Art for the masses

Collecting fine art is still a preserve of the wealthy but the market is bigger than ever thanks to globalisation and the internet.
Chu Teh-Chun's Sereines Clartés
Chu Teh-Chun's Sereines Clartés

Art has gone global, gathering momentum as the ultra-rich flit from auctions to art fairs on every continent in search of the next big thing.

After the dip in sales during the 2008 to 2010 period of the financial crisis, art sales have been booming. Artists, live and dead, are earning more than ever. Anders Petterson of London analysts ArtTactic has pointed out that the 10 most expensive artists accounted for 73% of the $330.4 million total achieved at the two biggest auction houses this year.

Names such as Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud and Damien Hirst continue to attract frantic bidding.

Paying large sums for established artists holds true for the market’s newcomers, the wealthy Chinese collectors, who also pay top dollar for Chinese contemporary and 20th century art, and for Chinese antiques.

Christie’s Spring Sale in Hong Kong loosened $389 million from the deep pockets of Chinese buyers, who also spent freely on other Asian artists.

Chinese contemporary and 20th century artists such as Liu Wei, Zeng Fangzhi, San Yu, Xu Beihong, Chu Teh-chun, Zao Wouki have cracked the $5 million-plus mark repeatedly.

Younger collectors may feel shut out of these top sales because of the mysteries of the market swirling around insiders.

This clubby atmosphere is about to be upended by a deal made by Sothebys, which has signed a deal to sell fine art through eBay.

Online auctions, while not new, allow registered buyers to bid online in certain auctions in certain cities. Tech-savvy collectors also explore special multimedia sale promotions from Christies, browse its illustrated catalogues and leave absentee bids through LotFinder, Christie’s online search engine, and register for internet bidding with Christie’s Live.

With the Sotheby’s eBay deal, the field will be wide open, attracting internet-savvy folks who are already comfortable buying online. It is a way to reach beyond traditional customers and interact with an enormous, wealthy global pool of collectors and investors.

¬ Haymarket Media Limited. All rights reserved.
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