Yang Bin is a Chinese car dealer who has turned collecting into something of a sport—when he goes to auctions, Yang has been known to invite his friends to bid against him. Yang, who began collecting after hearing so much about art at the many parties held in his Beijing penthouse, is part of a generation of Chinese collectors who are buying up art quickly and becoming major players in the art world. His 1,000-work collection covers centuries of art history, from Ming vases to contemporary works by Liu Wei. “The most valuable artworks in my collection based on the auction record is Bathing Beauty III by Liu Wei,” Yang told ARTnews. He owns multiple pieces by Wei, some estimated at nearly $3 million.
Above all, Yang treasures artworks whose creators he counts among his friends—and woe to any bidder standing between him and his friends’ creations. A Red Rope, an oil painting by contemporary Chinese artist Chen Wenji, caught his eye in 2005. Though he already owned multiple works by Chen Wenji, Yang loved was especially struck by the painting’s style. “However, another collector joined the bidding war,” he recounted. “I was very eager to have it, so I talked to him, ‘Excuse me, I want this painting so badly, would you please let me have it?’” Surprising even Yang, the opposing bidder acquiesced. Even more surprising is that the two enjoy a friendship that lasts today. Regarding an Anish Kapoor convex mirror that he bought. Yang has told ARTnews, “I bought Anish Kapoor because he gave me the idea for my ceiling. Contemporary art has a connection with contemporary life.”