China Unseats U.S. As World's Top Fine Art Market

China now the world’s biggest market for fine art, rising from third place in 2007 to first place in 2010, according to Thierry Ehrmann, founder and CEO of Artprice. The United States and UK are now in second and third places.

In 2010 China accounted for 33% of global Fine Art sales, defined to include paintings, installations, sculptures, drawings, photography and prints. The US logged 30%, with 19 % in the UK and 5% in France. These figures are based on fine art sold at public auctions and excludes figures from art galleries or antique dealers. UK and the US have been defining the world’s fine-art markets since the 1950s.

This shift has been accompanied by the emergence of Chinese artists at the top of the global art scene. Of the top 10 global artists in 2010 4 were Chinese ranked by auction revenue. In 2009 only 1 top-10 artist had been Chinese.

Qi Baishi was in 2nd place behind Andy Warhol and ahead of countryman Zhang Daqian. Xu Beihong took 6th place with a total of $176 mil. and Fu Baoshi was 9th with $112 mil.

The coming years will see even a more Chinese artists at the top. Among contemporary artists 6 of the 2010 global Top 10 are Chinese: Zeng Fanzhi, Chen Yifei, Wang Yidong, Zhang Xiaogang, Liu Xiaodong and Liu Ye. Only three are Americans: Basquiat, Koons and Prince.

The top cities for fine art are now Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai. In 2010 Sotheby’s Hong Kong revenue amounted for 2%. At the same time, Christie’s 2010 Hong Kong total was 2,5% and China’s big 4 annual revenues were: Poly International (7.4%), China Guardian (5.32%), Beijing Council (2.07%), Hanhai Art Auction in Beijing (2.74%).*

China’s art market enjoys strength not only from its economy which surged past Japan to become the world’s second biggest in 2010 but the steady support of the government and the patriotic impulses of its art collectors. China has shown that it understands the role art plays in the rise of nations. The growth in the number of China’s billionaires suggests that times will only get better for Chinese art. The number of billionaires in China is expected to rise by 20% per year through 2014. The average annual growth for the world is expected to be 5.6%.

Artprice bills itself as the world leader in art market information with over 27 million auction prices and indices covering over 450,000 artists.