China once again proved itself as the new leader in the global art market, when Li Keran's Wan Shan Hong Bian set a new world record for the artist of $46m in Beijing on June 3.
The sale comes just one month after a record price was set for another of Keran's works at the same auction house in May. His Shaosan, a depiction of former Chinese leader Mao Zedong's birthplace, sold for $19.4m.
Similarly, Wan Shan Hong Bian or Thousands of Hills in a Crimsoned View, was inspired by a poem written by Chairman Mao in 1925. The work, which was painted in 1964, was sold to a "domestic entrepreneur who began buying art two years ago".
The majority of Chinese buyers are new to collecting, having been prompted by the country's recent economic boom and a lack of secure alternative investments in which to store their new-found wealth.
"The sale tonight shows a stable Chinese art market, which keeps attracting newcomers to auction houses. The high price of Li's painting will definitely leverage the market of 20th-century Chinese painting," commented the auction house's executive director Zhao Xu.
Despite the impressive price achieved by the Keran piece, it is far from the most valuable Chinese painting. Qi Baishi's Eagle Standing on Pine Tree sold for $65.5m in 2011, while a 11th century scroll by Huang Tingjian stands as the most expensive piece of art auctioned in China at $67m.
It comes as no suprise that these kinds of prices are being regularly seen in the country's auction houses, as China recently overtook the US as the world's largest market for art and antiques, according to a report by the European Fine Art Foundation.
In fact, the new Chinese buyers are proving themselves as shrewd investors, with the global art market one of the few to prosper in the current economic crisis.
If you are considering investing in this lucrative market, be sure to read Paul Fraser Collectibles' expert advice to get the best results from your purchase. We also have a range of superb entry-level art pieces for those looking to improve their collection.