Zhang Daqian Outsells Picasso

Zhang Daqian (Chang Dai-chien), is one of China’s most famous painters, and also considered one of the world’s master forgers for his work copying classic paintings. In a sign of the power of the Chinese art market, his sales at auction have now surpassed those of Pablo Picasso. From Al Jazeera:

Considered one of China’s greatest modern artists, Zhang moved into impressionism and expressionism as well. All along retaining the unique tradition he was trained in.

Zhang died in his eighties in 1983 having built a large body of work. Now his pieces are selling for millions of dollars in the art market. In 2011, the total auction take for his work came to over $500mn – surpassing Pablo Picasso, the previous top-seller whose record earnings were over $360mn in 2010.

Many of Zhang’s works have been bought by Chinese buyers. With more money to spend, the Chinese are investing in their own heritage – purchasing pieces by their own artists. It’s also become a status symbol for them. As living standards have improved, the Chinese can now afford to put their money into less mundane pursuits. So much so that they have become major players in the global art scene, almost turning it on its head. In 2011 – China topped the US and had a 39% share of the world revenue for fine art.

“If we use auction as a temperature meter for the art market,” Cheung explained, “Chinese art works have been very outstanding in the market for more than a decade. Especially in the last 5-6 years, the recognition and price of the Chinese art works have gone so high that they have gained a lot of public attention.”


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