Sotheby’s closer to coveted China art auctions

Global auction house Sotheby’s said Friday it’s setting up a Chinese joint venture that will allow it to become the first foreign company to hold art sales in the world’s biggest fine-art market.

The company said it signed a deal to set up Sotheby’s (Beijing) Auction Co. with Beijing GeHua Art Co., a Chinese state-owned company. Sotheby’s will own 80 percent of the venture, which still needs Chinese government approval.

The venture marks a major expansion into China for Sotheby’s. The company and rivals such as Christie’s hold regular auctions in Hong Kong, attracting many mainland Chinese buyers, but have been blocked from doing the same on the mainland.

Christie’s licensed its name to China’s Forever International Auction Co. in 2005. But Sotheby’s new venture, which gives it majority control and responsibility for day-to-day operations and management, will allow it to leap ahead of its perennial rival

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