A Picasso on display at a private exhibition by auction house Christie's in Shanghai in 2013. (Getty)
A Picasso on display at a private exhibition by auction house Christie's in Shanghai in 2013Getty

The passion of wealthy Chinese collectors for Pablo Picasso has inflated the value of the Spanish master's louder and sexually explicit later pieces.

Chinese collectors' willingness to pay top prices for works from Picasso's late period has hugely increased their value in recent years, with a brash 1969 canvas by Picasso entitle Le basier sold for $4.2m (£2.74m) in 1969 are selling for $18m, and auction houses setting up private viewings in China for wealthy collectors.

"Taste is a matter of personal preference and cannot be judged. However, Chinese buyers are inflating prices and effecting the selection of works for sale in the global market. And there is a risk in that," writes art market expert Patrick Lecomte in the South China Morning Post.

"There is something about these works that definitely appeals to the Chinese," Ken Yeh, Christie's Asia chairman told Bloomberg in 2010. "Many of the late Picassos are very colorful and big in scale. In Asia, they generally prefer larger paintings. Size does matter."

Chinese collectors have paid record prices for masterpieces by Picasso.

In a New York auction in 2013, the Dalian Wanda Group, China's largest commercial property company, bought Picasso's Claude et Paloma, 1950, for $28.2m, nearly three times its estimated sale price.

Works by other western masters are also highly sought after, with Wang Zhongjun, chairman of the China's film studio Huayi Brothers, paying Van Gogh's 1890 painting Still Life, Vase with Daises and Poppies for a record $62m, reports China Briefing.

However, it is not just Western painters whose work is sought after by Chinese collectors, with work by Chinese artists also spiking in price.

In 2012, French company Artprice reported that Picasso had been dethroned as the art market's top earner by Chinese artist Zhang Daqian. In 2011 Zhang's work fetched $506.7m in auction revenues and Picasso ranked fourth, with his work generating $311.6m on global art markets.

Though the Chinese art market cooled slightly in 2012, art sales grew again in 2013, reports Artnet.

In 2013, the Chinese art market was the world's largest, with sales exceeding $8.5bn, up 28.8% from 2012.