Christie’s and China Guardian Auctions announce they will jointly present a thematic collaboration in Shanghai this September. The organizing idea, 2020+, includes a series of sales and exhibitions under this partnership.
According to the joint statement, ‘A series of auction-related programs will be staged together by the specialists of two auction houses with their different areas of expertise, as part of a landmark and symbolic cultural partnership. The theme of 2020+ will look to explore the challenges, disruption, creativity and resilience of the artist to provide thought-provoking cultural dialogues between ancient and modern, East and West, at this particular moment in time.’
Christie’s and China Guardian team up to broaden the market in China
For many years, Beijing has been the main saleroom for the auction industry in mainland China, followed by Xiamen and other cities in the southern area. Shanghai, despite its role as a major economic centre in China, has not realised its full potential when it comes to the auction business. The collaboration between Christie’s and China Guardian is to beef up their efforts in tapping into the Chinese market by synergising their different areas of expertise.
Over the past few years, Shanghai West Bund has gained prominence in the Chinese art scene with new galleries and museums moving in. The annual West Bund Art & Design Fair welcomes over 100 galleries around the world, offering a platform for international exhibitors to showcase the finest quality of modern and contemporary art.
Christie’s autumn auction in Shanghai
In fact, Christie's has its eye on the art market in Shanghai long ago. Christie’s was the first international auction house to open a representative office in Shanghai in 1994 and held its first Shanghai auction in 2013. In the following year, Christie’s opened a brand-new gallery space at Ampire Building on Shanghai’s historic Bund. Yet, restricted by Chinese rules and regulations, Christie’s is not allowed to sell Chinese works of art or Chinese paintings there. In general, Christie’s holds one auction in Shanghai around September every year, offering modern and contemporary art and Moutai liquor across its two or three sales.
On the other hand, China Guardian, with its headquarter in Beijing and its subsidiary in Hong Kong, has not been paying much attention to Shanghai. With this new collaboration, China Guardian can provide better support in the region by taking up auctions related to Chinese works of art and Chinese paintings with its widespread network and considerable resources in China.
Christie’s gallery space in Shanghai
Some are reserved about the potential benefits that this collaboration can bring. After all, their headquarters are in Hong Kong and Beijing, two major salesrooms in China, where auction houses would prefer selling their top-notch artworks in. Will the offerings in Shanghai be attractive enough for collectors and art lovers? Besides, collectors are used to participating in auctions in Beijing and Hong Kong. How can Shanghai stand out among other salesrooms in China?
On the other hand, some believe that both auction houses are testing the waters with this partnership, which can lead to more collaborations on a greater scale if it is proven successful. One speculation has it that this collaboration is a prelude to China Guardian's acquisition of Christie's. The former one, a leading auction house in Mainland China, might view this as an opportunity to increase its presence in the oversea market through the latter. In 2016, Taikang Life Insurance, one of China’s largest insurers, acquired 13.5% of Sotheby’s shares and has become its biggest shareholder. Taikang Life Insurance was founded by the chairman, Chen Dongsheng (image above), who is also the founder of China Guardian.
Regarding the partnership, Guillaume Cerutti, Chief Executive Officer, Christie’s, commented, “I am very proud of this first collaboration between Guardian and Christie’s. We have great respect for Guardian’s founder and chairman, Chen Dongsheng, and Guardian’s teams. Our two houses are on the same wavelength to leverage our collective expertise and reach, and to offer to collectors the very best of world art. As the first international auction house to hold an independent auction license in China, this partnership underscores Christie’s continued commitment and long-term investment in this key market”.
Hu Yanyan, Director and President, China Guardian Auctions, added, “As Shanghai continues it trajectory in maturing into an international art center of great significance, we feel now is the opportune moment for such a culturally historic partnership to take place. For China Guardian, innovation is in our genes and we are always proud to promote the development of diversifying art market. The collaboration in September is also a good opportunity for us to learn from Christie’s, a brand with history of over 250 years. We look forward to convening more art audiences this September, with our innovative program of sales and activities further deepening the cross-cultural dialogue which has been building over the years”.