Find out about the top Chinese art collectors and what they’re really buying


In the award-winning 2013 film A touch of sin by Jia Zhangke, an appearance by the director gives a very telling picture of how people think of wealthy Chinese art collectors: Jia plays a wealthy tuhao (crass nouveau riche) businessman talking on the phone to an assistant about a work for sale by acclaimed artist Xu Beihong. “Xu Beihong? Buy it. Excellent investment, ”he said dryly before hanging up. He can’t bother to stare at a moment to see the play himself – instead he’s in a brothel.

The idea that China is being invaded by speculative collectors who neither know nor care about the revered works they buy is overthrown by a new generation of Chinese art lovers making their mark in the art world global. This influential little group is an example of the enormous growth of “new money” in China. They are becoming a major cultural force both at home and abroad, as their art-related activities extend well beyond the auction block (see artnet News Top 200 Collectors Worldwide for 2015 Part One and Part Two ).

It was clear in Artnet Newsrecently published a ranking of the world’s top 200 art collectors, which profiled 12 Chinese collectors and couples with significant international influence. This is not just due to their expensive purchases, it also reflects their passion for art, especially for some of China’s most important artists, both historical and contemporary. In addition to setting world records while collecting prominent Asian and Western pieces, they seek memberships in powerful arts organizations, sponsor new exchange platforms, create foundations, and build new museums to house their collections. .

Detailed close-up of part of a Tibetan thangka sold to Chinese billionaire Liu Yiqian in November 2014 for $ 45 million at Christie's.  Photo: Courtesy of Christie's.

Detail of a Tibetan thangka bought by Liu Yiqian for 45 million dollars at Christie’s in November 2014.
Photo: Courtesy of Christie’s.

Liu Yiqian and Wang Wei are one of the most famous Asian collecting couples in the world. They don’t hesitate to spend a lot on top-notch antiques. For example, they purchased a $ 45 million Tibetan tapestry commissioned by a Ming Emperor from Christie’s Hong Kong in November 2014, which marked the highest price for a Chinese artwork to ever be auctioned. Liu is also known for his purchase of a 15th-century Ming Dynasty imperial porcelain “chicken mug” for $ 36.3 million from Sotheby’s Hong Kong in July 2014, and he recently spent $ 14.7 million. dollars for a Song Dynasty vase purchased at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in April. 2015 (see Chinese collector uses AmEx to buy $ 36 million mug of chicken).

The billionaire taxi driver and his wife’s 20-year-old didn’t make the purchase purely for their own pleasure or for speculative purposes. They created the Long Museum, which has two branches in Shanghai that collectively house China’s largest private art collection. In addition to exhibitions, it sponsors academic papers, lectures, workshops and training in arts education.

2008-09 by Fang Lijun is presented in the Long Museum of Liu Yiqian and Wang Wei.

Fang lijun 2008-09 is presented in the Long Museum of Liu Yiqian and Wang Wei.

Indeed, China is experiencing an art museum boom thanks to this influential group of collectors. Lu Xun, the son of Lu Jun, a real estate developer and chairman of Sifang Culture Group, opened the Sifang Art Museum near Nanjing in 2013. Meanwhile, nightclub tycoon Qiao Zhibing is transforming five tanks. oil tankers outside of Shanghai. in a new contemporary art center. Another couple of collectors on the list, her husband Lin Han and wife Wanwan Lei, recently opened the M Woods Museum in Beijing’s arts district. They take the knowledge they bring seriously: Lei studied art administration at the Central Art Academy in China and Columbia University in New York.

The growing influence of new wealth in China has had a significant impact on the international art world – China is now the second largest art market in the world. Although speculative and investment-oriented purchases are not uncommon and Touch of sin The parody reflects a real phenomenon, it is not the only force shaping the market, according to a recent Jing Daily interview with the chairman of the China Guardian, Hu Yanyan. “The Chinese art market has grown rapidly in recent years and most people still see it as an investment. But every once in a while the market will experience an upheaval that will actually end up being a washout for speculators, ”she said. “Therefore, the attitude of only entering the auction business for the purpose of speculation and profit is not a good choice. After several ups and downs, the market is still relatively stable thanks to people who have a genuine love for art.

Image: Courtesy of, Hong Kong.

Image: Courtesy of, Hong Kong.

In addition to museums, collectors are finding other creative ways to influence the arts in China. David Chau and Kelly Ying support Shanghai galleries Leo Xu Projects and Antenna Space, and founded the new Shanghai Art Fair Art021. Meanwhile, billionaire Adrian Cheng founded the K11 Art Foundation, which supports art villages in Wuhan and Guiyang and presents a collection with many international artists such as Yoshitomo Nara and Olafur Eliasson. Alan Lau serves on the board of directors of the non-profit arts space Para Site in Hong Kong.

The international influence of these collectors is also important. Cheng was invited to join Tate’s Asia-Pacific Acquisitions Committee in 2012, where he joined Alan Lau and Richard Chang. Chang is also a member of the Tate International Council, as well as a director of the Royal Academy in London, MoMA PS1 and the Whitney Museum in New York (where he also co-founded and chairs the performance committee).

Moreover, the tastes of these collectors extend to both Asian and Western works. Contemporary and / or classical Chinese works are popular with virtually everyone, such as pieces by Liu Wei, Xu Zhen, Yang Fudong, Zhang Enli, Ai Weiwei, and Cao Fei, to name a few. Due to their increasing wealth, the prices of contemporary Chinese art are slowly gaining ground on the price gap that exists with the first-rate pieces of Western artists.

On the western side, one of the most publicized acquisitions was the purchase by billionaire Wang Jianlin of Picasso’s work. Claude and Paloma for $ 28.2 million at Christie’s in November 2013. Andy Warhol’s works are also particularly popular among top Chinese collectors, such as Alan Lau, who bought Andy Warhol’s Green car accident (1963), sold for $ 71.7 million at Christie’s New York in 2007 and real estate investor Joseph Lau, known for purchasing the iconic portrait of Mao from Warhol in 2006.

Despite their significant global influence, many of these aficionados are extremely new to the art world and are often very young. Lin Han’s very first artwork purchased was a painting by Zeng Fanzhi he bought in 2013, while Adrian Cheng is one of the youngest billionaires in the world. If this is what the art world is already seeing from this new contingent of collectors, it can only expect increasing power and influence from the Chinese market in the decades to come.

This article was submitted by artnet News content partner, Jing Daily. To follow @JingDaily on Twitter and Artnet News on Facebook.

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