Houston Community News >> Chinese Art Market Soars with Economy

10/14/2007-- A NEW YORK collector made 63 times his cost on a Chinese painting at a London auction on Saturday, showing how money is being made by betting on trends in the contemporary art markets.

Howard Farber said he paid $US25,000 in 1996 for Wang Guangyi's Great Criticism: Coca-Cola, which portrays revolutionary soldiers stabbing at a Coca-Cola logo.

It was sold for 780,000 ($1.76 million), before commission, at Phillips de Pury & Co., compared with a top estimate of 600,000.

The buyer was Larry Warsh, Mr Farber's son-in-law, who is also a New York collector and art adviser.

The political pop artist's 1993 critique of US consumer culture is "the most reproduced image of Chinese contemporary art" Mr Farber said before the sale. "The artist sees the Coca-Cola logo as an invasion of Western brands into China, and every story in any magazine or book about Chinese art would probably use this image."

Phillips's sale is part of a five-day series of contemporary art sales estimated by auctioneers at as much as 184 million.

On Friday night Sotheby's took in 34.9 million, missing its 40.4 million top estimate even after adding commissions, in a possible sign that collectors are discounting some artworks after two months of turbulence in the financial markets.

Still, Yue Minjun's Execution, a 1995 oil painting of laughing men in underwear, set a record at Sotheby's both for the artist and for a Chinese contemporary work, taking 2.9 million, including commission, from a telephone buyer.

As China's economy grows, the country's art is captivating Western collectors. In London Charles Saatchi will open his new gallery with a Chinese contemporary show; in Belgium Guy Ullens has built a Beijing museum.

Mr Farber's sales have enabled him to profit from a three-year boom in values. Phillips is selling 44 of his works, valued at up to 5 million.

In June a sale of his art at Phillips took in $US5.5 million before commissions, almost 2.8 times the cost of his entire collection.

Mr Farber originally made his money buying and leasing stores in New York, while collecting US painters such as Georgia O'Keeffe and John Marin. After visiting Hong Kong in 1995 he began buying Chinese art, and had spent about $US2 million on it.

He said he often bought exhibited works from the artists.

Chinese artists in Phillips's sale include Ai Weiwei, Chen Zhen, Fang Lijun, Yue Minjun and Zhang Xiaogang.

(Contributed by Bloomberg)