Art be a Lady


The Hong Kong art scene has been in the news a lot this year–apparently flourishing despite the global economic downturn. The buzz peaked with last month’s five-day long Christie’s International’s auction, which was held in the Asian metropolis and which saw reportedly record-breaking sales. Indeed, it was at the auction on Nov. 29 that one bidder caused quite a stir by racking up an enormous bill. According to Bloomberg, the big spender is Shanghai-based Wang Wei, a slender female ‘with straight shoulder-length hair’ who was ‘sporting a leopard-print handbag and shoes’ that day. Wang and her husband, investor Liu Yiqian, are said to have spent a mind-boggling $146 million this year on Asian paintings alone.

According to

‘Wang waved Paddle 960 aggressively [at the auction], sometimes tossing bids up HK$1 million at a time to distance herself from competitors for particular pieces. A few times, she didn’t bother lowering her paddle, instead just holding it up until her rivals quit.’

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So coming across another related article in the Global Post about female art gallery owners in Karachi, Pakistan, I began to wonder if international art might start to open doors for females in countries where high-end markets are typically dominated by men.

According to this piece, the art market in Pakistan’s largest city is ‘defying the global downturn,’ with a thriving business marked by two recent major gallery openings, with both galleries being run by women. In fact, it asserts that the whole Pakistani art scene is single women no less. (However, it’s important to note here that the buyers and collectors are still mostly men.) It also raises an interesting point in quoting an art critic who ponders the question of why women in Karachi are dominating this arena:

‘.single women who now run things probably found refuge in art at a time when art was not considered a serious venture or vocation. Those who had persevered, propelled by pure will, serious-mindedness and by brisk business, have become influential figures, arbiters of taste, doyennes.’

It sounds as if unforeseen circumstances have set women to be the unlikely leaders of a thriving industry. If so, the future could be fairly bright. I have to say, though, I enjoyed one female Pakistani art gallery owner’s more direct thoughts on the same topic: ‘Women are prettier, smarter, have better social skills and know how to get things done.’

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