Monday, August 22, 2011

About that $65 million dollar painting....

As I mentioned in a blog post back in June, one of the big stories of the Spring Auctions held in Beijing and Hong Kong was the $65,399,350 paid for a painting by Qi Baishi, ``Eagle Standing on a Pine Tree with Four-character couplet in Seal Script'' at China Guardian Auctions on May 22nd. A truly astounding price and frankly, hard to understand. True, its provenance was impressive. Qi Baishi intended it as a gift for Chiang Kai-shek's 60th birthday, and the seller was well-known Shanghai billionaire collector Liu Yiqian. But who was the buyer?? Much has been made of the China's booming economy and rapidly expanding class of millionaires and billionaires. However, there is another explanation that has less to do with passion for art or even conspicuous consumption. As it turns out the buyer was a corporation, not an individual collector. has reported that the Hunan TV & Broadcast Intermediary Co. Ltd. purchased the painting, adding it to a collection of hundreds of ink and oil paintings by modern masters. That the buyer is a corporation lends support to the idea that the current Chinese art market is speculative, and that it is investment groups and corporations that are driving the Chinese art market into the stratosphere. According to a recent article ``investing'' cash in the Chinese art market is looking even more attractive to Chinese tycoons and corporations due to an overheated real estate market. This along with growing inflation and low interest rates leaves few investment options in China.

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