Christie's is officially joining the stampede of fine-art companies seeking big money in China. The venerated British auction house will hold its first art sale in mainland China on Thursday, signaling its intention to become a major player among the country's wealthy collectors.
The Shanghai auction will feature a mix of Western and Chinese contemporary art, including pieces by Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder and Ed Ruscha.
Christie's, which already has a lucrative presence in Hong Kong, claims that it is the first foreign art auction house to receive a license to operate in China without a local partner. In the past, Chinese law has imposed strict regulations on foreign fine-art companies, requiring them to team up with local entities.
Thursday's Christie's auction has an estimated pre-sale total value of $16 million, making it a modest sale by international standards. The auction, taking place at the Jing An Shangri-La Hotel in Shanghai, will also include jewelry and fine wine.
It has been traditionally difficult for individuals to import fine art into China because of the country's strict laws surrounding art sales. But the relatively recent establishment of free trade zones in Shanghai and Beijing has facilitated the movement of art for auction houses.