Christie’s on Thursday unveiled the highlights of its upcoming 2016 sales in Hong Kong, New York and Geneva, and Francois Curiel, Asia-Pacific chairman of the auction house, said he was optimistic about demand from Asian buyers.

Christie’s had sold an average of 80 per cent of the lots offered in the two Hong Kong sales held so far this year, he said, up from 79 per cent in 2015.

“When I arrived in 2010, Asian sales accounted for 11 per cent of the total at Christie’s. In six years, that has gone up to 30 per cent,” he said. The opening of a second, 2,000 sq ft gallery at its Hong Kong office was a sign of the company’s confidence about future demand in Asia, he added.

“Last year, 30 per cent of our Asian buyers were new buyers,” Curiel said.

The main challenge today was in convincing collectors to sell, he said. “They don’t want to sell. They say, ‘What can I do with the money when the financial markets are so volatile?’”

Christie’s’ sales during “Asia week” in New York earlier this month slumped, but Curiel put that down to a shortage of high-quality pieces for auction, not buyers tightening their purse strings. The auction house reported sales were less than a quarter of what it achieved in the same week last year, while rival Sotheby’s said its sales were the lowest since 2013.

Robert Chang, who was seen at the Christie’s preview with fellow collectors Liu Yiqian and Au Bak-ling, said items of average quality simply wouldn’t find buyers in Asia now that collectors’ tastes had become more refined.

The Christie’s preview, which comes ahead of the April 2 opening of Sotheby’s annual spring auctions, features a collection of Chinese ceramics and works of art for auction in its April 5 Pavilion Sale in Hong Kong. Also on show are French Impressionist paintings and post-war and contemporary art from upcoming New York sales, jewellery and watches that will be sold in Geneva, and highlights from the Hong Kong spring auctions in late May.

The latter will include a special auction, “30 years: The Sale”, on May 30 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Christie’s in Hong Kong. Among the top lots is a Xuande period, Ming dynasty blue and white “dragon” vase which it estimates will sell for HK$60 million to HK$80 million.