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China takes lead in world art, collectables market: report

China has overtaken the United States as the biggest auction market for art and collectable objects, after its sales more than doubled in just one year, according to research made public on Thursday.

A report for the Conseil des Ventes Volontaires (CVV, the French Auction Market Authority) said sales in China, including Hong Kong, grew 137 percent in 2010 to 7.6 billion euros (10.8 billion dollars).

China now holds 34.3 percent of global market share, compared to 24.2 percent in 2009, said the authority, a public body that regulates the auction industry in France.

"China took third place from France in 2004" and moved into second place in 2009, overtaking Britain, said Pierre Capelle of the Noeo Conseil management consultancy in Paris, which compiled the report.

The findings concentrate on "art and collectable objects", a field that is wider than "fine art" which comprises paintings, sculptures, drawings, engravings and photographs.

Artprice, a French specialist in the art market, declared China in March to be number one in the fine-art auction category after it realised sales of 3.1 billion dollars last year.

Noeo Conseil's findings put the United States in second place with sales worth 5.98 billion euros in 2010, up 62 percent from the previous year, with a market share of 27 percent.

In third place was Britain at 3.29 billion euros, up 70 percent, and a market share of 14.9 percent, then France at 1.4 billion euros, down eight percent, and a 6.3 percent share.

Overall, the worldwide auction market for art and collectable objects leaped 66 percent in 2010, with a total value of 22.15 billion euros, according to the report, based on a survey of nearly 3,000 auctioneers.

Chinese collectors have been particularly eager to buy ancient Chinese artifacts, which have been hitting record prices in the face of a relatively shortage of available items.

In November 2010, a Chinese vase from the 18th century sold for 69.2 millions dollars at a London auction held by Bainbridges, which subsequently had trouble recovering the sum from the winning Chinese bidder.

According to the World Wealth Report 2010, there now are 477,000 collectors in China, while a study by the China Minsheng Bank claimed that Chinese spend at least 80 billion yuan (8.9 billion euros) a year on works of art.