Christie’s became the latest international auction house to begin operations in mainland China when it held its first auction in the country on Thursday, and sold $25 million worth of art and jewelry, among other things.
More than 1,000 clients took part in the auction, which sold a Picasso painting, Patek Philippe watches and bottles of Chateau Lafite wine, in addition to a diamond and ruby necklace that went under the hammer for $2.94 million.
The Picasso, a small 1969 piece titled “Homme Assis,” drew a bid $500,000 more than its estimate and was sold at $1.5 million. It was the first Picasso ever to be sold at auction in China, according to the New York Times.
"Bringing international art, including Picasso, to mainland China for the first time is the realization of a long held dream for Christie's,” Steven Murphy, CEO of Christie's, said in a statement on the auctioneer's website. “We hope to continue to share the vibrant creativity we have experienced in Shanghai with a global audience as we grow our operations in mainland China."
Jinqing Cai, managing director of Christie's China, termed Thursday’s auction “an unforgettable milestone in our 247 year history," and added that the auction house looks “forward to continuing to build on the positive momentum we have felt this week.”
While the 43-lot sale did not meet Christie’s international standards, Bloomberg reported that the event was primarily meant to gain access to the growing ranks of high-net-worth Chinese citizens.
“As Europe was in the 19th century and the U.S. in the 20th century, China will become the most important market in 20 or 30 years,” Francois Pinault, the founder of Christie’s, said, according to Bloomberg.
This is the first time an international auction house has been independently allowed to hold auctions in China after it was granted a license to do so in April. Last year, Sotheby’s (NYSE:BID) entered China through a joint venture with the Beijing Gehua Cultural Development Group to hold auctions in the country.