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September 27, 2013

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‘Right place, right people and right moment’

Christie’s successfully held its first independent auction on the Chinese mainland yesterday, attracting the elite to Shanghai.

It marked the world’s largest fine arts auction house’s full-fledged entry into a market that it considers a key growth engine for global art sales.

The auction at the Jing’an Shangri-La hotel in Shanghai raised about 156 million yuan (US$25 million) from sales that included Pablo Picasso’s 1969 painting “Homme assis.”

“I’m very happy with the results, with the right place, with the right people, with the right moment,” Christie’s chief executive Steven Murphy said.

Christie’s put up 42 works for auction — from Asian contemporary art and Western masterpieces to jewelry, watch and wine — with buyers making bids online and on telephone simultaneously.

About 950 people packed auction room where a ruby necklace was sold for a whopping 18 million yuan.

Picasso’s “Homme assis” went for 9.6 million yuan — the first work of the Spanish avant-garde artist to be sold on the mainland. The bidding involved five people.

Asian contemporary art was led by China’s Sui Jiangguo’s seven plaster sculptures “Cloth Veins Study Series” which sold for 10 million yuan. A carved jade laughing Buddha sold for 5.5 million yuan, 10 times higher than its estimated price.

“This auction is a milestone for Christie’s 247 years of history and also opens a new chapter for its development in Chinese mainland,” said Cai Jinqing, Christie’s China managing director.

Cai said Christie’s will have a “home” here at Empire Building on the Bund next year.

A collection of vintage chateau wines was the first one to go under the hammer.

Cai Guoqiang’s painting “Homeland” ended the day’s proceedings, with the money raised intended for a non-profit cause with no premium paid to the auction house. The money will be donated to a modern art museum in Cai’s hometown of Quanzhou, Fujian Province. Cai’s iconic work sold for 15 million yuan.

“I am touched. I never thought it would sell for that price,” he told Shanghai Daily.

Another prominent piece, a 1963 still-life painting by Italian artist Giorgio Morandi, failed to attract any bids.

Organizing sales

Christie’s, which has long operated in Hong Kong, had been organizing sales in China since 2005 by authorizing a Chinese auction firm to use its international trademark, due to strict regulations on setting up a solely foreign invested auction house.

But the UK-headquartered firm said in April it had become the first international auction house authorised to operate in mainland China without a local partner.

The house now expects “to connect Shanghai and therefore China’s mainland into Christie’s network” which includes New York, London, Paris and Milan.

During the two-hour event, an Andy Warhol print, “Diamond Dust Shoes” of 1980-1981, sold for 4 million yuan.

It featured vivid-colored shoes against a dazzling background in the artist’s signature repetition technique.

China emerged as the world’s largest art and antiques market with a 30 percent share in 2011, narrowly overtaking the United States for the first time. It reverted to second place in 2012 with a 25 percent global share as the US regained the top spot with 33 percent, the art fair organizer said in a March report.



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