Sun, Mar 27, 2016 - Page 13 News List

Chinese art auction sales plummet amid crackdown


The Chinese art market plummeted last year, with auction sales of living artists’ works falling by 45 percent as slowing growth and a corruption crackdown under Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) took their toll, a survey said on Thursday.

By far the most valuable artist was ink painter Cui Ruzhuo (崔如琢), 72, who is known for his large-scale traditional landscapes, said wealth publisher the Hurun Report, which collated auction results for the 100 most lucrative Chinese artists.

Cui’s works fetched US$120.4 million, it said, far ahead of second-placed oil painter Zeng Fanzhi (曾梵志), who saw his sales value crash by 62 percent. There were no figures to indicate whether the average price of individual works had decreased.

“A heady mix of the continued anti-corruption campaign, which has put a stop to gifting art to government officers, and a slowdown in the economy have combined to see both sales and the number of top works at auction pretty much halve,” Hurun Report chairman Rupert Hoogewerf said.

Even so, greater China surpassed the US last year to become home to the largest population of billionaires in the world, Hurun said in a previous report — indicating an increase in the pool of potential super-wealthy art collectors.

The 100 artists’ auction sales totaled US$565 million.

Only three artists on the list were women. They included Chen Peiqiu (陳佩秋), age 94, at number 16.

A surprising new entry was Jack Ma (馬雲), chief executive officer of Internet giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (阿里巴巴), whose inclusion came courtesy of a collaborative painting he executed with Zeng Fanzhi that sold at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong for US$5.3 million.

Cui was one of just eight artists who saw an increase in sales, with his revenues up 69 percent from 2014.

Although many believe China’s art market has been overheated in recent years, Cui told fellow artists that it was a national imperative to increase the value of their work.

“Our current downturn and backwardness shouldn’t discourage us; we artists should unite together and for the sake of our art market and our nation walk out towards the world, hand in hand, striving ardently together,” he said.

Huang Jiannan (黃建南), a self-taught artist ranked seventh on Hurun’s list, saw the auction value of his works drop by 45 percent last year, but he shrugged off the loss.

“These statistics measure the flow of my works in the market — it has nothing to do with me. I do not get the money from these sales directly,” he said.

Huang's auction sales totaled US$13.1 million last year, according to Hurun.

Critics such as Xie Chunyan (謝春彥) believe that focusing on auction values is a poor judge of Chinese artists' worth: "Just because this little British guy Hoogewerf says he wants to find a common standard to measure things one, two, three does not mean that this is the best method."

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