Hong Kong & China Art Markets Thriving

With all the fluctuations and uncertainties in the world’s markets lately, it is good to know that the art market in Hong Kong and China is still very much alive.

Hong Kong has been an international environment for decades, and one familiar to many dealers and collectors. With its very attractive tax laws and ease of communication, it has long been an ideal place for the world to buy and sell artwork.  Selling in Hong Kong is a great way to take advantage of the economics and still reach collectors from all over the globe.  Because of this, most of the top-tier auction houses have branches on the island, often providing them with their most profitable sales.  This small, welcoming island also hosts the premier art fair – Art Basel Hong Kong – and a limited, but healthy gallery and dealer scene.

While the Hong Kong market has been popular for some time, the market in Mainland China has been growing significantly.  Despite some recent economic downturns, Mainland China has still one of the fastest growing economies with rapidly increasing numbers of “High Net Worth Individuals”.  With the lack of investment opportunities that may be available in other countries, these newly wealthy Mainland Chinese have been looking toward the arts as an investment vehicle.  This is evidenced by the number of Art Funds still active in China and the growing Private Museum trend all over the mainland.  Traditional arts and cultural antiquities has always been an area of interest for the connoisseur collector in Mainland China and now, with the younger generations coming of age, we see a growing market interest in both modern and contemporary Asian and Western art.

Mainland China has never had a very strong gallery or dealer scene.  Because of this, auction houses are still the primary place for collectors to seek out and purchase works of art and objects of significance.  With this established demand… the only issue has been the supply.  Collectors, auction houses, and private museum directors have been looking hungrily toward European and American collections.  They are seeking out ceramics, paintings, bronzes and jades that have found their way into Western collections decades, and sometimes centuries, ago and they have been willing to part with headline-grabbing sums to acquire these works.

So, for owners of fine works of art and notable objects, one option that should not be overlooked is selling in Asia. However, these East Asian waters are foreign to many, and knowing how to navigate them can still be tricky. Where are the best and most reputable dealers, galleries and auction houses? How do the standard contracts and tax laws differ?  What micro-market has the greatest demand for your particular category of art? These are the questions that a good advisor with contacts and experience in Asia can answer. For centuries, explorers have found good fortune in distant lands – but they all needed a navigator!

– Patrick Regan, Appraiser & Advisor