International auction house Christie's will hold sales in Shanghai beginning in autumn 2013, the company has announced. It is the first such company granted a license to operate independently in mainland China. The move will allow Christie's to carve out a larger part of the Chinese auction market, which is now the world's largest. China's auction market is estimated to have generated $4 billion in revenue in 2012, compared to $3 billion in the U.S.


Christie's main rival, Sotheby's, for its part, formed a joint Beijing venture last year with the state-affiliated GeHua Cultural Development Group to hold auctions in China.

Both moves bolster an Asian presence for the houses, which have seen growing business for years at their Hong Kong outposts. Christie's is now in direct competition with such homegrown, state-run auctioneers as Beijing Poly International and China Guardian.

The announcement comes just weeks after the European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF), based in Maastricht, announced a joint venture with Sotheby's and its Chinese partner, GeHua, and its hopes to launch a TEFAF Beijing in 2014.