The London auction house Christie's is opening in China to take a bigger slice of the country's $5bn (£3bn) art sales market.
China is the world's largest art auction market, making up about 25 per cent of global art sales – and Christie's has got the go-ahead to hold its first auction in Shanghai in the autumn, when it will become the first international art auction house to operate independently on the mainland.
Christie's and its rival Sotheby's have long operated in Hong Kong, but the opening of the mainland market is expected to be a major boost to sales.
Steven Murphy, Christie's chief executive, said: "The art market continues to grow at a tremendous rate due to the burgeoning interest in art, particularly in Asia and China. There was a cooling of the market last year but looking at current figures, sales are ahead of the previous year."
He added: "We have been working on this for quite some time. For us now to have our own edifice here in Shanghai with our own auction room is hugely exciting. Christie's will work with clients in Shanghai in the same way that we have done in London, Paris, New York and Hong Kong."
The art market has been restricted in China and there are still limits on selling cultural relics, but Mr Murphy said the move by Beijing to permit Christie's auction house was "a major step forward culturally for China".
The number of clients from China bidding at Christie's global auctions has doubled since 2008.
Christie's already has offices in Beijing and Shanghai and will look at building its presence through private art sales and events across the country, using the Shanghai location as the flagship for the region.
China's home-grown auction houses are also expanding, with notable examples including Poly International and Guardian, two state-run businesses.
Sotheby's has formed a joint venture in Beijing with a state-owned company called Gehua Cultural Development Group to hold auctions in China.
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