China’s big guns trained on the art market – A. Craig Copetas

From Bloomberg, via the International Herald Tribune:

The world’s largest standing army is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to bring back Chinese treasures such as those now in the homes of collectors including Ronald Lauder, chairman of Estee Lauder International; Tsui Tsin-tong, honorary chairman of the Hong Kong manufacturing and property company CNT Group; Jack Wadsworth, advisory director of Morgan Stanley; and Leon Black, founder and president of Apollo Advisers.

Facing an acute art shortage, the Chinese government plans to construct 1,000 new by 2015, including 32 in Beijing in time for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games and 100 in Shanghai before the opening of the 2010 World’s Fair, according to reports in China’s government-controlled media.

The People’s Liberation Army, or PLA, has so far targeted only Chinese art, and analysts say the army’s strategy over the next five years is to dip further into China’s foreign-currency reserves – some $711 billion, the second biggest after Japan, and growing – to buy and barrack celebrated Western masterpieces, often at prices above their auction-market value.

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