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French art market looses third rank to China

3 min

A spectacular 78% sales jump in 2007 helped China's auction houses take third place behind the US and Britain, a slot traditionally occupied by France, whose art market is "fossilising," says artprice.


China's art market overtook France's for the first time last year in world rankings still dominated by New York and London auction houses, according to figures released by artprice on Monday.

The global art market saw an overall rise for the seventh year running, with revenue up 43.8 percent on the previous year, according to artprice's 2007 data comprising sales of fine arts works -- paintings, drawings and photographs.

The rise was driven by a substantially higher number of sales above the million-dollar line -- 1,254 compared with 810 in 2006.

"2007 was therefore a veritable annus mirabilis for the art market," artprice said.

Christie’s generated 38.7 percent of world art sales, followed by Sotheby's with 36 percent, Phillips De Pury with 2.6 percent, China's Poly International Auction at 1.8 percent, China Guardian at 1.0 percent and French arthouse Artcurial with 0.9 percent.

New York kept its position as the world's auction leader with a 41.7 percent market share while London generated 30 percent of art market revenue, a two-point increase on the previous year.

France, with 6.4 percent, fell from its traditional third place, outdone for the first time by China, which accounted for 7.3 percent of world sales after a whopping 78 percent rise, including 75 sales above the million-dollar line.

"Sustained by rapidly growing domestic demand and rising star artists commanding rocketing prices, China is capable of competing with New York and London on sales of fine art," the report said.

"China's arrival as a major player in the art world," it added, "has proved even more spectacular on the particularly buoyant and highly competitive contemporary art segment."

The French art market, on the other hand, was "fossilising", the report said, "and appears to have gradually settled into a niche specialising in primitive photography, 19th century paintings and Art Deco."

World passion for contemporary works was best underlined by last year's top-selling artist, pop-art star Andy Warhol, who for the first time in a decade outsold Picasso.

"This event reflects a veritable sea-change," said artprice, following the taste for Impressionist masters in the 1990s followed by moderns such as Picasso or Gustave Klimt in the following decade.

The top 10 artists were Andy Warhol (422 million dollars), Pablo Picasso (320 million dollars), Francis Bacon (245 million), Mark Rothko (207 million), Claude Monet (165 million), Henri Matisse (114 million), Jean-Michel Basquiat (102 million), Fernand Leger (92 million), Marc Chagall (89 million) and Paul Cezanne (87 million).

2008 may not be as bright, however. "The art market is unlikely to remain immune to the weaker health of the global economy or to strong turbulence on financial markets," artprice said.

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