The art-world power is shifting to China as the second largest economy keeps its growth momentum, a senior industry leader has said.
"The 21st century belongs to China in the art-world," said Jinqing Cai, President of Christie's China, at a conversation hosted by Center for Arts and Culture, China Institute, in New York City Tuesday.
Chinese collectors have become more knowledgeable, sophisticated and ambitious and the number of private art museums is on the rise ever since the art market began to flourish in China, a country with thousands of years of art collection, Cai said.
She cited two stories of "deep bidding" from Liu Yiqian, a former taxi driver turned billionaire art collector, who has a very big appetite for art.
In November 2014, Liu bought a 600-year-old imperial embroidered Tibetan tapestry at a Christie's auction for about 45 million U.S. dollars, setting a record for any Chinese works of art sold by an international auction house.
The silk tapestry, known as a thangka, is more than three meters tall and two meters wide. The work was created more than five centuries ago during the Ming dynasty on command of Emperor Yongle.
In April the same year, Liu spent 36.3 million dollars on a tiny porcelain cup with a humble chicken painted on its surface. He even celebrated his Ming Dynasty purchase by drinking tea from it.
The Art Market 2018, an annual report analysing the global art industry and produced by UBS and Art Basel, reveals that the United States was the largest market worldwide, accounting for 42 percent of sales by value.
China leapfrogged the UK to come second with 21 percent market share. Britain is in third place with 20 percent of the global market, followed by France.
Asia accounted for 23 percent of global sales in 2017, while Asian buyers made 15 percent of global transactions through intermediaries.
Chinese buyers alone have taken the lion's share with 10 percent, a significant increase compared to the much thinner 4 percent of 2016 which again shows the continued growth of purchasing power in Asia, said the report.