Christie’s to open new Hong Kong HQ, sees growing Asian Gen Z interest

By Thomson Reuters Mar 25, 2024 | 6:46 AM

By Clare Jim

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Auction house Christie’s hopes its new 50,000-sq-ft Asia headquarters that opens in Hong Kong in September will boost sales in 2024 amid increased interest across the region from a new generation of culturally astute millennials and younger.

Francis Belin, Christie’s Asia-Pacific president, said he is “cautiously optimistic” about sales in the region as they try to engage with clients with the right products, right price and “exciting” events.

“We think we’ll continue to see a market in 2024 which is not as booming as in 2021, but it’s one that we can navigate if we do the right thing like we did in 2023,” Belin told Reuters on Monday.

Total auction sales in the Asia-Pacific region eased 4% to $805 million last year from 2022, contributing 28% to the group’s total. The sales decline compared to 43% and 9% drops in Americas and EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa), respectively.

Greater China accounted for 80% of Asia-Pacific sales.

Christie’s also saw a surge in new buyers among millennials, born between 1981 to 1996, and Gen Z, born since 1997. It said Asia-Pacific accounted for 66% of its global millennial buyers last year, and more than half of them were from mainland China. Gen Z buyers from Asia-Pacific also more than doubled.

Belin said the auction house had started to see a surge in buying from young Chinese collectors for Chinese works of art and paintings over the past three years, rising from a few percentage points to up to 20% now, thanks to the company’s increasingly use of Chinese social media apps such as Wechat and Xiaohongshu.

“So you find collectors at the depth of collecting, not just the hip, new artist, but that goes back to their cultural roots. That’s meaningful for them and their culture,” Belin said.

The market was slower last year because collectors were not convinced it was the best time to sell, he added.

The auction house will open its new Asia-Pacific headquarters at The Henderson, a new office tower in Hong Kong’s prime Central district, in September. Christie’s four floors in the building, which is being designed by Zaha Hadid Architects and developed by Henderson Land, will launch a three-month programme of sales, exhibitions and events until November.

Belin shrugged off the impact of new national security laws that the Hong Kong government has imposed on the city, saying the financial hub still has a free flow of capital and rule of law.

He said he recognised the Hong Kong government’s efforts in developing the city’s arts and culture by hosting international events and building the West Kowloon Cultural District, which overlooks Victoria Harbour.

“Hong Kong will be able to rebuild itself; art and culture is part of it.”

The Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index (KFLII), which tracks the performance of 10 popular investments of passion, showed that art was the best-performing luxury asset class in 2023, followed by jewellery, with prices rising 11% and 8%, respectively.

Knight Frank said in a report last week clients in Hong Kong allocate 19% of their investment portfolio to luxury investments, in line with the global average.

(Reporting by Clare Jim; Editing by)