China¡¯s Art Market in 2009

Paraphrased by Beijing Budding Flower International Cultural Promotions Co., Ltd.
From Fan Lijie’s article published on “Calligraphy Weekly” on Jan. 27, 2010


2009 saw some surprises in China’s art market amidst the dark clouds of international financial crisis. So, what happened in 2009?

 A.The Auction of Calligraphy Pieces Went up to RMB 100 Million In November 2009, the only existing calligraphy work of Zeng Gong [1]--a letter leaf was sold at RMB 108.64 million, setting a new auction record for China’s calligraphy category.
The photo above is a hand scroll written by Zhu Xi [2] and Zhang Jingxiu [3] was auctioned at China Guardian Auction House at RMB 100.8 million. The Poly Auction, Beijing Hanhai Auction and the Auction House of Xiling Printing all achieved record high results in 2009. Like 2003 and 2005, China’s art market did well in 2009, during which four pieces were sold over RMB 100 million, and two of them were those mentioned above.
B.The State Exercised the Pre-emptive Right over Letters to Hu Shi [4]
In 2009, China Guardian Auction House gathered from overseas “Letters to Hu Shi from his Friends”, which have never been exposed to the public. Among them, thirteen were from Chen Duxiu, the founder of Chinese Communist Party; eleven were from Liang Qichao, key sponsor of the Hundred Day Reform, most influential scholar of China Studies; three were from Xu Zhimo, the famous poet. All these letters were auctioned at RMB 7.448 million. The letters written by Chen Duxiu have extreme important historic value for them referred to a number of historic events, and were sold at RMB 5.544 million, a record high of the auction of the letter category. Most importantly, the State Bureau of Relics exercised the right of pre-emption on Chen’s letters, such a behavior, arousing wide attention in the society, was based on the new “Law of Relics” promulgated in 2002. The action is a pioneering trial for collection by the state in a fair mechanism.
C.Galleries Fared with Difficulties
The impact of the international financial storm was obvious in galleries. The 798 Art Galleries managed with difficulties, some work studios and galleries moved out. The public notice board was covered by the news of re-letting and transfer of space. It was the same story in Shanghai and Guangzhou. The nation-wide transaction data shrinked. In the antique market, only a few stores performed well. Some experts said that it was not al all a bad thing to have the over-heated market be cooled down by a basin of cold water.
D.New Approaches under the Cultural Policies  “Plans to Revitalize Cultural Industry” was released in 2009 and aroused much attention, because, China’s cultural industry has taken up 2.6% of the total GDP in 2008, its annual rate of growth has been over 17%, and China has taken the development of cultural industry, which will have an impact on China’s future in an irresistible manner and with its speed, as one of its important state strategy. As far as the collectors are concerned, “The Ways of Administering the Affirmation of Cultural Relics” that came into force on October 1, 2009 would allow ordinary collectors to have access to the administrative departments of cultural relics for affirmation matters. Aside from allowing owners, holders, citizens, legal persons and other organizations apply in written form for affirmation of cultural relics; the document also requires the administrative organs to set up working mechanism for ranking the relics collected by non-government entities.
E.The Transaction Value by Eight Houses Was over RMB 8 Billion 
The Autumn Session of China Guardian Auction House in 2009
 Chen Duxiu’s letter to Hu Shi on auction
The total transaction by China Guardian Auction House in 2009 was RMB 2.712 billion, 50.7% than RMB 1.8 billion, which was the total in 2008; the total transaction of each of Poly and Hong Kong CHRISTIE'S all surpassed RMB 1.5 billion. The total transaction by Sotheby’s in Hong Kong, Beijing Hanhai, Sungari International Auction all did quite well, their transaction surpassed that in the spring session. It is estimated that the eight biggest auctions houses including China Guardian, Poly, Beijing Hanhai, Beijing Council, Sungari International, Xiling of Hangzhou, Beijing Huachen and Beijing Rongbao 26,928 pieces of relics and artistic items were sold with a value over RMB 8.66 billion, the total of which of 2008 was only RMB 5.4 billion.
F.Guardian Is Still the Leader  In 2009, in the six categories that include Chinese traditional painting and calligraphy, porcelain and arts and crafts, oil painting and sculpture and photograph, rare ancient books, stamps and coins and bronze mirrors, pearls and emeralds, over 22,000 pieces were sold, the total turn over was RMB 600 million in the spring session, and by the autumn session, it went up to RMB 1.5 billion, and reached a record high in 16 years of the founding of the auction house. Among that figure, the total transaction figure of Chinese traditional painting and calligraphy was as high as RMB 1.941 billion, the highest of its kind in the whole world. Such records consolidated Beijing’s position as one of the four major art auction centers alogn side London, New York and Hong Kong. 
G.Funds Poured in and Pushed up Prices
  The roaring of the art market is closely related to a huge injection of funds. There have been some sort of descriptions of Wenzhou house buying group, tourist security buying group, zhejiang painting buying group, Xian painting buying group, all of them have injected much funds into the market. Experts say in the anticipation of inflation, buying artistic items has the same effect as buying houses. The economic growth has also stimulated the need of cultural and artistic products. In recent years, Chinese buyers of artistic articles have shown their abilities. Many of them do not show up at the auction, yet what they spent was dozens or hundreds of million in orders to get state treasure like pieces. It could be said that over night one “crocodile” after another has come up the water. Of course, the booming of the market owes a great deal to the auction houses who managed to gather so many top grade and high level articles for auction. It is also observed that the buyers are not only collectors, but also investment funds.
H. The Most Active Couple  The sky high price at the auctions was not only caused by the provision of high level artistic pieces, but also the efforts of those Chinese buyers who were determined to get what they liked at whatever prices. Most notably are Mr. Chen Yu, Chairman of Shanghai Tianheng Auction Co., Ltd. Mr. Liu Yiqian, Chairman of Shanghai Xinliyi Company, the famous collector from Taiwan, Mr. Lin Baili and one anonymous buyer from Shanxi. It was calculated that these top level buyers contributed at least RMB 1.5 billion in 2009 to the auction market, and over 5,000 pieces of articles ended in their hands. The financial Tycoon from Shanghai, Mr. Liu Yiqian, ranked the 176th on Hupper’s list with an asset worth of RMB 5 billion, and his wife Mrs. Wang Wei were most active. They spent RMB 169 million for Wu Bin’s “Eighteen Erhats” at the night auction of Poly; Mr. Liu got hold of Chen Yifei’s “The Flute Player”, “Still of Precious Poultry” by Emperor Huizong of Song, “Auspicious Scene” of the Song Dynasty and Chen Yifei’s “Strolling” with RMB 83.44 million, 61.71 million, 58.24 million and 40.43 million respectively; he also got the emperor’s sandal wood chair at HK Sotheby’s with 75.57 million; his wife, Mrs. Wang Wei got a contemporary art work by Liu Ye—“I am Navy” with RMB 7.22 million. They have spent almost RMB 1 billion on top level artistic pieces.