SHANGHAI (AP) — Christie's drew the elite of China closer into its orbit with an auction Thursday of works by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and others in Shanghai, the first time any foreign auction house has held such a sale on the mainland without having to go through intermediaries.
The London auction house put 42 pieces under the hammer in China's financial hub, with bidding expected to raise around $16?million.
Along with Pablo Picasso's 1969 Homme Assis, Andy Warhol's 1980-81 Diamond Dust Shoes, and a 1963 still-life by Giorgio Morandi, items include works of Asian contemporary art and fine wines in recognition of China's booming market for rare vintages.
No Chinese works dating from before the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911 will be offered however, in deference to Chinese regulations that seek to discourage looters and grave robbers.
China, the world's second largest economy, already has more than 1 million U.S. dollar millionaires, many of whom are seeking to diversify their investments away from gold and real estate. Chinese bidders are now common at overseas auctions. The number attending Christie's events has doubled since 2008. Some $4.6 billion worth of cultural relics and artworks were sold last year in the domestic auction market, according to China's commerce ministry.
Christie's has long operated in Hong Kong and has been organizing sales in China since 2005 by allowing a Chinese auction firm to use its international trademark.
The auction house said on April 9 it was granted a license to operate independently in China, making it the first international auction house to hold its own branded events on the mainland.
"I think it is one of the most important steps the company has taken in almost 250 years of history. It's as important as arriving in America in the 1970s," said Jonathan Stone, Christie's chairman and international head of Asian art.