Sotheby's has announced it is set to become the first international auction house to operate in China.
The move, which is a joint venture with Beijing Gehua Cultural Development Group, will see Sotheby's establish a presence in the country for an initial period of 10 years.
It plans to capitalise on Beijing's recently developed Tianzhu Free Trade Zone.
The Chinese government has previously not allowed international auction houses to conduct sales within its boundaries.
Sotheby's move is reflective of the growing impact of Chinese buyers on the world's auction markets.
China now has the world's third highest number of millionaires, with 1.4m, having added 193,000 in the space of a year, according to Boston Consulting Group's 2012 global wealth report.
And the recent Barclays Wealth Report confirmed the Chinese interest in owning collectibles, either as status symbols or for portfolio diversification purposes. The country's wealthiest individuals have 17% of their money placed in treasure assets, such as jewellery, art, wine and stamps, compared with just 9% in the US and 7% in the UK.
"China and its growing class of collectors has been the single most attractive growth market for the company," said Kevin Ching, Sotheby's Asia's chief executive.
A 2011 European Fine Art Foundation report found that China had overtaken the US as the world's biggest art market. The Chinese art and antiques sector grew by 64% in 2011, the report states.
Here at Paul Fraser Collectibles we will continue to bring you all the latest from the China auction market - sign up to our free weekly newsletter here.