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Sotheby's, Beijing GeHua Cultural Development Group join Tefaf Art Fair for assault on China art market
Security guard stands next to a sculpture By American artist Jeff Koons displayed at the Art and Antiques Fair TEFAF in Maastricht, Netherlands, on March 14, 2013. The event runs from 15 to March 24, 2013. AFP PHOTO / ANP / MARCEL VAN HOORN.

By: Scott Reyburn

HELVOIRT (BLOOMBERG).- Sotheby’s is in talks with Tefaf, the world’s biggest art and antiques fair, on holding an event in China.

“Tefaf Beijing 2014” is planned as a collaboration between the Maastricht, Netherlands-based event and Sotheby’s recently forged joint venture with China’s state-owned Beijing GeHua Cultural Development Group, the European Fine Art Fair said today in an e-mailed release.

Sales of art and antiques in China raised 10.6 billion euros ($13.7 billion) last year, making it the world’s second- biggest market, according to a report published last week by the European Fine Art Foundation. The country’s regulatory framework has previously hindered foreign dealers and auctioneers from holding events in China, leaving Hong Kong as the center for western-organized auctions and fairs.

“We feel now is the time to further develop our presence in China, one of the most important art markets,” Ben Janssens, chairman of the Netherlands-based fair’s Executive Committee, said in the release. “Tefaf is committed to contributing to the further growth of the market for European art in China.”

The 10-day annual event in a conference center on the outskirts of Maastricht is organized by dealers. This year’s 26th edition, which runs through March 23, features 265 exhibitors showing museum-quality pieces ranging from antiquity to the 21st century, valued at 4 billion euros.

In recent years, some dealers have said the fair’s location in a medieval town is inconvenient for international collectors who don’t have access to private planes.

Joint Venture
Sotheby’s, the publicly traded, New York-based auction house, said in September last year that it had signed an equity joint venture agreement with the GeHua Group, a state-owned media conglomerate that played a prominent role in the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremony.

The collaboration will allow it to “take advantage of a planned free port project that GeHua is developing within the Tianzhu Free Trade Zone in Beijing, which will serve as a tax- advantaged storage location and provide a platform for various activities,” Sotheby’s said in an e-mailed statement.

A venture between a dealer-organized fair and an international auction house is unusual, emphasizing the importance of China for the West’s art and antiques trade.

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