Sales during a week dedicated to Asian art in New York were impacted by slowing economic growth in China, even as demand for the most prestigious pieces stayed strong, experts said Thursday.
In total, organizers said sales reached $130 million during the eighth rendition of Asia Week New York, which involved five auction houses and 45 galleries.
That's only slightly more than a third of last year's record of $360 million, which included the sale of the collection of US art dealer and Asia specialist Robert Ellsworth that brought in $132 million.
"The week was complicated. That's not a big surprise," said Christophe Hioco, a French gallerist specialized in Asian antiques and an Asia Week New York regular.
The China's economic slowdown weighed on the week's sales, even if the market certainly didn't collapse -- far from it, according to Hioco.
"The market has to adjust. People maybe didn't anticipate or understand that the market isn't the same it was a year ago," he said.
Lark Mason, chairman of Asia Week New York, painted a mixed picture.
"The high end of the market showed considerable strength with many quite robust sales," he said. But "there were unquestionable areas of weakness in the mid level and at the lower end of the market."
"The very best quality objects are highly sought after by a very small group of individuals that are willing to spend whatever," he added. "They are not affected by a short cyclical downturn."
Other buyers focused on mid-level and lower level works, however, are much more impacted by an economic downturn because they don't have the resources to spend anymore, Mason said, adding that "a lot of these individuals just dropped out of the market."
"I believe it is that part of the market that was overheated," Mason said.
While fewer in number, Chinese buyers still attended the event, Hioco said.
Notably absent, however, were speculators, particularly at the mid or lower level, according to Mason.
"The appetite for Asian art is still strong despite the economic slowdown," said a spokesperson for auction house Christie's.