A Study of the Contemporary Art Market's Global Expansion in Hong Kong
The Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China, known as Hong Kong has become Asia's leading center for fine art auctions in terms of value and lot turnover. Over the course of the past six years, the harbor city's international market share has steadily grown to rival and in several segments surpass the longstanding international art market auction leaders- New York, London and Paris. In March 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported "Hong Kong sales generated 20% of Sotheby's revenue in 2011, up from just 5% in 2004. The New York company sold a record $447 million of collectibles over five days last spring. That same season, Christie's sold $469 million."1 My thesis explains the dynamics of the significant global expansion in the contemporary art market through an analysis of the international art market. My analysis begins with the infamous Robert C. and Ethel Scull sale at Sotheby Parke Bernet in 1973 and follows the cyclical rise and fall of the art markets throughout the 1980s and 1990s. My thesis then examines the international, contemporary art market between 2002 and 2012 to illuminate the economic, socio-political and market nuances that have led Hong Kong to its current position as the epicenter of the international art market. My thesis also examines the conflation of Hong Kong's governmental and economic policies, colonialist history and geographic location, which together have provided a fertile and globally unique landscape for an unprecedented climate in the art market. Art Price Index reports in Art Market Trends 2011 that Hong Kong's "freeport status offers a number of advantages for the international exchange of artworks, including no tax on imports or exports, strict banking secrecy, more liberal regulations than Beijing and Shanghai and a strategic location for access to the entire Southeast Pacific region, facilitating visits from Australian, Korean, Taiwanese and Japanese collectors."2 Lastly, my thesis will seek to understand the effect that the art market's expansion has imposed on Hong Kong's cultural identity. Since 2010, Gagosian Gallery, White Cube, Ben Brown Fine Art, Emmanuel Perrotin, and a host of other Western-based galleries have opened spaces within blocks of each other. Because of the lack of state funded museums and art institutions, have the exhibitions produced by commercial galleries, auction exhibitions and private collector museums replaced non-market driven museum and independent art exhibitions? Is this problematic because the exhibitions and artists being represented lack specificity to Hong Kong? Is the global homogenization of contemporary art exhibited in Hong Kong beneficial for the market's continuing growth? Or is Hong Kong's history so deeply rooted in a colonial and economic agenda that a western perspective should be expected? 1 Chow, Jason. "As Auction Season Heats Up, Sotheby's Hopes for a Rebound- WSJ.com." Business News & Financial News- The Wall Street Journal Wsj .com.http://online. wsj .com/article/SB 100014240527023034047045 77306531214829766.html (accessed April 1, 2012). 2 Ehrmann, Thierry. "Art Market Trends 2011." artprice.com, the world leader in Art market informationOnline auctions -Fine Art auction - Art Price for Artists. http://www.artprice.com (accessed February 25, 2012).