(Bloomberg) China has overtaken the U.K. to become the world's second-largest art market after the U.S., according to new research.

Auction and gallery sales in China totaled the equivalent of almost 6 billion euros ($8.3 billion) in 2010, giving the country a 23% share of the global market, the British Art Market Federation said. The U.S. continues to dominate, with 34%. The U.K. remains Europe's biggest auction center, with 22% of international sales.

The full survey was scheduled to be released by the Netherlands-based European Fine Art Foundation yesterday, three days before the world's largest art and antiques fair, Tefaf, previews in the Dutch city of Maastricht.

Since 2006, the U.K.'s share of the global art market has fallen to 22% from 27%, the BAMF said in an e-mailed statement. Europe's share has fallen even more sharply.

"This study makes alarming reading for us," said Anthony Browne, BAMF's chairman, in the statement.

He warns that sales are being damaged by a European Union levy that entitles living artists to a portion of the resale value of their work. "The EU alone applies this levy," he said. "It does not exist in China, the U.S. or Switzerland, our main global competitors."

Levy Extension

The levy was introduced in the U.K. in 2006 under a European Union directive. The BAMF was set up in 1996 to represent the interests of Britain's auction houses and art trade associations. It's campaigning against European Commission plans to extend the levy in the U.K. in 2012 to the work of deceased artists 70 years after their deaths.

The European Fine Art Foundation's study "The International Art Market in 2010: Crisis and Recovery" comes as more than 260 dealers prepare for Tefaf. The event will offer 30,000 works with a total value of more than 1 billion euros, said insurers.

International sales of art and antiques totaled 43 million euros in 2010, a 52% increase on 2009, when the market suffered from economic worries, the Tefaf report said.

The recovery was strongest in the U.S. and China. Art sales in the latter have nearly doubled in value since 2009, according to the report, prepared by Clare McAndrew, founder of the Dublin-based consulting company Arts Economics. The headline figures combine transactions made by both dealers and auction houses.

Modern and contemporary art represented 58% of the 2010 sales with pre-1950 pieces accounting for six times the value of more recent works. The auction sector has become dependent on individual lots selling for more than 50,000 euros.

Results such as the record $106.5 million paid for Picasso's 1932 "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust" accounted for 81% of the market by value, though only 5% by volume.

"Buyers were seeking higher quality or well-established works, whereas sales in the middle of the market were recovering more slowly," the report said.

The Tefaf preview for VIPs is on Thursday March 17.