Global auction sales of Chinese art and antiques totaled $7.1 billion in 2017, increasing by 7% year-over-year, amidst an expectation of a stronger market rebound. The ultra-high-end market saw a record volume of sales, buoyed by a burgeoning private museum sector in China. Meanwhile, the middle and lower end of the market—where over 99% of transactions take place—showed signs of a continued correction since 2015.

In an ongoing effort to present the most accurate representation of the auction market for Chinese art, artnet and the China Association of Auctioneers (CAA) have once again partnered to produce a definitive study of the market, which only these two trusted organizations can provide.

The Global Chinese Art Auction Market Report is the only report of its kind to publish data from mainland China that has been vetted by a third-party organization with insider knowledge on the state of the market, along with comprehensive auction results for Chinese art sold around the world.

The report provides in-depth analysis of reliable market data, coupled with a macro-level view of the global art auction industry. It aims to foster a deeper understanding of this complex market, which continues to be one of the most interesting and important developments in modern art auction history.

Key Findings

Global Total Sales Value of Chinese Art

– In both mainland China and overseas, there has been a marked boost in the ultra-high-end market of lots valued ¥100 million ($14.2 million) and above. 38 lots sold in this price bracket, more than doubling the number in 2016, and almost ten times that of 2013. Notably, a Chinese artist entered the $100 million club for the first time, joining the ranks of Picasso, Modigliani, Bacon, and Munch, buoyed by the burgeoning private museum sector hungry for blockbuster artworks to fill their collections.

– North America saw a 62% increase in the total sales value of Chinese art and antiques year-over-year, largely bolstered by a single auction, “Important Chinese Art from the Fujita Museum” at Christie’s New York. This landmark sale garnered over $262 million in one night alone—more than what North America sold in Chinese art and antiques over the entire previous year.

– As the market increasingly turns towards high-end art and antiques, payment default or delay remains an ongoing issue in mainland China.

Among all lots sold in 2017, the percentage of the total sales value paid as of May 15, 2018 dropped to 49%, the lowest since 2011. This percentage further drops to a mere 28% among lots sold over ¥10 million (vs. 48% in 2016). Of the 18 lots sold above ¥100 million, only two were paid in full as of May 15, 2018.

– In the mid- and low-end markets, smaller auction houses are still struggling to make ends meet. In 2017, there were over 200 mainland Chinese auction houses in hibernation, as compared to 86 in 2011. This number saw a significant jump in 2015, and has kept steadily growing ever since.

– The sell-through rate of Chinese art and antiques overseas saw a significant dip in 2017, continuing the overall downward trend of the past few years. It decreased from 69% (close to the United States’ average of 70%) in 2011 to 47% in 2017, dropping below mainland China’s sell-through rate in for the first time.



Ning Lu
Vice President, Price Database
Artnet Worldwide Corporation
+1-212-497-9700 ext. 164

Yu Jinsheng
Secretary General, Art Auction Committee
China Association of Auctioneers
+86-10-6839-1137 ext. 8017