A NEW generation of wealthy Chinese have become big new bidders in the art market and helped to drive worldwide sales at the auction house Christie's to a record-breaking £2.4bn for the first half of this year.

Christie's yesterday said global sales were up 9 per cent on the same period in 2012, boosted by the expanding number of foreign buyers and growth in online business.

The Chinese have followed the Russians and Middle Eastern buyers in entering the art market to buy back their own national treasures, before joining the rush for leading Old Masters, Impressionists and modern works.

There was a 15 per cent increase in bidders from Asia worldwide and Christie's in London  saw a 21 per cent rise in interest from China.

Christie's is responding with the first international auction house sale in Mumbai in December, and in Shanghai in September.

But overall London was nearly 22 per cent down, despite highlights such as the sale of a £27m portrait, Jeanne Hébuterne (au chapeau) by Amedeo Modigliani, because the comparison is with blockbuster success last year.

Steven P Murphy, Christie's chief executive, said the drop in London's figures should not be seen as a trend.

He added: "Only one season ago, the entire art world was packing London and we had record sales and I think we're going to see that again in the next year or year after." The first six months had seen some spectacular works consigned to New York, which saw a staggering £420m sales of post-war and contemporary art in May.

But this month, which is not included in the results, has seen a world record price for a Pre-Raphaelite painting set in London with £14.8m for Love Among the Ruins by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones.

Mr Murphy said: "The market for art and the desire to acquire art continues to be incredibly strong. We are convinced there's room for us to continue to grow."

High art: Top prices

Most valuable lots sold by Christie's in the latest half-year

  • Jackson Pollock's Number 19 £38.5m
  • Roy Lichtenstein's Woman With Flowered Hat £37m
  • Jean-Michel Basquiat's  Dustheads £32.3m
  • Amedeo Modigliani's Jeanne Hébuterne (Au Chapeau) £26.9m
  • The Princie Diamond £25.6m
  • Jean-Michel Basquiat's Untitled diptych in acrylic and oils £18.8m
  • Mark Rothko's Untitled (Black on Maroon) £17.8m
  • Winston Legacy diamond  £17.6m


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