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June 29, 2017

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A global business thriving on people's love for art

Top auctioneer says Chinese collectors playing a pivotal role in future market

Jussi Pylkkanen thinks himself more of an aficionado and part of the cultural landscape - that connects museums, foundations and art dealers from the four corners of the earth - than the president of Christie's, one of the two biggest international auction houses.

A fan of Chinese porcelain and England glass art works, the 53-year-old Pylkkanen, auctioneer at the center of the art world's biggest sales, believes China plays a pivotal role for the global market, as the Chinese continue to show ever-growing interest in art works and the fine art auction sales in China continue their inexorable rise of recent years.

Under his leadership, Christie's recently opened its new central Beijing flagship center, amid a continued expansion in China. It is Christie's second venue on the Chinese mainland after its Shanghai branch, which opened in 2014.

According to Pylkkanen, the auction house is continuing to grow and invest in here and the new Beijing space not only marks an important milestone during Christie's 250 year mission to connect art and collectors, but also illustrates the auction house's resolution to continue expansion in the country.

Pylkkanen recently spoke with China Daily about his China strategy, leadership and personal life. The following are edited excerpts of the interview.

Art collecting has been active and auctions have done well in China over the past few years as Chinese moguls have splashed out on masterworks. How do you describe Christie's business in China in recent years?

China is an absolutely critical part of the international art market today. Over the last three years since our Shanghai office opened we have witnessed a huge growth in interest from Chinese collectors, in all areas of the international art market in Hong Kong, New York, London, Geneva and elsewhere.

There is no question in years to come that the number of Chinese buyers - and also the interest shown by Western buyers in buying Chinese art - will grow very rapidly.

We have witnessed this before when we opened our business in North America in 1977. Quickly the US became a critical part of the market for us. For a London-based company we are also a multicultural company with very significant operations across the world.

How has Christie's expansion in China been going so far? What strategies will you adopt to expand your business in China?

We already have three exhibition bases in China, which I am very proud of: the one in Hong Kong which we have continuously developed over 30 years, a very historical location in Shanghai and the new space in Beijing.

We have exhibition spaces that no other business other than the local Chinese ones have. We are pleased to be the first Western company to have a broad, structured footprint in China and we will continuously grow.

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