A leading mainland art auction house will hold its first Hong Kong sale next month, offering traditional Chinese ink paintings and calligraphy, as well as classical Chinese furniture from the Ming and Qing dynasties.
China Guardian Auctions yesterday announced it would hold a two-session sale on October 7 featuring close to 400 pieces of art. Among them are a rare "album" of colour ink paintings by Qi Baishi consigned from Japan, a landscape by Li Keran and a large painting of a flying eagle by Xu Beihong. All three are among the top 10 best-selling artists at auctions worldwide, according to Artprice Art Market Trends 2011.
An early Qing huanghuali kang table and a yoke back armchair from the same period are also on offer.
The pre-sale estimate for the furniture session is HK$65 million and HK$120 million for the Chinese ink paintings and calligraphy.
Director and president of China Guardian Auctions Wang Yannan said the company - whose sales in 2011 totalled 11.2 billion yuan - was looking to expand and Hong Kong was the most logical place to go first.
"Hong Kong is so close to where we are and it is culturally and economically very active," said Wang, daughter of former Chinese Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang . "It has a long tradition of collecting and very strong collector support. For us, after 19 years of operation, we are looking into expansion and getting into a place like Hong Kong with … commercial efficiency that is maybe the highest in the world."
She said China Guardian's commitment to Hong Kong was long term and that it would be holding at least two auctions every year.
Its arrival - and that of Poly International Auction, which recently announced it would hold its first Hong Kong sales in November - reconfirmed Hong Kong's status as the most important centre of commercial art in Asia.
Sotheby's and Christie's - which have been holding auctions in Hong Kong since 1973 and 1986 respectively, welcomed these two new players.
"It would be unrealistic to say the arrival of these houses would not increase competition," said Kevin Ching, chief executive of Sotheby's Asia.
But he said it was a healthy competition that would not have a material impact on his business at the moment.
"We've been operating in this Hong Kong environment for almost 40 years now. It's a very different environment from the mainland - the way that things [in Hong Kong] are more regulated and we have a high level of governance and compliance."
While mainland auction houses might be strong in categories like traditional Chinese paintings, "we have market leadership in watches, jewellery, wine, Chinese ceramics, Chinese works of art, contemporary art."
Christie's Asia president Francois Curiel said there would be several positive impacts on the Hong Kong auction scene. He said whenever there were more competitors in a business area, the size of the pie got bigger.
" Some Chinese clients who don't come to Christie's will come to Hong Kong. It will help attract more collectors," he said.