Despite giddy Chinese art prices showing some strain from global economic uncertainty, collectors like Kai-Yin Lo think values will continue to rise due to limited supply and continued strong demand as Asian collectors become more affluent.
“As East and West get into more of a confluence in taste and in the market place, it will still go up,” said Lo, a Cambridge-educated writer and jewellery designer, a slim, elegant woman famously known for wearing mis-matched designer shoes.
She is one of Hong Kong’s leading art collectors — her home is stacked with rare Chinese furniture, stone carvings and paintings, including an inkbrush panorama of the Grand Canyon by Chinese 20th century master Wu Guanzhong.
Hong Kong has played a key role in Asia’s art market boom. Its auction market turnover — anchored by Sotheby’s and Christie’s — skyrocketed 300 percent from 2009 to 2010, powered by a wave of Chinese millionaires buying art with avid fervor.
Despite the art market’s vulnerability to shocks, including the 2008 Lehman Brothers collapse, when unrealistic estimates left scores of unsold lots amid tepid bidding even in the red-hot Chinese ceramics market, Asia’s rapid wealth accumulation will likely see more and more money flow into art and alternative investments such as wine.
Asia’s wealth management and private banking industry remains a sparkling growth area for many struggling banks, with an estimated 3.3 million high net worth individuals worth more than $1 million, according to Capgemini and Merrill Lynch’s latest annual World Wealth report.
With a combined wealth of $10.7 trillion, Asia’s wealthy have even eclipsed the $10.2 trillion held by Europe’s generational millionaires.