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  • Is now the right time to buy Asian art?
  • Post author
    Paul Fraser
  • Isnowrightthe

Is now the right time to buy Asian art?

Asia Week begins in New York on Friday and runs until March 23.

Dealers, museums and auction houses will be pushing hard to make the most of what promises to be a superb test of the Asian art market.

You'll be aware that the booming economy of China in recent years has provided many more of its inhabitants with the means to repatriate works of art, whether they are Zhang Daqian originals or world record breaking $3m Qing vases.

Jiajing ring-shaped box
This 16th century Jiajing ring-shaped box has a $700,000 high estimate ahead of its auction at Christie's New York next week

This has sparked a huge shift in purchasing demographics, with China overtaking the US as the globe's biggest art market in 2011, according to a European Fine Art Foundation report.  

But, as has been seen in the fine wine market in recent times, a change in fortunes took place last year, prompted by both a slowing economy and a more circumspect approach from buyers.

Sales at Beijing Poly International Auction, China's leading auctioneer, were down 49% in 2012 from a year earlier, according to the Art Newspaper, while Sotheby's Hong Kong sales were 38% down.

Co-founder of New York art-market adviser Artvest Partners, Michael Plummer, explains more.

"The new collector base in China was buying recklessly, and I use that word intentionally - I mean recklessly," he recently told China Daily.

"They were buying things that had authenticity issues, that had damage. No serious collector would pay the money they were paying, but they were in this feverish acquisition mode. They were spending recklessly on all sorts of things - and not making careful judgments about quality and authenticity and provenance."

But there is hope.

Plummer insists that what we saw last year wasn't a crash but a correction.

"A lot of observers think maybe the market has wised up. There's a maturity that's entering the marketplace," he says.

If Plummer's right, now could be the time to be entering this market, with values likely to be far more sensible than they were 12 or 24 months ago.

For those of you looking to make solid alternative investments, this increased maturity to the sector can only be a good thing.

Yet even so, this most violent of markets still requires caution, and a watching brief may be best for now.

We'll be bringing you comprehensive coverage of the Asia Week's key sales over the coming days.

Until next week,


Paul Fraser

P.S. Be sure to check out this issue's guide to spotting fake Chinese ceramics.

  • Post author
    Paul Fraser
  • Isnowrightthe