Financial markets in Hong Kong and elsewhere are being lifted by the global economic recovery and Sotheby's says the art market is no exception. Sotheby's global president and chief executive, William Ruprecht, estimates that a Hong Kong auction to run from today until Thursday will generate at least HK$1.3 billion - almost double the HK$691.15 million realised at last April's spring auction. A total of 2,400 items will go under the hammer, including wine, paintings, antique furniture and jewellery. 'With the economic recovery from the worst of the financial crisis, we have been doing much better in the past nine months,' Ruprecht said. In the first three months of this year, Sotheby's posted 100 per cent sales growth compared with the same period of last year, when the world was reeling under the impact of the financial crisis, he said. Ruprecht is optimistic about this week's auction, anticipating that more Asian and Chinese buyers would be attracted. 'Our business is closely linked with wealth creation trend. When you have enough handbags, you will think of buying a painting. China and Asia markets are less affected by the financial crisis than the Western world. It is natural for us to see more buyers from the Asia region,' he said. In contrast, the United States was a major source of sellers, reflecting the after effects of the global financial slump. 'Whenever some collectors have to divorce or if they are in financial trouble, they put their collection up for sale,' he said. Naturally, the buyers were from growing economies such as China and those in Asia, he said. 'Chinese collectors are very active nowadays. This is like Japanese buyers 30 years ago and US buyers 40 years ago,'' Ruprecht said. Wine and Chinese paintings are the most sought-after items by deep-pocketed Chinese millionaires. In today's auction, it will sell 769 wine lots which are expected to fetch between HK$27 million and HK$43 million. Chinese collectors' appetite for Chinese contemporary paintings has also pushed prices up. Usually collectors target paintings from their own region. One work, On the Lake, by Yue Minjun, is expected to fetch HK$7 million to HK$10 million. Ruprecht said most bidders are individual collectors who buy the paintings or antiques because they feel an emotional connection with the works rather than for investment. He said hedge funds and financial institutions buying items for investment purposes only represented about 10 per cent of total sales. A highlight of this year's auction is a 5.16-carat blue diamond which is estimated to fetch between HK$36 million and HK$46 million.