Sotheby’s Foray into China’s Fine Art Market


Sotheby’s has agreed to set up a joint venture with Beijing GeHua Art Co., a Chinese state-owned company, pending approval from the Chinese government. While Christie’s licensed its name to China’s Forever International Auction Co. back in 2005, Sotheby’s plans for majority control in this JV is likely to pose serious competition upon approval.

It may be interesting to note that Sotheby’s will only focus on “non-cultural relics” such as contemporary art, watches, jewellery and wine, probably to avoid complications of the Law of People’s Republic of China on Protection of Cultural Relics. From http://english.gov.cn/laws/2005-10/09/content_75322.htm, it is possible to take or bring Cultural Relics out of or into China. However, my money is on the Chinese government giving the auction houses and collectors a hard time.

Despite the above efforts, in my opinion, the general quality and authenticity of auction pieces exhibited by Chinese auction houses are still highly questionable, particularly for Antique Chinese Jade. Several Chinese auction houses upload post-auction results on-line and the overall workmanship is deplorable.

Much has been said about counterfeiting antiques in Mainland China. What about Taiwan?

Some argue that Taipei’s National Palace Museum possesses far better cultural relics than its Beijing counterpart. Could be the main reason for the following observation. I have been studying jade pieces posted on websites of several Taiwanese Antique Shops and most of them seems to be 高仿 or higher level of counterfeiting than Mainland China. Still halfway through the list, hopefully I will find some credible merchants.

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