The London-based auction house, Christie's, tallied sales totalling more than $363m at its spring and autumn Hong Kong auctions this year, compared with just $100m in 2003.
The London-based auction house tallied sales totalling more than $363m at its spring and autumn Hong Kong auctions this year, compared with just $100m in 2003. Rival Sotheby's, which concluded its biannual auctions in the territory in October, realised sales of $246.5m. Mr Dolman credits the nouveaux riches of China and India for the current Asian art boom, but despite their enthusiasm they are still only keeping pace with their western peers.
Regardless of whether an auction is held in the US, Europe or Asia, Christie's calculates regional sales totals based on the addresses registered by buyers, providing a rare window on to global wealth creation and capital flows. This yields some distortions thrown up by tax havens, but it also shows Asian purchasers accounting for a relatively modest 10 per cent of demand. This is because the rich are getting richer everywhere, not just in Asia, and as they do so their capacity for conspicuous consumption of art is expanding. "We've never seen so much money coming in from China, Russia, Wall Street, the City, India," Mr Dolman says. "We always think, ‘Is it about to go?' But most of our clients can always afford [to buy art]. It's about how confident they feel, and there is a feeling of stability about the clients' sources of wealth."
After the stock market crash of 1987 damped demand in the US and Europe, Japanese money supported the market for another two years. Christie's thinks Asia could again account for 30-35 per cent of the market within five years. But before this happens Chinese and Indian buyers will have to demonstrate an interest in art from beyond their own regions