Art auctions draw buyers from developing nations

Art auctions draw buyers from developing nations

NEW YORK - For art sellers, the current market paints a pretty picture.

The global art market is booming as wealthy populations in emerging nations become increasingly involved in art auctions. A surplus of investment funds generated by easy-money policies around the world is being spent for art transactions, and online auctions are fueling an expansion of the market.

On Nov. 12, "Three Studies of Lucian Freud" by Irish-born painter Francis Bacon (1909-1992) set a world auction record for any work of art at Christie's-a US auction giant-when it sold for US$142.4 million (S$180 million).

"The Bay Psalm Book," said to be one of 11 remaining copies of the first book ever written and printed in the United States, sold for US$14.165 million at a Sotheby's auction on Nov. 26.

The world's art auction market has grown about fivefold in the past 10 years.

Sotheby's is expected to set a new sales record of US$5.2 billion in 2013, up 19 per cent from the previous year.

US analyst Katharine Markley said recent record-setting bids show art buyers have become diversified in the past 10 years, partly because more Chinese and Middle Eastern collectors and investors have entered the market. Markley said auction houses have begun to handle more Asian and Middle Eastern artworks in a reflection of these changes.

On Dec. 19, Christie's held its first full-fledged auction in Mumbai. In September, the auction house will hold its first auction in Shanghai, with plans for its maiden auction in Brazil next year.

"We will actively engage in the global market," a spokesman for the auction house said, as it seeks to tap surplus investment funds flowing into emerging nations.

The spread of online art transactions is helping the market to expand.

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