NEW YORK—Christie’s has teamed up with newly established Beijing auction house Forever and will hold an inaugural sale of modern and
contemporary Chinese paintings on Nov. 3.
The agreement between Christie’s and Forever marks an important step forward in the auctioneer’s access to the booming art market in mainland China, where foreign auction houses face considerable hurdles in doing business on their own.
The sale is expected to realize $10 million and will include paintings by artists such as: Wu Guanzhong (b. 1919), including two works estimated at $380,000/510,000 and $770,000/900,000, respectively; Huang Zhou (1925-1997), a painting priced at $385,000/510,000; and Lin Fengmian (1900-1991), a work estimated at $361,300/451,600.
“Recognizing the great potential of the market in China,” says Edward Dolman, CEO Christie’s International, the auctioneer “has agreed to lend its name to this exciting auction event.” Dolman expresses confidence that Forever “will apply the same professional care throughout its activities as Christie’s.”
“We’ve been exploring emerging markets for the past several years,” says Andrée Corroon, Christie’s international head of corporate communications. “Mainland China is the next big expanding market; we’ve been exploring opportunities there for a while and agreed to lend our name after Forever approached us.”
Under the agreement Christie’s has licensed its name to Forever and has “ensured that the sale and catalogue have the same expertise and auction standards that we adhere to,” says Corroon. She points out that, as an incorporated firm in Beijing, Forever is allowed to sell certain items, such as the aforementioned paintings, that Christie’s is restricted from selling by the Cultural Relics Bureau.
Christie’s will not receive a commission from the sale, according to Corroon. The house will instead receive a fee in connection with licensing its name to Forever.
For the most part, Chinese companies—there are an estimated 200 auction houses in mainland China—have been the only firms to profit from soaring mainland sales of Chinese art so far.
While both Christie’s and Sotheby’s have long had offices in mainland China, including those in Shanghai and Beijing, the houses have been restricted to selling in Hong Kong, a free port. Sales and profits there have also risen substantially in recent seasons.
Last spring Sotheby’s reported $81.6 million in the Chinese art sale, the highest in its 32-year history in Hong Kong. Christie’s Hong Kong sales also hit a record last spring, when the house realized $127.3 million in auctions of Asian art, watches and jewelry.
Following China’s admission to the World Trade Organization in late 2001, a rule took effect last December allowing foreign auction houses to set up shop on the mainland (see ANL, 1/4/05). However, Christie’s and Sotheby’s remain cautiously optimistic, given that outside firms still face considerable hurdles, including strict import/export laws and limitations on the types of artwork that can be offered.