The Chinese-language site, epaiLive.com, has been set up by Beijing-based entrepreneur Dr Qiqi Jiang, backed by the major Chinese aeronautical corporation AVIC. It has been welcomed by government officials who hope that it may bring greater transparency to the fast-growing Chinese auction industry which has encountered problems with non-payment and authenticity.
EpaiLive has been established as a platform for Chinese auctioneers to sell online across China. However, Dr Jiang's company has represented ATG in China for several years and every catalogue on the-saleroom.com will now be hosted automatically on epaiLive.
The site also addresses the important issue of guaranteeing payment from Chinese bidders. Registered bidders on the site will be required to lodge a deposit and their bidding limit can be automatically linked to the level of that deposit. ATG Media expects to add the Chinese payment platform to the-saleroom.com in 2012.
The launch took place at the National Centre for Performing Arts in Beijing and the attendance of such high-ranking officials as Mr Tan Ping of the National State Administration of Cultural Heritage and Ms Yu Ping of Beijing Municipal Cultural Heritage Department was seen as official blessing for the new enterprise.
Commenting on the new venture, ATG sales director Simon Berti said: "The-saleroom.com's link-up with epaiLive follows the recent launch of Figaro Enchères in Paris and its tie-up with Lot-tissimo.com in Germany. Any auctioneer using the-saleroom.com can now send a catalogue to epaiLive, Figaro Enchères and Lot-tissimo by simply sending the catalogue to our offices in London. ATG staff can also arrange for the auction to be broadcast live on all four platforms with just one operator."
To mark the launch of epaiLive Mr Berti led a small delegation of British auctioneers to Beijing to take part in a live bidding seminar. He was accompanied by Stephen Whittaker of Fellows, Guy Schooling of Sworders and Seth Freeman of Baldwin's, who told an audience of 150 journalists, auctioneers and collectors how important both the Chinese market and live bidding were to their businesses.
Sworders have seen Chinese trade grow from two to 20 per cent of their turnover in the last three years. Baldwin's hold two auctions in Hong Kong each year and Fellows have recently hired a Chinese speaker, Stefanie Behrens, to ensure that potential buyers from China receive the highest possible level of service.
They also said live bidding had been responsible for an increase in hammer prices achieved and a reduction in the number of lots bought in.
During their visit the British auctioneers met senior members of the Beijing auction community, including Madam Wang Yannan, president and founder of China Guardian, Mr Jiang Yingchun of Poly, China's largest auctioneers, and Paul Dong of Forever Auctions, Christie's licensee in Beijing.