks created before 1949. However, "Cultural Relics" are the most profitable sales in China today.

Chinese Art Buyers Go Shopping Overseas (Nov. 28, 2014, The Wall Street Journel) Wei Gu reported that "Chinese art collectors are increasingly buying overseas, following the same path taken by Chinese who invest in property or snap up luxry goods." Chinese collectors are making big headlines globally. The trend of buying overseas has tumbled the sale of high-priced works in China. China's anticorruption campaign is also hurting the sales of art in China, since art works as gifts to government officials are under scrutiny.

Artificial Han Purple Pigment Was Used in Antique Chinese Art Works (Nov. 23, 2014, Ancient Origins) April Holloway reported that Han Purle, an artificial pigment created by Chinese 2,500 years ago, was used "in wall paintings and to decorate the famous terracotta warriors, as well as ceramics, metal ware, and jewelry."

Chinese Art Market Rebounds to $ 8.5 Billion in 2013 (Sep. 17, 2014, Artnet News) Accoreing to Clare McAndrew, "Chinese Art and Antiques have played an important role in the global art market for many years, with a strong base of both private and institutional collectors...The period from 2008 through 2011 saw exceptional growth in sales in the dominant auction sector in mainland China, with aggregate values increasing by over 500%."

Confidence in the Chinese Art Market Increased by 20% in the Last Six Months (May 23, 2014, ArtTactic) Anders Petterson & Michael Sahyoun's research suggested that "Confidence among experts in the Chinese contemporary art market has been strengthening by 52% since October 2012, and is now standing at 75, up from 62 in December 2013. The current confidence reading in the Chinese contemporary art market is only 9% below the peak in May 2011, and has seen a significant recovery since the downturn in the Chinese art market during 2011 and 2012."

Study Documents 2012 Downturn in Chinese Art Market (Dec. 19, 2013, The New York Times) David Barboza & Graham Bowley reported that "China’s art auction market suffered a sharp downturn in 2012, amid a global slump in demand for Chinese art, fueled in part by concern about the many fakes that are offered for sale. ... The study found that there was a sell-through rate at auction houses in mainland China of nearly 50 percent, meaning that about half of the lots offered failed to sell. ... The study said Chinese auctions continued to be plagued by sales in which the bidder sometimes reneges on making full payment for a work long after making the winning bid. Two years ago, about 60 percent of items were paid in full or partly paid for, while about 40 percent had not been paid for at all."

Chinese Art Market Declines More Than Suggested (Dec. 18, 2013, Kelly Crow) The Wall Street Journal reported that "China's opaque, fraud-riddled art market suffered a much-steeper decline last year than industry experts previously suggested, with roughly half of the country's auction offerings going unsold in 2012, according to a report published Wednesday by a pair of auction watchdogs." Clare McAndrew, a researcher with Arts Economics, also reported that between the spring of 2011 and spring 2012, 40% of Chinese works that were auctioned for more than $1.5 milliion were still unpaid for 6 months after the fact. An additional 15% of works that fetched as much at auction were only partially paid.

Forging Art Market in China (Oct. 28, 2013) New York Times examines and comments on the booming Chinese art market. Topics discussed include the problem of nonpayments, forgery and the sale of fakes in China. It reports, "The trail of phony “antiques,” bogus paintings and fake bronzes winds throughout China these days." ... "Indeed, even as the art world marvels at China’s booming market, a six-month review by The New York Times found that many of the sales — transactions reported to have produced as much as a third of the country’s auction revenue in recent years — did not actually take place." Its investigation of Qi Baishi, one of the best-sellers, the authenticity of his works and the forgery of his fakess is timely & educational.

China's $13 Million Art Fraud --And What It Means cto You (Aug. 13, 2012) Abigail Esmanshed's insightfulstudy of the Problematic China-Based Art Market may shed light on selling Chinese art works in the China-based art market.

Where to Buy Fine Chinese Art

Buying Local is the best investment strategy. Reaching out to the European and Chinese art markets for fine art works has always been burdensome, since many art investors forgot that gold is right under your nose. Buying a fine Chinese art work at a price far under the market value is feasible if you pay attention to the local auction and retail markets.

Some observations:

  • Selling famly heirloom at a local auction house is normal. Art owners with no access to the prestigious auction market, limited sales budget, or lack of marketing skills often consider a low-cost local sales venue.
  • Selling for a lower price is standard. Sometime the sales agents lack the needed knowledge of Chinese art and visual aesthetics, thus often misidentify a less known art work.
  • Chinese art works with a desirable provenance is priceless. In the market flooded with forgery and fake, an established provenance (the chain of ownership) adds tremendous value to the subject art work.
  • Buying directly from seller is enticing. The direct seller-to-buyer transaction often entails higher profit. At least, you will save on commissions and fees charged by auction house or dealer for representation. If you are not sure about what you are buying, engaging an independent art consultant or appraiser is wise.


What to Buy

Fine Porcelains of the Republican Period Is Promising. The price of fine porceplain items of the first half of the 20th century has gone up dramatically. Paying attention to the masterpieces is always wise. Trying not to be tempted by jars with a Chinese character, " Double Happiness" motif is a must. Buyers should avoid purchasing less than perfect porcelain items.

Chinese Paintings by Female Artists Has Potentials. This is an attractive market for new collectors or collectors with a small budget. Chinese paintings by seventeen Chinese woman artists of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) are in demand. The smoothly rising statistics suggest that the value of fine classical Chinese Paintings by Female Chinese artist will continue to increase in the coming years.

Chinese Fan Paintings by Professional Artists are Collectibles. Classical Chinese fan painting has strong potentials. Market focus should be given to the performance of quality Chinese fan paintings created prior to 1949.


Quality Asian Art Appraisal Matters

We are trained Asian art specialists with a Ph.D. in Chinese art (Northwestern University, IL) and a M.A. in Buddhist art & Asian Art (Smith college, MA). We serve with professional integrity, objectivity and diligence. Our combined expertise in Chinese history, philosophy, art, religion and literature is based on our more than 25 years of professional experience with Asian art objects, doctoral training in Chinese art and years of hand-on experience as Asian art appraisers. We possess a set of specialized skills that are unmatched in the field, ranging from understanding a few Asian languages (classical & modern Chinese, Japanese, Sanskrit, etc), identifying properly the origin of an art work to the ability of conducting research in the art work's original contexts.

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