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China auction house holds first sale in Hong Kong
by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) Oct 7, 2012

China's oldest auction house held its first sale in Hong Kong Sunday, underscoring an intensified competition between Chinese auctioneers and their foreign rivals in the booming art market.

Over 300 collectors packed the auction hall at the one-day sale by China Guardian, which offered more than 300 Chinese paintings and calligraphy including works from renowned artists Zhang Daqian and Qi Baishi.

The sale, expected to fetch nearly $24 million, was the firm's first auction outside of mainland China since it was set up in 1993.

"This is our first step to go global. We want to be a part of the global art market," China Guardian marketing director Jay Sun told AFP.

"We believe there is a huge room and enormous space for the Chinese art market to develop," he said at the sideline of the sale that drew fierce bidding from collectors in the room and by telephone.

The star lot at the auction was a 1922 landscape series from Qi painted in colour inks titled "Album of Mountains and Rivers", which fetched HK$46 million ($5.9 million), nearly doubled its pre-sale estimates.

Qi -- who is now ranked the world's second highest valued artist by auction revenue, ahead of Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso -- spent seven years travelling the mountains and rivers of the country for the work.

The sale signifies Chinese auctioneers' effort to tap into the foreign markets and compete with more established European brand names like Sotheby's and Christie's, which respectively hold at least two sales annually in Hong Kong.

Chinese auction houses were almost unheard of just a decade ago but they now account for five of the world's top 10 by revenue, according to a report earlier this year by the France-based industry association Conseil des Ventes.

Their rise has been fuelled by wealthy Chinese collectors' appetite for art and antiques, and aided by regulations that had locked overseas competitors out of mainland China.

But Sotheby's last month signed a deal with state-owned Beijing GeHua Art Company to create a joint venture, in a landmark move that gives it a foothold in China and overcomes the legal hurdles.

A week after their deal a Sotherby's sale -- the first work of art to go under hammer through an international auction house in mainland China's history -- saw a sculpture by the Chinese artist Wang Huaiqing sold for 1.4 million yuan ($222,000).

China is the world's biggest art market, with 27 percent of global auction revenues, according to France-based art market data provider Art Price.

The full results of the Hong Kong auction will not be known until late Sunday.


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