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    Asian Art Continues to Surge at Christie’s Hong Kong

    Christie’s spring sales of Asian art in Hong Kong, including paintings, ceramics and works of art, as well as watches and jewelry, held May 28–June 1, realized a total of HK$3.9 billion ($496 million), a much higher figure than last year’s total of HK$2.3 billion ($294 million).

    NEW YORK—Christie’s spring sales of Asian art in Hong Kong, including paintings, ceramics and works of art, as well as watches and jewelry, held May 28–June 1, realized a total of HK$3.9 billion ($496 million), a much higher figure than last year’s total of HK$2.3 billion ($294 million). At the recent sales, fine art accounted for HK$1.9 billion ($243.56 million).

    In the evening sale of Asian 20th-century and contemporary art on May 28 (93 percent sold by lot and 95 percent sold by value), the total was HK$492.7 million ($63.3 million). The top lots were works by Zao Wou-ki (b. 1920), whose 2.11.59 sold for HK$41 million ($5.3 million) and 14.11.63 sold for HK$38.7 million ($5 million).

    The Leopard, 2010, by Zeng Fanzhi (b. 1964) sold for HK$36 million ($4.6 million) amid intense bidding, to Chinese entrepreneur Zhao Zhijun. All proceeds of this sale went to the nonprofit Nature Conservancy, and Christie’s also waived its commissions. The Leopard will be housed at Zhao’s private museum in Beijing, according to Christie’s.

    In the Asian contemporary-art day sale on May 29, where the total was HK$160.2 million ($20.6 million), Zeng also led the top ten. The artist’s painting Andy Warhol, 2005, sold for HK$9.6 million ($1.2 million), while Sky No. 2 sold for HK$9 million ($1.2 million) surpassing estimates of HK$2.5 million/3.5 million.

    Golden Wedding, 2008, by Xin Dongwang (b. 1963) sold at HK$5 million ($650,210), far above the high estimate of HK$900,000, to an Asian bidder. Two of Yu Youhan’s paintings fetched healthy prices from European private bidders. Yu’s White Cat, Black Cat, 1993, (estimate: HK$1 million/1.5 million) sold for HK$4.6 million ($588,530), while his Mao Image in Rose, 1992, sold at HK$3.4 million ($434,330), compared with an estimate of HK$2.5 million/3.5 million.

    Auction records were achieved for a wide range of works, including twelve lots by Chinese artists, three by Japanese artists, two by Korean artists and one for an Indian artist. Also a record was the HK$2.4 million ($310,970) given for A passerby hears a fair maiden’s laughter in the garden ring, by Chinese artist Pang Jiun (b. 1936), against an estimate of HK$1.2 million/1.6 million.

    François Curiel, president of Christie’s Asia said, “strong bidding with moments of passionate enthusiasm was the hallmark of the week of spring auctions in Hong Kong. With sales up 65 percent over the same period last year, the growth of the art market in Asia is greater than anywhere in the world. This is due to the strength of the economy in the region and also to the great appetite of Asian collectors for works of art of the finest quality.”

    The sale of Chinese modern paintings totaled HK$958 million ($123.1 million) and was 98 percent sold by lot and 99.8 percent by value. Works by Zhang Daqian (1899–1983) accounted for the top three lots, and a total of six in the top ten in this category. Lotus, 1981, sold for HK$56.7 million ($7.3 million), compared with an estimate of HK$6 million/8 million, and was bought by an Asian private buyer. Landscape along Highway Hengguan, 1965, went for HK$52.2 million ($6.7 million)—six times the high estimate of HK$8 million—and Contemplating upon an Autumn Landscape, 1967, was sold for HK$51 million ($6.6 million), far higher than the estimate of HK$8 million/10 million.

    Ben Kong, international specialist and head of Christie’s Chinese paintings department, said the session “saw a consistently packed auction room where buyers, particularly from Greater China, vied throughout the ten-hour sale for the best works from modern masters,” such as Zhang Daqian, Wu Guanzhong, Xu Beihong, Lin Fengmian and Li Keran while affirming that “the Chinese paintings market is going from strength to strength.”

    The day sale of Chinese 20th-century art totaled HK$108.6 million ($14 million), and was 88 percent sold by lot and 98 percent by value. Again Zao figured in the top lots, with 5.6.63 selling for HK$18.6 million ($2.4 million), doubling the estimate of HK$6 million/7 million, and Ciel de Paris, 1954, selling for HK$6.5 million ($835,250), three times the high estimate of HK$1.5 million/2 million. Sharing a Secret, 1992, by Ai Xuan (b. 1947) sold at HK$5.8 million ($742,730) compared with an estimate of HK$1.5 million/2.5 million.

    The Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art category totaled HK$49 million ($6.3 million), with 76 percent sold by lot, 90 percent by value. The top lot, Temple Festival in Bali by Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merprès, realized HK$7.7 million ($989,450), compared with an estimate of HK$1.9 million/2.6 million, and was bought by an Asian corporation. Indonesian artist Affandi (1907–90) had two works that fetched strong prices: Ayam Jago (Man with a fighting rooster), 1968, was bought by an unidentified Asian corporation for HK$3.6 million ($465,170), far higher than the estimate of HK$800,000/1 million while Penjual Tuwak (Tuwak seller), 1970, also by Affandi, was purchased by a private Asian bidder for HK$2 million ($264,710), well above the estimate of HK$600,000/800,000.

    Ruoh-Ling Keong, head of Christie’s Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art department, said the “highly positive reception for the sale shows it struck a solid balance between the two pillars of modern and contemporary art, with significant cross-buying from the regions.” Two records were set in the modern art category: La Piedra IV, 1973, by Filipino artist Fernando Zobel (1924–84), which sold for more than four times its estimate, at HK$1.6 million ($203,030), and Anxiety, 2010, by BenCab, aka Benedicto Yeyes Cabrera (b. 1942), which sold for HK$740,000 ($95,090), against an estimate of HK$350,000/450,000.