Something many of you who have dabbled in Antiquities Market research already know is the so-called “driving force of collectors;” well, in China, as many sinologists already know, a new class of people have recently been exercising their social and economic power. This new class, called China’s New Bourgeoise, is made up primarily of wealthy, professional urbanites in cities like Beijing and Shanghai, and their effect on China’s antiquities market has been quite influential.
I recently Twittered a short article from The Museum Security Network regarding the drive of China’s domestic collectors to acquire Chinese antiquities. The article draws particular attention to operation of the Chinese antiquities market in which archaeological sites get looted by locals using sophisticated archaeological techniques, and sell their goods to middlemen who bring them to Hong Kong, where a legal loophole in which Hong Kong is not yet bound by PRC law (for the next 40 or so years) is exploited and the antiquities are sold to international as well a domestic buyers.
What I really took away from this article, however, is not so much how looted antiquities flow through China’s markets, but rather, the ever-growing problem of this new Chinese bourgeois class, which has developed a taste for collecting art that is just as voracious, if not more so, than that of developed Western countries. What is unique in this situation is that China has effectively become both a “source nation” as well as a “market nation.” This creates problems of international legislation as many defenders of the antiquities market (museum directors and prominent collectors, etc…) can argue that international sanctions against the buying and selling of unprovenanced antiquities are rendered futile if domestic buyers are not also sanctioned in the same way.
What are your thoughts on the matter?
[EDIT:] To draw more attention to this, consider the comment Dr. Kwame Opoku posted on my recent article on SAFECORNER. What do you think should be done about reconciling the differences between international and domestic cultural heritage protection plans and legal statutes?