Sotheby's - one of Christie's major rivals - has set up a Chinese joint venture with local State-owned firm Beijing GeHua Art Co.
Kevin Ching, chief executive officer of Sotheby's Asia, said that working with a local partner makes it easier to develop its business in China and shows their long-term commitment to the Chinese market.
Customers from the mainland have been present in strong numbers at auctions held in the company's global offices, with a contribution of 30 to 40 percent to its Asian revenue at present. The figure compares with only 4 percent in 2004, Ching said.
Encouraged by the Chinese government policies to support the cultural industry, Ching said he believes that there is an opportunity to open up the market to foreign firms.
He added that he hopes that foreign and domestic auction houses will soon be able to compete under the same framework in the near future.
Since last year, Chinese auction houses, including Poly International Auction Co Ltd and Chinese Guardian Auctions Co Ltd, have reached out for the Asian art market by holding sales in Hong Kong, competing head-to-head with Christie's and Sotheby's.
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