International antiques trade center unveiled in Shanghai, promoting return of cultural relics
Published: Mar 08, 2022 12:10 AM
Masterpieces by famous artists including Chinese artist Zhang Daqian have attracted many people at the fourth CIIE in Shanghai.Photo: Li Hao/Global Times

Masterpieces by famous artists including Chinese artist Zhang Daqian have attracted many people at the fourth CIIE in Shanghai in 2021. Photo: Li Hao/Global Times

As an economic hub and the intersection of Eastern and Western culture, Shanghai has cultivated a vibrant cultural relics and artworks market, and it is set to become an even more global art trading mecca following the unveiling last week of the Shanghai International Antiques and Fine Art Trade Center. 

Staring this year, a China international cultural relics and artworks trade expo will be held from October 26 to 28 annually, which will be the only official international cultural relic and artwork commodity exchange in China.

"We have built the largest bonded comprehensive service complex with the most advanced facilities in the world, providing a safe and private storage environment," Hu Huanzhong, chairman of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone International Culture Investment and Development Co, a platform for cultural trade and development in the zone, told the Global Times. 

Hu said there will be professional services in logistics, warehousing and customs clearance, and the center aims to offer international cultural relic and artwork auctions, which can reduce transaction costs and increase transaction volume and influence.  

In 2021, a total of 7,309 cultural relics entered and exited China, of which over 2,000 passed through the Shanghai International Art Bonded Service Center, with a value of 17 billion yuan ($2.69 billion), an increase of nearly three times compared with 6 billion yuan in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic, official data showed. Shanghai has become the preferred port for enterprises at home and abroad to handle such business. 

Sotheby's is one of the international auction houses supporting the establishment of the trade center. Sotheby's hopes to introduce more cultural relics and artworks to the market through the commodity center, Jean Qian, Sotheby's managing director in China told the Global Times. "The potential of the Chinese mainland market is huge, which has always been a key focus for Sotheby's," Qian said.

At the China International Import Expo (CIIE) held in November 2021, the company introduced several masterpieces by some well-known artists including Chinese artist Zhang Daqian. 

The fourth CIIE set up an exhibition area for cultural relics and artworks for the first time, with a total of 20 international institutions from 11 countries and regions participating in the expo. In the end, 41 works from nine institutions were traded with a total turnover of 760 million yuan, according to official data.

There will also be a special area for cultural relics and artworks in the fifth CIIE this year, attracting more international institutions to participate, according to the organizers.

The new center in Shanghai will also bring greater flexibility and assistance for international auction houses, which will be helpful in creating a favorable trading environment, Qian said, adding that it will also greatly increase Sotheby's confidence in investing in China. 

In 2021, a total of 1,004 auctions of cultural relics and artworks were held in Shanghai, with total turnover exceeding 6 billion yuan, up nearly 25 percent year-on-year and accounting for about a quarter of the national market, according to the authorities.