Sotheby’s Shanghai Space Opens, Along with New Digital Initiatives Allowing Chinese Buyers to Shop Around the Clock


Sotheby’s has inaugurated its new space in Shanghai as the house continues to actively expand its reach across the region. The opening of the physical site comes with the launch of online initiatives in mainland China that have an eye on a young generation of affluent buyers.

Officially known as Shanghai Sotheby’s Space, the venue adjacent to the Suzhou River opened Thursday, May 18, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The event coincides with the house’s celebration of its 50th anniversary this year in Asia. Spanning more than 20,000 square feet, the location will serve as a showroom and exhibition space of artworks and luxury items featured in the house’s global auction calendar and its Buy Now online sales platform, which is also making its debut in mainland China, allowing buyers to buy 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the year. The venue will also be home to a variety of programs such as talks and workshops, which are expected to take place in the foreseeable future.

“Sotheby’s Shanghai will become the meeting-point for collectors and art lovers across different communities in mainland China,” Jean Qian, managing director of Sotheby’s China, said in a statement. “Through a diverse offering of arts and cultural activities both in-person and online, we hope to bring a broader and more in-depth collecting experience that will drive long-term development across the wider art market in China and Asia alike.” The house has been making ambitious expansion plans across Asia, including recent appointments in South Korea and Thailand, and a new headquarters in Hong Kong in the making.

Sotheby's Shanghai

Shanghai Sotheby’s Space. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

The region continues to play an increasingly bigger role in the global market. Data from Sotheby’s suggests that Asian collectors account for 32 percent of bidders who have placed bids for artworks valued at $1 million or more between 2018 and 2022, just slightly less than those from North America’s 34 percent, which is the world’s biggest collector base, and outnumbering the 29 percent based from Europe.

Asian bidders are the most active when it comes to Chinese traditional paintings and works of art, Sotheby’s said, adding that the recent Hong Kong sales of Chinese art saw the biggest number of mainland Chinese bidders in three years. Asian bidders also account for 18 percent in the contemporary market and 17 percent in the Impressionist and modern market during 2018 to 2022, the house noted.

Sotheby's Shanghai

A visitor seen at the new Shanghai Sotheby’s space. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

This trend appears to have continued into 2023 as Asian buyers account for a quarter of the house’s all sales so far this year.

Asian buyers contributed to one-third of the total sales value at this week’s New York modern evening auction. Buyers from the region snapped up works by blue chip western names including Gustav Klimt, Paul Gauguin, Camille Pissarro, Edvard Munch, and Edouard Manet, as well as Claude Monet’s 1884 painting (sold for $5.8 million, including fees), and Henri Matisse’s (1941), which sold for nearly $4.7 million.

Nevertheless, Asian buyers are even more prominent when it comes to Sotheby’s luxury sales. Asian clients account for half of the house’s luxury global business: accounting for 61 percent of wine and spirits sales, 53 percent of handbags and accessories sales, and 37 percent of watch sales. A February online auction of more than 50 lots of rare Moutai (one of the most popular types of Chinese liquor), which was also Sotheby’s first online auction in mainland China, was 100 percent sold.

To capture the growing appetite of the mainland Chinese buyers and collectors, the house has launched its official Chinese website and is encouraging bidders to place bids via the house’s WeChat mini program, China’s popular app that now has 1.24 billion users worldwide.


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