A series of record-breaking sales that took place in December have sent out a clear message of China's art market recovery.
A series of 12 long-scroll paintings by Qi Baishi (1864-1957) fetched 931.5 million yuan (1 million) at Poly Auction's autumn event in Beijing on Dec 17.
The price not only marked a new record for the artist's work, but also the highest price paid for any Chinese artwork in the world. Zhao Xu, executive chairman of Poly Int'l Auction declined revealing any details about the buyer.
On Dec 19, Guardian Auctions in Beijing sold Yu Tang Chun Nuan (A Warm Spring Day in the Jade Hall), a large oil painting by late Shanghai artist Chen Yifei (1946-2005) for 149.5 million yuan. The price was a new record for the artist as well as for Chinese realistic paintings. According to Artron.net, a leading portal on art trading, the painting was bought by Liu Yiqian, founder of Shanghai's Long Museum.
The last time Chen's creations broke the record for modern Chinese art was in 2011 when his painting Shan Di Feng (Wind in the Mountains) was sold for 81.7 million yuan by China Guardian Auctions.
Last month, Shanghai-based art dealer Duoyunxuan Auction held a special sales event for a batch of Chinese artworks from the collections of two famous families. All 50 pieces were sold out.
"This is a clear sign that the art market is finally picking up," said Zhou Ying, artistic director of Art021, an art fair that took place at the Shanghai Exhibition Center in November.
Zhao of Poly Auction added that this series of impressive sales "have proved the progress of Shanghai's art industry".
Collectors in Shanghai are Poly Auction's most important clients, said Zhao. He noted that Shanghai's Long Museum, Powerlong Museum and other art collectors in the city have created a dynamic art market, making Shanghai "a city of strategic importance for Poly Auction".
According to Mei Qiaomin, director of the Anyi Gallery on Tongren Road, the period spanning 2005 to 2008 was a prosperous time for the domestic art industry.
However, the industry took a downturn because the contemporary Chinese art segment grew too quickly, and several leading collectors started offloading their collections.
Mei left the industry during the downturn and only recently made a comeback. She now manages a gallery that showcases ancient and modern Chinese art and calligraphy.
According to The Paper, Shanghai has more than 400 galleries and art dealers such as auction companies and these entities accounted for a total deal volume of more than 5.9 billion yuan in 2016.
In addition, eight art fairs and 293 art auctions took place in Shanghai in 2016. The city also has three art communities that are home to 150 art institutions.