More foreign collectors selling works in Hong Kong auction houses

Overseas art consigners using city to reach lucrative mainland buyers and Asian markets

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 November, 2012, 2:36pm

An increasing number of overseas consigners are requesting auction houses to sell their collectibles in Hong Kong instead of other, more traditional locations, according to auctioneers.

Despite last week's records set by Christie's and Sotheby's in New York, auctioneers said collectors were more excited about the future of the Asian market. They believe certain works reach better prices in Hong Kong due to its greater access to Asian buyers, including mainlanders.

Poly International, which hosts its first Hong Kong sale today, said the city's market had been strong in the past three years and more local buyers wanted to start art collecting.

The auction house told the Post that all items it sold recently were sourced from overseas.

"This is definitely a trend. Sales in Hong Kong can attract buyers from Hong Kong, Taiwan, mainland China and other parts of Asia," said Gladys Chung, Poly Auction Hong Kong's senior specialist for Chinese modern and contemporary art.

Chung said this was one of the reasons the Beijing-based firm decided to sell in Hong Kong, after its rival China Guardian raised HK$354 million in its inaugural sale in the city last month.

According to Art Market Trends 2011 by Artprice, Poly is the world's fourth-largest auction house after Christie's, Sotheby's and China Guardian, bringing in US$901.6 million revenue last year.

It is hosting four sales - jewellery and watches, Chinese modern and contemporary art, fine Chinese paintings, and Chinese ceramics and artworks - today and tomorrow at the Grand Hyatt. The 400 lots had a pre-sale estimate of HK$400 million.

"With more auction houses and galleries coming to Hong Kong, and more collectors getting interested in Asia and China … Hong Kong is right at the centre of several markets," Chung said.

The 17 per cent VAT and 6 per cent import duties applied on artefacts on the mainland have also made art trading there more costly. Furthermore, Chung said Hong Kong collectors had a more Western taste in art and so the city's auction house could accommodate a wider range of works from experimental to abstract and even political pieces.

While Poly focuses more on Chinese works, Taiwanese auction house Ravenel takes an international direction.

Its autumn sale of more than 300 lots, also taking place at the Grand Hyatt tomorrow, is expected to fetch around HK$300 million. Ravenel's chief executive officer Lorries Chang said the auction house has an international network and recommends consigners to sell works in Hong Kong.

"We don't just want to sell Asian works. Hong Kong is an international city and it should be able to accommodate works from different places," said Chang.

Bonhams Hong Kong, which is running its autumn auction until Sunday, said the slowdown in Western economies had benefitted Hong Kong's art market.

The auction house's Asia managing director Carson Chan said: "We see an increasing number of consigners asking for their collection to be sold in Hong Kong. The economic downturn post-2008 and the boom in China contributed to this direction.

"These consigners … know that Hong Kong is a more appropriate place to sell their collections."