Is China really the world's largest art market?

March 26 2012

Following my earlier post on China taking the no.1 spot, a reader writes with an excellent point:

Regarding a recent article named "Destination: China", I would just like to make some remarks. As a specialist at one the larger auction houses in Sweden, I have among my colleagues (both national and international) heard of many incidents which indicates that the market share figures regarding Chinese sales should be regarded with some caution. 

Many times, fines pieces of ceramics are sold at auctions for record prices, but they are never paid nor collected. In cases where depositions had been requested beforehand, credit card numbers turned out to be fake or not valid. My guess is that these purchases are gambles that didn't work out at the other end, and it is easier to disappear than to settle overpriced debts.

Auction houses, and I assume dealers alike, generally like to keep these failures to themselves, but it is the original results that show in the statistics. This does, to my opinion, skew the image somewhat. The new chinese market has still to mature.

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