According to Forbes magazine, a new generation of collectors coming out of China is changing the way in which art is bought, forcing the market to rapidly adapt to a changing landscape.
According to the financial magazine, there are three distinct types of collector amongst this new breed. Firstly are the 20-30 year-olds; entrepreneurs, bankers or finance magnates, for the most part, who buy beyond traditional Chinese art, paintings and sculpture, venturing into multimedia pieces comprising film, sound and light. This group spends astronomical sums on such works and influences galleries as much as they do auction houses. The market has recognised this trend: Art021 Art Fair, Shanghai, has chosen to focus on this part of the market and auction houses are trying to transform these buyers into true collectors. Auction house Christie’s fully understands this new generation, to the extent that they have opened an outpost in Shanghai. “We can act as we do in any of our offices, such as New York, Paris and Hong Kong; however, being in Shanghai allows us to target our Chinese customers more accurately. The Chinese market has become deeper, bigger and broader,” explains Jonathan Stone to FinanceAsia. “The wave of energy from Asian collectors swept through our sale in Hong Kong as well as in other locations this year,” agrees Francois Curiel, chairman of Christie’s Asia Pacific.
The second of these categories is made up not of buyers but of hardened collectors who are on the lookout for hugely valuable pieces. Contrary to most collectors, they do not start their collections with smaller, affordable works; rather, whether they be impressionist, modern or contemporary works, their first acquisitions are blue chip Western masterpieces. This group was strongly represented in March 2014 at Christie’s New York’s Spring Evening Sales, an event which took $745 million, of which nearly 30% was spent by Chinese clients, according to the president of Christie’s Asia. With regards to this “historic” sale for Christie’s, Jonathan Stone said that “The continuing strength of the Asian market was once again confirmed.”
Last but not least is possibly the most important group of the Chinese market. These “super-collectors,” pour their fortunes into the market: not only do they buy works but they build museums, establish partnerships, create exhibitions and make generous donations. At barely 35 years-old, Adrien Cheng is the perfect illustration of this third group. The billionaire creator of the K11 Aer Foundation, which actively supports young Chinese artists, is a Committee member at Tate Modern in London and Centre Pompidou in Paris and has previously sponsored and partnered with the Met and the Palais de Tokyo. Cheng devotes all of his energy and a great slice of his fortune to art and whilst few other billionaires share his passion, he could well become an inspiration for other young (and very rich) collectors.