China’s New Cultural Revolution: A Surge in Art Collecting

China’s new wealthy elite is becoming an increasingly powerful force in the global art collecting field, the New York Times reports:

With China’s economy booming, art collectors there have become an increasingly powerful force in the market, demonstrating a growing interest in Western as well as Asian art.

At Sotheby’s spring sale, a Chinese buyer bought the evening’s priciest painting — Picasso’s “Femme Lisant (Deux Personnages)” — for $21.3 million. In March, at the auction house Lebarbe, in Toulouse, France, a Chinese buyer set a new French record for Chinese art with a $31 million bid on a scroll painting from the Imperial Palace in Beijing. Last year an anonymous telephone bidder who was believed to be Chinese paid $106.5 million for Picasso’s “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” at Christie’s, a record for a work of art at auction.

Chinese auction houses are now selling works at a pace formerly associated with those in London and New York. One company that tracks the fine-art market, Artprice, reported that they were responsible for some $8.3 billion in sales, which would make them the world leader.

“We have seen exponential growth by mainland Chinese buyers who were brought up during the Cultural Revolution,” said Henry Howard-Sneyd, Sotheby’s vice chairman for Asian art. “These are successful business people with huge amounts of money at their disposal.”