At the turn of the century, China shares of the global art market were only 1 per cent. A decade later, it had risen to 27 per cent, second only to the United States. Nobody could have predicted this rise and its impact on the world art market

This rise can be explained by the change in the political situation of the country in the 1970s. The children born then, including the millennials, have enjoyed the freedom to travel and study abroad. They have thus interacted with international artists and rich art history. The global interconnections are at a level not imagined contributing immensely to this growth.

At present, China currently boasts of over 800,000 millionaires (in US dollars) which in turn translates to serious money to spend.

The following is a list of five collectors impacting the Chinese art market and supporting artists in a big way.

David Chau

Chau is a graduate of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, where he studied Chinese classical painting. Early on in his life, he started collecting coins and sports cards, and it was not a wonder to make his first million, selling the same on eBay. According to him, it was only natural for him to grow into an art collector. While attending university, he helped organize the Chinese art collection at the Vancouver art gallery.

He fell in love with the 20th-century works of artists such as Lin Fengmian and Wu Dayu. 

Chau co-founded the ART021 art fair, and he also funds Shanghai top galleries Leo Xu and Antenna Space. In addition to Wu Dayu, he also has pieces from Xu Zhen and auteur filmmaker Yang Fudong. 

Chong Zhou

Zhou currently owns over 100 pieces which he displays in his restaurant. He believes in displaying art in a public space. The graduate in art history of UCLA inherited his love of art and collecting from his mother. He started his collection in 2010 by acquiring a self-portrait by artist Yayoi Kusama. He owns works from other famous artists like Yang Fudong and Zeng Fanzhi. On his acquisition list are artists born after 1975 like Liang Mangqi, Chongqing and Xie Nanxing.

John Dodelande

Though not Chinese, John Dodelande has focused his collection on the silk route, and his main goal is to showcase the artists and the Chinese culture through the art collection. He supports the artists through meaningful exhibitions of their work. He also does this through books and videos. International institutions and exhibitions sometimes borrow his collection. This lending helps in promoting Chinese contemporary art and bringing it to the western world.

Kelly Ying

Ying interaction with the arts started early on. She had the privilege of meeting with a great painter like Chen Yifei, who was friends with her mother. The art and cultural museum are where her mother worked, further exposing her to this world.

Together with her husband, David Chau, they co-founded the ART021. Ever since they founded the art fair, her taste has somewhat changed. It is leaning to more modern and contemporary works, more abstract pieces. 

Michael Xufu Huang

When he co-founded M-WOODS, he envisioned it to become the MoMA of china. M-woods is a not-for-profit museum located in the Chinese art district in 2014. He co-owns the museum together with the collector couple Lin Han and Wanwan Lei.

Huang attended high school in London, and it was during this time that his inspiration grew. At sixteen, he bought his first piece and went on to purchase a single piece of artwork every year. Currently, his collection focuses on millennials.

If you are an art collector enthusiast, the above mentioned trailblazers should encourage you that with the right belief, vision, and passion, anything is possible. Start small, be consistent, and gradually, you will see art collections not only grow but also shape the conversation in the Chinese art world. Which collector mentioned above is your favorite?