The Great China Sale

Foreign collectors want them. Newly minted local millionaires want them. The rise and rise of the country's modern artists

Zhang Haoming looks like a million dollars. Or, more precisely, half a million, the amount he spent on a recent Saturday afternoon as he strolled around Beijing's funky 798 district, a series of crumbling redbrick factories that house the Chinese capital's largest concentration of art galleries. Appearing at an opening for the painter Yang Shaobin, the 44-year-old millionaire businessman stands out from the crowd of black-clad, ponytailed dealers, critics and artists, more John Travolta than Jasper Johns. His black hair is permed into loose curls that flounce slightly as he walks, his torso covered by a tight, long-sleeved silk shirt decorated with...

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