I have never been to an auction. My brother Patrick goes regularly. And I know my mum went because I once saw her on the BBC's evening news coming out of one in London ("That's my mum!"). Perhaps she was selling the family jewels? One day I'll go, if not to buy something then just for the experience.
This afternoon the Ambassador and I met some people from a top UK auction house. You can probably guess which one, it's either X or Y. They're in the process of 'getting into China', a long haul, spiked with regulatory headaches, local protectionist interests and mafia-like bidding wars. (At a recent Beijing auction, one successful bidder was roughed up by his defeated, leather-jacket-with-shades opponent in full sight of everyone).
There's certainly money to be made. China's art market bubble may have burst a few years ago but it's back to normal, non-inflated, almost sensible levels now. And of course there's other commodities: apparently rare wines are the in-thing now. A bottle of 1869 Chateau Lafite sold at auction in Hong Kong last year for $233,973. Presumably one doesn't actually drink it?
Funny story as we were saying our goodbyes about Leonardo DiCaprio. He's got an eye for buying art but not great at maintaining anonymity. His ploy is to dress down which, in a room full of suited bidders, backfires stupendously.