China Guardian is marking its silver anniversary as Asia’s art market continues to grow. The mainland auction house, China’s oldest, now has a major presence in Hong Kong and is known for its sale of Chinese works.
The president of China Guardian (HK) Auctions is Hu Yanyan. She joined the company in 1993 as a founding member and has been listed as a Power Game Changer of the Year by Art + Auction. In an interview by email, she answered questions on the company’s outlook.
A+A: Your HK spring sales this year totaled HK$420 million ($54 million), up 28.9 percent from spring 2018. What were the main reasons for the increase? Also, nontraditional categories soared — Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art achieved its highest-ever total and jewelry sales have also shown increases of some 40 percent. Will this growth continue?
It has been seven years since our establishment in the Hong Kong auction market in 2011. Our Hong Kong specialist team has garnered valuable support from collectors mostly from Hong Kong but also from around the world. We are glad to see our team gaining a foothold locally while also reaching out on an international level. Clients’ confidence in us deepens as our understanding grows of collectors from Asia, Europe and America.
Our Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art, as well as jewelry sales this spring, saw impressive growth, which shows that our offerings were able to meet the diverse needs of Hong Kong collectors and cater to the development of the market. With the fast-paced economic development in China, Chinese buyers’ horizons have also broadened as they become increasingly willing to travel the world, which helped them gain exposure to Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art and even Western art. In order to deepen our bond with jewelry clients, we have recently launched Guardian Glamour, a private sales service that would allow clients to make purchases outside the auction season in a more intimate setting.
How important is the move to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC)? Is the move of location the main reason for sales going up? What are the challenges?
Being a landmark of the city, the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) has been the backdrop of many historic moments. The HKCEC is the stage where extraordinary events and record breaking sales are witnessed by the world. As the first Chinese auction house to set foot in Hong Kong, we have grown immensely from offering two categories to five categories over only a few years.
Last autumn we were thrilled to join other international houses at the HKCEC for the first time. The hardware and software here make it possible for us to bring our services to the next level, and the Autumn Sales brought our 2017 annual total to HK$ 979 million / $ 125.51 million, our highest ever for Hong Kong sales.
This year we will be bringing our Autumn Sales to HKCEC once again and with approximately 70,000 square feet in floor space, four times what we had at hotel venues in the past. The concurrent major art events at the HKCEC will also help attract art lovers and collectors alike.
Why should buyers and consigners choose China Guardian over other auction houses, whether based in China or elsewhere?
In the world of Chinese art auctions, China Guardian is synonymous with integrity and professionalism. This is the result of 25 years of hard work by every one of us since 1993. We are extremely happy to be where we are but never satisfied. When a consignor entrusts us with a beloved treasure, an amazing cycle begins. Our art experts embark on extensive research on the academic value of the property, marketing specialists come up with all-encompassing campaigns to communicate the extraordinary value of the object to collectors old and new, while client service, finance and operation professionals provide impeccable support, all in order to bring every gem of art and civilization to its next rightful custodian. This is a beautiful journey in which every part is vital to its smooth completion. Our team of specialists possesses profound knowledge in every category of Chinese art, strong relationships with collectors from China and beyond as well as a firm grasp of the vicissitudes of the market.
What has been China Guardian’s biggest success, the one you have been most proud of?
We are turning 25 years old this year. There are many of us who have been at China Guardian for 10, 15 or 20 years, and I have witnessed their growth from young women and men to mature and experienced professionals. Their devotion is the essence of China Guardian which gives people confidence. We are honored to have earned the trust of collectors worldwide over the past 25 years.
Thanks to the global economic environment and development of the art market in recent years, we are delighted to see the emergence of young collectors in significant numbers. Their entry into the market represents a great boost of confidence and we are proud to serve as a platform for new collectors to experience the profound pleasure of art and collection. 2018 is a remarkable year for China Guardian. Our brand new headquarters at the Guardian Art Center (GAC) in Beijing stands as the world’s first one-stop-shop for exchange of art and artifacts and represents a new chapter in the history of China Guardian. On top of auctions, this brand new cultural landmark of Beijing is a groundbreaking complex that will accommodate everything from exhibitions, evaluation and conservation of artefacts to artistic exchange and training. I look forward to welcoming collectors around the world at our new home this autumn for the 25th birthday of China Guardian.
This interview appears in the August edition of Art+Auction.
Founder: Louise Blouin