China's $13 Billion in Art Sales Questioned

ZHANG XIAOGANG, bloodline series, oil on canvas, signed in Chinese & Pinyin and dated 2001, 200×300 cm, RMB: 16,800,000.  Bejing Poly International Auction.
ZHANG XIAOGANG, bloodline series, oil on canvas, signed in Chinese & Pinyin and dated 2001, 200×300 cm, RMB: 16,800,000. Bejing Poly International Auction.
  • Poly International

    Poly International

Widespread reports of China's ascendence as the biggest art market in the world may not be true. And not by a long shot, reports Forbes' Abigail R. Esman.

When art market expert Clare McAndrew noted at The European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht last March that many purchases made at Chinese auctions went unpaid, the statistics touting China as the leading art market began to unravel.

Esman says that among the deceptions is Beijing's Poly Auctions, which is part of a government weapons manufacturer. The company is the fine art auction arm of the People's Liberation Army and the repatriation of Chinese art is its aim, reports an art lawyer in Beijing to Esman.

"Artificially-inflated prices and manipulated sales have so disrupted the values for Chinese art and antiques that the true value of many of them remains unclear," writes Esman.

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