Christie's to hold independent sales in China

Christie's has become the first international auction house authorised to operate in mainland China without a local partner, it said, and will hold its first sales later this year.

China has one of the largest and fastest-growing markets for art in the world, with Chinese buyers now a common presence at international auctions.

"This development makes Christie's the first international auction house able to directly conduct auctions in China under its own brand," Christie's chief executive Steven Murphy said in a statement.

He added the move would "offer collectors a more direct access to our global network and expertise".

A Chinese academic said the move could prompt the government to further open up the auction market to foreign companies, the China Daily newspaper reported Thursday.

"Foreign players are expected to bring international practices to the domestic auction market," it quoted Ji Tao of the Central University of Finance and Economics as saying.

Rival Sotheby's already has a joint venture in China with state-owned Beijing GeHua Art Co.

In 1994, Christie's opened a mainland China representative office in Shanghai, where this autumn it will also hold its first sales under its licence to operate independently, the statement said.

The number of mainland Chinese clients bidding at Christie's global auctions -- held in cities like London, New York and Hong Kong -- has doubled since 2008, it said, but gave no figure.