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The Chinese threat to Sotheby's and Christie's

By Katie Hunt, for CNN
updated 3:57 AM EDT, Mon September 10, 2012
Packed salerooms like this have helped China Guardian become the world's fourth largest auction house
Packed salerooms like this have helped China Guardian become the world's fourth largest auction house
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chinese auction house to hold first sale outside China
  • Move may pose a threat to Sotheby's and Christie's market dominance
  • China's art market has boomed in recent years
  • Chinese painters now outsell Warhol and Picasso at auction

Hong Kong (CNN) -- International auction houses Sotheby's and Christie's have a history that stretches back to the 18th Century.

But a little-known Chinese rival could now pose a threat to their global dominance of the sale of fine art and antiques.

China Guardian said last week that it would hold its first auction outside mainland China in Hong Kong on October 7.

Although the sale will be conducted in Mandarin Chinese, Yannan Wang, China Guardian's president and director, said the company hoped to target overseas customers.

Future auctions will be held in both English and Mandarin.

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"We have a very strong base of Chinese collectors and some loyal Western buyers," she told CNN in an emailed response to questions.

"Hong Kong is an international city, we expect to see an increase of international collectors," she added.

Deadbeat art buyers on the rise in China

China's art market has boomed in recent years as the country's newly affluent look to collect their own art and heritage.

According to the website Artprice, Chinese painters Qi Baishi and Zhang Daqian now outsell Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso at auction.

China Guardian has been holding sales in mainland China since 1994 and according to French auction body Conseil des Ventes now ranks as world's fourth largest.

Another Chinese auctioneer, Beijing Poly, ranks third after Christie's and Sotheby's.

The Hong Kong auction, which will feature ink paintings, calligraphy and classical Chinese furniture, marks the first time a Chinese auction house will compete with Sotheby's and Christie's on their home turf.

Chinese law prohibits foreign auction houses from auctioning cultural relics in China but Sotheby's and Christie's hold regular auctions of Chinese art and artifacts in Hong Kong, London and New York.

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