China not ready for TEFAF

TEFAF just released this press statement:

In March 2013 TEFAF announced that it had entered into exclusive discussions with Sotheby’s to explore the possibility of developing a high-end art fair in China via Sotheby’s Joint Venture in Beijing with GeHua. Over the past few months TEFAF, with Sotheby’s assistance, was able to develop a detailed proposal for exhibitors to consider, which had the support and co-operation of the Chinese authorities and fulfilled all the local requirements.

Although the art market in China is growing rapidly and there is considerable belief in its potential, the feedback from many dealers indicates that the majority feels that exhibiting in mainland China is something that they would consider at a later date. While the interest in and the appetite for Western art is undoubtedly growing, there is a belief that the market for many of the specialisations represented at Maastricht is still evolving.

The Executive Committee and the Board of Trustees of TEFAF Maastricht have therefore reluctantly concluded that a high-end art fair, as presently envisaged, in Beijing is not viable at the current time.


The viewing days of the African art sales in Paris at both Sotheby’s and Christie’s last week coincided with the Asian art auctions. Wandering around in those crowded rooms, surrounded by many very professional looking teams of Chinese buyers, it was clear to me that the interest of the Chinese still mainly is their own cultural heritage. I didn’t see any of them looking at the African art..


UPDATE: Bendor Grosvenor of added an interesting issue to this story:

This project was a joint venture with Sotheby’s. However, I hear it’s that element of the venture which caused concern, especially amongst potentially participating dealers, rather than any feeling that no Chinese punters would turn up. Sotheby’s were insisting that all sales made at the fair go through them, with a commission payable. Hardly an incentive for independent dealers whose biggest competition is the auction houses.