Sotheby's senior director Sylvie Chen pictured in front of '25.06.86', a printing by Chinese-French artist Zao Wou-Ki
The launch of Sotheby’s Hong Kong art gallery couldn’t have come at a better time. According to recent data from the European Art Foundation, China currently holds the largest art market in the world, and the new gallery hopes to expand on this widespread art appreciation.
Hong Kong was the chosen location for the gallery launch because Chinese law currently prevents foreign auction houses from selling on China’s mainland. Sotheby’s has high hopes that the gallery will help to win over Chinese collectors, a very strong force within the art auction world, and expand their appreciation of Western art.
The company has invested $7.2 million into the project, which is expected to open in May in Hong Kong’s Admiralty business district. According to The Wall Street Journal
, the opening of the new gallery will also allow Sotheby’s to host a greater number of art auctions in the country.
"As Chinese become more open to the West, the physical and cultural borders will no doubt break down and create a strong potential for the appreciation of Western art," chief executive of Sotheby’s Asia Kevin Ching said (The Wall Street Journal
Despite its big name, Sotheby’s may find competition in Christie’s International PLC, a gallery which opened its own doors two years ago in Hong Kong, and has since expanded to include previews of expensive art works and jewelry.
Christie’s also has high hopes for its future, and is currently considering forging partnerships with universities in China’s mainland, a fitting partnership for a company who already enrolls 40 students in three-day courses focusing on Chinese modern art and the history of ceramics.
Despite their rivalry and their differences, both art houses hope that their galleries will help to widen the appreciation of Western art amongst Chinese art buyers, who are known for being more interested in Chinese artists than any others.
To help them achieve this goal, both Sotheby’s and Christie’s have created Asian advisory boards who will work towards strengthening the ties between the companies and Asian art collectors. Last year, Chinese art collector’s efforts led scroll painter Zhang Daqian to be crowned the world’s top auction earner, earning him $506.7 million in revenue. This huge total is way above the $325 million earned by Western artists such as Andy Warhol.
It appears both companies are well on their way to achieving their goals, with 2011 statistics indicating that Chinese collectors accounted for a fifth of Christie's global sales, whilst Sotheby's Asian sales jumped 47% from 2010.