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When the East meets the West

Updated: 2013-12-23 09:25
By Alicia Liu ( China Daily)

Art can be the shared common ground for both Europe and China

Although there is a world of difference between Europeans and Chinese, there are some common threads that they share, such as the appreciation of history, civilization and artistic tradition.


When the East meets the West


The common linkages were aptly summed up by Winston Churchill, the former British prime minister, when he said: "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

China's claim to be the oldest and continuous civilization often finds credence in its rich artistic traditions that stretch without interruption from the Neolithic era to the present. Modern day Chinese, amid all the glamour associated with social transformation, are looking for a coherent set of values derived from the diversity and richness of their history, as well as the traditions and aesthetic values embodied in Chinese arts.

The phenomenal interest in Chinese art and antiques that is being seen in Europe is a reflection of this soul-searching process.

There are two conditions that need to be met for sustaining the Chinese interest in art purchases. One is the appreciation of culture; the other is having the financial means to afford it.

Chinese investment in the UK is now at an unprecedented high level, ranging from State-backed infrastructure investment to purchases by wealthy individuals. The opportunity to exploit this economic capital seems to be recognized with many auction houses and antique dealers investing in Chinese language signs and prominently displaying the UnionPay logo in their shop windows.

However, on closer inspection, you'll find that these establishments tend to hold a welcoming but cautious attitude toward the newcomers. For them, credibility established through a reputation built up over the years is the most important calling card for the trade, even more important than new-found wealth.

In a highly regulated market, the boldness of adapting to the change of new customers is on the condition of cautious and intelligent deals. People are likely to start with an area with which they feel comfortable and familiar, perhaps a place of higher transparency in business regulations.

Take Asian Art in London, an annual London city-wide antique art fair, as an example. Their bilingual marketing collateral this year is in traditional Chinese rather than simplified Chinese which is commonly used on the Chinese mainland.

Royalty and celebrity collectors often flock to the Masterpiece London, an art, antiques and design fair held at the Chelsea Royal Hospital in summer. This year a Hong Kong pavilion was built at the fair, organized in partnership with Fine Art Asia, one of the largest Asian fine art fairs based in Hong Kong.

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