Phillips has announced a strategic partnership with the Chinese auction house Yongle. The two will co-operate on a series of forthcoming sales this winter in Hong Kong and Beijing. The joint auctions will begin at Phillips Hong Kong for 20th century design and contemporary art categories on 30 November to 1 December, and then continue onto Yongle in Beijing for a Modern and contemporary art sale in early December.
The two companies will introduce each other's clients to their sales, with previews taking place in Beijing, Shanghai, Taipei, Taichung, and Singapore. Overseas buyers can bid online for both the sales in Hong Kong and mainland China, confirms a Phillips spokesperson. They add that Phillips will be able to "consign some works to the Beijing sale as well if suitable".
“Greater China [an informal geographical area that encompasses Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau] is a critical component of our growth strategy," Phillips’s chief executive Stephen Brooks says in a statement. "Working with Yongle on the ground will allow us to stage auction related programmes in Beijing and Shanghai, and to directly serve that community by bringing the very best of Western 20th-century and emerging contemporary art to mainland Chinese clients."
So far, the collaboration is confined to these two sales, a Phillips spokesperson says. They add that the London-headquartered auction house is open to different ways of collaborating with Yongle in the near future, "but that there are currently no other solid plans at this time".
Asked about the viability of doing business in China, a Phillips spokesperson says: "Despite the ongoing challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, 2021 saw an expansion of the art infrastructure in China, according to the 2022 Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report." Lockdowns and a collapsing property market in the mainland this year are no deterrent either. “Each season, around 75% of our 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design sales total in Hong Kong is accounted for by buyers from Greater China, with worldwide activity by mainland collectors increasing 500% by 2021 since opening a Shanghai office in 2018," the spokesperson adds.
Phillips has in recent years doubled down on its presence in China, having announced last year it will move its Hong Kong operations to a new, larger headquarters in the West Kowloon Cultural District that will open next spring.
Yongle, established in 2005, operates offices in 10 cities across eight countries, and its general sales since 2020 have totalled over 7.7bn Chinese yuan ($1bn), with 10 lots selling for over $14m. In the Modern and contemporary art categories it netted $354m during the same period, setting over 50 records. However, the auction house has taken a hit this year, along with the rest of China's economy: its 2022 spring sale garnering $135m, a 43% decrease from 2021’s equivalent sale, which made $316 m.
“We believe the strategic partnership with Phillips will further broaden our global reach and create a synergistic effect by combining both companies’ resources and capabilities,” says Peng Zhaojun, managing director of Yongle Culture Group and Yongle Auction. “Through this strategic partnership, we will work together in multiple fields to increase brand awareness, gain access to new markets, and grow businesses.”