ARTnewsletter Archive

$154M Hong Kong Sales Are a Runaway Success

Christie’s marked its 20th anniversary in Hong Kong with a series of sales, from May 28-June 1, that scored another high for material ranging from Chinese ceramics to Indian and Southeast Asian paintings and contemporary Asian art.

HONG KONG—Christie’s marked its 20th anniversary in Hong Kong with a series of sales, from May 28-June 1, that scored another high for material ranging from Chinese ceramics to Indian and Southeast Asian paintings and contemporary Asian art.

Noting that the auctions took more than $154 million, Edward Dolman, CEO, Christie’s International, attributed the success to “the immense strength of Hong Kong as one of the three foremost auction centers in the global market.” Asian art sales attained a total of $110 million, setting another record.

As Theow Tow, Christie’s deputy chairman, Asia and the Americas, told ARTnewsletter, the Asian art market is “many different markets,” encompassing everything from ceramics and jewelry to classical Chinese paintings and contemporary Asian art. “And the categories keep growing,” he says. Recalling that Christie’s first sale in Hong Kong in 1986 realized $1.8 million, Tow says that in addition to U.S. and mainland Chinese buyers—who have been mainstays of this market for some time now—Christie’s has recently noted a growing number of Russian and Middle Eastern buyers participating at its sales of Asian art.

The 20th-century Chinese art category took $27.87 million and set three auction records on May 28. A work by Chu Teh-Chun (Zhu Dequn; b. 1920), Rouge, la pluie de pétales sur le village; blanc, le nuage au-dessus de la maison, No. 53, fetched $3.36 million from an Asian buyer at four times the high estimate. The painting Garden, by Liao Chi-Ch’un (Liao Jichun; 1902-76), fell for $2.19 million, also over the estimate; and Dancing of Flowers, by Wu Dayu (1903-88), was picked up by a private buyer for $801,840.

Eric Chang, senior director, modern and contemporary Asian pictures and head of Christie’s 20th-century Chinese art department, said, “International buyers ignored conventional boundaries, bidding fiercely, and bought across the board” at the first Asian contemporary art sale.

Contemporary Artists Fare Well

Asian contemporary art was a new joint category that brought together Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Korean and Pakistani art and fetched $11.30 million. Records were set for three Chinese artists and one Korean artist at the May 28 auction. Drawing for Man, Eagle and Eye in the Sky: Eagles Watching Man-Kite, by Cai Guo Qiang (b. 1957), went for $903,760 at more than twice the high estimate.

ROLEX, by Wang Guangyi (b. 1957), was bought by an Asian bidder for $510,640 at six times the high estimate. No. 8, by Fang Lijun (b. 1963), made $423,280 at four times the high estimate. Marilyn Monroe vs. Chairman Mao, by Korean artist Kim Dong-Yoo (b. 1965), was picked up by an Asian buyer for $335,920 at more than twice the high estimate.

The Asian contemporary art category included “works of Indian and Pakistani artists that had the packed saleroom buzzing,” says Yamini Mehta, specialist and head of Christie’s modern and contemporary Indian art department. Speaking to ARTnewsletter from Hong Kong, Mehta said, “The successful sale of 20 exceptional works from Indian and Pakistani artists marked the first time they were encompassed in the international context of an Asian contemporary art auction.” She added that while “in terms of value Indian art is more established, bidding on the telephone was fierce, with notable cross-bidding and buying from all over the world.”

Seven Indian artists and one Pakistani set world auction records. Animus, an oil and acrylic on canvas by Indian artists Jiten Thukral (b. 1976) and Sumir Tagra (b. 1979), earned $42,120 at five times the high estimate.

A record was set for another Indian artist, Hema Upadhyay (b. 1972), when her mixed-media Bleeding Hearts sold for $20,280. Identical Views, two digital photographic prints by Pakistani artist Rashid Rana (b. 1968), together realized $14,040.

Two more auction records were set in the modern and contemporary Southeast Asian Art sale—by artists from Belgium and Indonesia. The total for this category was $6.70 million. Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merpres’ painting Terrace affording a view of the sea with Pollok under an umbrella and several figures, sold for $1.76 million; and The Indestructible Desert, by Indonesian artist S. Sudjojono (1914-1986), was acquired by a private Southeast Asian bidder for $394,160 at 2.5 times the high estimate.

Ruoh-Ling Keong, vice president and head of Christie’s Southeast Asian pictures department was “thrilled to witness strong buying activity, encouraged by many new buyers” from Hong Kong, the U.S., and Europe with an increasing presence of mainland Chinese and Taiwanese collectors.

At the Imperial sale of Chinese ceramics and works of art on May 30, four records were set, including one for an early Ming underglaze copper-red vase, Yuhuchunping, Hongwu Period (1368-98), bought by casino mogul Steve Wynn for a museum in Macau (ANL, 6/6/06).

Fine classical Chinese paintings and calligraphy took $5.15 million with Bamboo and Rock, by Chinese painter Shi Tao (1642-1707), selling at a double-estimate $394,160.

Fine modern and contemporary Chinese paintings fetched a total of $15.97 million. An Asian bidder bought Snowy Mountains, by Chinese artist Cui Ruzhuo (b. 1944), for $1.90 million. Zhang Daqian (1899-1983) had four paintings in the top ten of this category. His painting Mist Clearing After the Rain took $743,600, while Red Peony went to an Asian trade bidder for $277,680. Ben Kong, senior vice president and head of Christie’s Chinese paintings department, commented on the “enthusiastic participation of buyers from Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China.”