British auction house Christie’s yesterday said that it plans to expand its physical presence in Hong Kong by 2024 with galleries and salerooms more than four times larger than it currently has, betting on a growing art market in the territory and in Asia.
It is to become the first anchor tenant in a new skyscraper in central Hong Kong, leasing a total of 4,645m2 over four floors. The building, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects and developed by Henderson Land, is due for completion in 2023.
Christie’s Asia-Pacific president Francis Belin told reporters that about 2,800m2 would be used for galleries and salerooms, compared with 650m2 in their current office.
“It’s hard for us to extend the sales, because we don’t have the real estate to do so,” Belin said.
Christie’s currently has to rent outside venues to hold large auctions and exhibitions.
At its planned headquarters, the auction house would be able to hold about six major all-week auction events a year, compared with only two currently that fall in spring and autumn, he said.
Christie’s US$458 million in sales recorded in Hong Kong in May was the highest since 2013 and came as the territory recovered from a COVID-19-induced economic contraction last year.
In the first half of this year, Asia accounted for a record 39 percent, or more than US$1 billion, of global sales, up from 20 to 25 percent pre-pandemic, surpassing Europe and North America.
“Hong Kong is the art center,” Belin said. “Nothing has dented the confidence in the art market here.”
GlobalData’s Wealth Market Analytics expects the population of high-net-worth investors with liquid asset above US$1 million in Hong Kong to rebound this year, and grow 12 percent to reach 243,320 individuals this year from 217,300 in pandemic-hit last year. Hong Kong has a population of 7.5 million.
Belin said the expansion would not lead to aggressive hiring in addition to their 200 staff in Hong Kong.
Christie’s is also looking for bigger space to relocate in Shanghai.
Christie’s in March became the first major auction house to sell a digital art piece that does not exist in physical form.
The artwork carried what is known as a non-fungible token, a unique digital token encrypted with the artist’s signature and which verifies its ownership and authenticity, and is permanently attached to the piece.
Christie’s sold close to US$100 million of digital artwork in the first half of this year, and Belin said such sales are bringing new and younger collectors to the auction house.
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