London’s Asian Art Fair sees Wealthy Chinese collectors dominating sales
This year’s Asian Art in London began last week, an event which has been showcasing art from China, India, Japan and Korea for over ten years through a series of specialised exhibitions and sales run by leading dealers and auction houses. This year’s event is the biggest yet, including international art dealers for the first time.
Despite being based a London fair, however, reports suggest that the majority of buyers for the event are expected to come from China. So dramatic is the increase in Chinese buyers, that the Chairman of Asian Art in London, Max Rutherston, has dubbed this trend the ‘Chinese boom’. Indeed, it has apparently got to the point where some Western collectors of Oriental art are now being priced out of the market.
Specialist dealers put this increased Chinese interest in Asian Art down to simple patriotism; a desire to reclaim Chinese heritage whilst also increasing one’s own status through making large purchases. Rutherston explains how London’s unique appeal as a venue for buying and selling Chinese art comes from the impressive wealth of expertise it possesses, despite there being relatively few British collectors here compared to those coming over from China and Hong Kong: ‘It’s that classic British thing of being a middleman…it’s what we’re good at.’
Asian art – and in particular Chinese – has been enjoying considerable success with buyers over recent years. Almost exactly a year ago, a Chinese vase from the mid-18th century set a world record by fetching £53m at auction. The piece was offered not by Christie’s or Sotheby’s, but by Bainbridges, a relatively unknown auction house in suburban Middlesex, after having been found by a mother and son whilst clearing a house in Pinner, North London. How the vase ended up gathering dust on a suburban shelf is still unknown, as experts believe it would have once sat in the Chinese Royal Palace. Words: Maddie Bates © 2011 ArtLyst