x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Prize pieces snapped up by keen collectors in China

Building Brics: Greater China's autumn auctions did well in terms of the percentage of lots sold - some 75 per cent of offerings were snapped up.

This year's autumn auctions in Greater China did well in terms of the percentage of lots sold - some 75 per cent of offerings were snapped up.

But that was way off previous years and there are growing concerns about unpaid bids and the flagging economy.

There were some bright spots. Sotheby's Contemporary Asian Art sale last month concluded with Liu Wei's Revolutionary Family Series - Invitation to Dinner selling for HK$17.46 million (Dh8.27m), setting the world auction record for the artist.

In June, Uli Sigg, the former Swiss ambassador to China and long-time art collector, said he would donate a big chunk of his collection of Chinese contemporary art to M+, a contemporary art museum that will open in Hong Kong in 2017.

Valued at Dh600m, Mr Sigg's collection is renowned, charting the development of the Chinese art market from its birth in the 1970s right up to the present day with artists such as Liu Wei, Zhang Xiaogang, Xu Bing and Ai Weiwei.

However, China is not used to this kind of philanthropy and the response there was widely negative.

Probably the most valuable painter in the world these days is not Vincent van Gogh or Pablo Picasso but the Chinese landscape artist Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), according to the French researchers Artprice.

In May last year, Zhang's 1947 Lotus and Mandarin Ducks went for HK$191m at Sotheby's in Hong Kong.

In all, Zhang generated US$506.7m (Dh1.86 billion) at auction revenue last year.

Not far behind him and another Chinese name to conjure with is Qi Baishi (1864-1957), whose ink-on-paper Eagle Standing on Pine Tree; Four-Character Couplet went for 425.5m yuan (Dh250.1m) at China Guardian Auctions in Beijing in May last year.

In all last year, his work fetched $445m.

In April, a rare, 900-year-old Ruyao bowl sold for $26.7m at auction in Hong Kong, a record for a piece of ceramic from the Song dynasty, according to Sotheby's auction house. The flower-shaped bowl was bought by an anonymous phone bidder and it came from a private Japanese collection.