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Sotheby’s Asian Art Sales in Hong Kong Fetch Record $138M

Sotheby’s four-day series of auctions in Hong Kong in early October realized its highest-ever total of $138.15 million and created seven new records.

NEW YORK—Sotheby’s four-day series of auctions in Hong Kong in early October realized its highest-ever total of $138.15 million and created seven new records.

Auctions included Chinese ceramics, Chinese modern and contemporary art, paintings, arts of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), watches, jewelry and early Ming Buddhist bronzes from the Speelman Collection.

One of these—a gilt-bronze figure of Shakyamuni Buddha, mark and period of Yongle (1403-25)—sold for $15.03 million, setting a world record for any Chinese work of art. Just last month experts noted a decline in New York sales of classical art such as Buddhist sculptures (ANL, 10/17/06, p. 1)

The Oct. 7 auction of works from the Speelman Collection took $41.82 million. Commenting on the sale, Robin Woodhead, CEO of Sotheby’s Europe and Asia said, “I am delighted to witness another record auction in Hong Kong confirming that Hong Kong is one of the three key auction centers in the world.”

The modern and contemporary Chinese art category recorded $21.93 million. In the Chinese contemporary art category, which totaled $10.6 million, an oil on canvas, Danshui, by native Taiwanese artist Chen Chengbo (1895-1947), was acquired by a private Asian buyer for $4.49 million at three times the presale estimate of $1.29 million, creating an auction record for any Chinese painting. Several minutes of intense competition between two bidders on the phone and by two more in the saleroom preceded the sale.

Commented Evelyn Lin, deputy director and head of Chinese contemporary art and specialist in charge of the sale: “Chengbo’s depiction of Danshui was his favorite subject,” adding that the whereabouts of only three such works by the artist are known.

Buddha, 1971, an oil on board by Ding Yanyong (1902-78), also set a record when it was picked up by a private Asian bidder for $737,651. Henry Howard-Sneyd, deputy chairman of Sotheby’s Europe and Asia and managing director of Sotheby’s Asia and Australasia, later observed that “the record-breaking sale demonstrates the continued strength and growth of the market and validates the strong results achieved in New York three weeks ago.”

In another category covering Chinese contemporary art, the sale total reached $11.33 million. A record was set for Zhang Xiaogang (b. 1958) when his oil-on-canvas Big Family Series No. 15, 1998, took $1.12 million from a collector. Night Revels Series No. 4, 2006, a painting by Wang Huaiqing (b. 1944) was acquired for $5.49 million by a private Asian buyer.

The fine Chinese paintings category (including the Vermillion Pavilion collection of Mr. and Mrs. Fei Chengwu) fetched $15.10 million. Xu Beihong’s “Zodiac Animals,” 1946, an album of 12 leaves in ink and color on paper, fell for $708,764; and Fu Baoshi’s “Landscape and Figures,” 1946, an album of ten leaves in ink and color on paper, was sold for $650,990. Sotheby’s specialist-in-charge C.K. Cheung reports that the sale “attracted almost 500 bidders,” adding, “the results reflected the strength of the market for fine Chinese paintings, particularly works by established artists that are fresh to the market.”

Sales of fine Chinese ceramics and works of art totaled $13.03 million. Top prices were obtained for a celadon-glaze vase with Ram’s Heads, with the seal and mark of the Qianlong period (1736-95), which went for $1.12 million; and a Yongzheng (1723-35) celadon moonflask, which Eskenazi Ltd., London, acquired for $993,612.

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