Dec 16, 2013

New NY Times Story about Beijing Poly Group Auctions

A fine article, An Art Power Rises in China, Posing Issue for Reform, on the Beijing Poly Group Corporation's auction house (December 16, 2013). Link to article
The article describes the company as a state-run conglomerate that began life selling weapons for the People’s Liberation Army. 

There is no question, though, that Poly has not been as compliant as other houses with the industrywide effort to improve the accuracy of sales reporting….Unlike [China] Guardian and other houses, Poly refused for the past two years to allow the auction association to publish data on the individual works whose sales had not been paid for completely. On top of that, the auction association’s studies ultimately found that Poly is increasingly struggling with a nonpayment problem. In 2012, for example, the association found that, because of nonpayments, only 34 percent of the sales Poly reported for works valued at more than $1.6 million each were actually completed by May of the following year. By contrast, Guardian’s payment rate has improved, with 83 percent of sales completed last year, up from 53 percent….Auction houses account for an estimated 70 percent of the art sales in China, compared with roughly 50 percent in the United States, according to Arts Economics, a research company that studies the international market...Poly has its defenders, even among trade association officials seeking to clean up the market, and company officials say the study and critics are being unfair. “The government has a stricter policy on state-owned enterprises than on private enterprises,” said Zhao Xu, the executive director of the company. Either way, although Poly is just one of more than 350 Chinese art auction houses, its size and reach mean that no meaningful effort to address the irregularities can succeed without its participation. “In the Chinese art market,” said Nancy M. Murphy, an expert on Chinese art law and a lawyer at the Beijing firm Jincheng, Tongda & Neal, “Poly is the 800-pound gorilla in the room.”