Sotheby’s Expands in Shanghai – Artforum International

Sotheby’s will open an office in Shanghai, Bloomberg reports, thus establishing its first foothold in mainland China after operating in Hong Kong for years. As well, the global auction house will conduct business in-country for the first time since the 1990s, when it did so briefly before consolidating operations in Hong Kong as the market there heated up. The behemoth’s move to mainland China is fueled by the region’s rapidly increasing wealth: China is home to the world’s second-largest number of billionaires, and Chinese consumers are expected to account for 40 percent of all global luxury sales by 2030.

Too, the mainland China and Hong Kong art markets continue to sizzle, with collectors from both regions combined estimated to have bought twice as many works in 2022 as they did the previous year. Also, following a strong 2021, Sotheby’s sales in Asia topped out at a record $1.1 billion in 2022, leading the company at the end of that year to announce plans for a massive new HK headquarters and exhibition space, scheduled to open in 2024. Earlier in 2022, the auction house had announced the Shanghai-based Jean Quian as director of operations for China. At that time, Nathan Drahi, managing director of Sotheby’s Asia, affirmed that “China is a major strategic focus for Sotheby’s,” noting that he looked forward to further development in the region.

This week, Drahi told Bloomberg that Sotheby’s would display more objects and hire more staff in China. He confirmed that the company had fortified its suite of licenses to enable services including Sotheby’s Buy Now, which allows consumers to buy off the shelf rather than bid.

“It’s more demand, but in a way it’s also a way for us to capture a market,” he said. “We see tremendous potential in the mainland.” 


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