Shanghai establishes center, expo for art and antique trade

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On March 2, Shanghai announced the official establishment of the Shanghai International Antiques and Fine Art Trade Center. The move marks the city's latest step toward its goal of becoming an international trading hub for the sector.

Fang Shizhong, head of the municipal administration for culture and tourism, says, starting this year, a China international cultural relics and artworks trade expo will be held annually from Oct 26 to 28 at the Museum of Art Pudong. It will be the only official international cultural relic and artwork commodity exchange in China.

The city has also pledged to push forward duty-free sales of art and cultural relics at the China International Import Expo every year, as well as accelerate legislation concerning the art and antiques market.

In 2021, exhibitors at the fourth CIIE were permitted to bring five cultural relics without having to pay taxes. The CIIE featured, for the first time, 178 artworks and antiques-with a combined value of 2.3 billion yuan ($363.74 million)-from 11 countries and regions. Forty-one items with a total value of 760 million yuan were sold at the event.

This year, the CIIE will, for the first time, set up a dedicated exhibition zone for art and antiques to further facilitate such sales, according to Fang.

Shanghai, which has 78 auction companies engaging in the trade of antiques, has always been the most vibrant art market in China. In 2020, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage kicked off a series of trial operations in Shanghai concerning the administration of the exhibition, trade and appraisal of antiques.

The new policy enabled international auction houses to showcase and sell works of Western masters such as Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and Salvador Dali.

British auction house Christie's, which has been operating in the Chinese market since 2013, was one of the first institutions to benefit from the new policies. Last week, the company hosted its first sales event in Shanghai after the COVID-19 pandemic forced a halt to public auctions in 2020. The 20th and 21st Century Art: Shanghai Evening Sale saw more than 220 million yuan worth of artworks sold, a 50 percent growth from 2019.

"The success of the auction in Shanghai marks a monumental chapter in our company's history and underscores our continued commitment and innovation in the Chinese mainland," says Rebecca Yang, chairwoman of Christie's in China.

"The 20th and 21st Century Art: Shanghai Evening Sale brings our footprint here to the next level. It demonstrates our dedication to the Chinese market and support for the new policies by the local authorities, which will enable us to sell works by foreign artists who died after 1949 and that were consigned overseas," she adds.

In 2021, Shanghai hosted 1,004 auction events that generated 6 billion yuan in sales, accounting for a quarter of the national total.

The city is also one of the busiest ports in China for the import and export of antiques. Last year, 7,309 items entered or exited the country via Shanghai.

According to Fang, Shanghai will establish the first provincial-level credit supervision platform for the trade of art and antiques. The entire transaction process for an antique piece will be digitally administered on this platform.

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