On Wednesday night in Hong Kong, Christie’s held two back-to-back modern and contemporary art evening sales that raked in a total of HKD 1.5 billion ($192 million) with premiums. Together, the two sales hammered within the pre-sale expectation of HKD 1.05 billion-HKD 1.5 billion ($134 million-$197 million), which is calculated without buyer’s premiums included.
The four-hour two-part event saw 73 of the 76 works on offer sell, achieving a 96-percent sell-through rate. One lot, a painting by Loie Hollowell, was withdrawn before the start of the sale. The first portion of the night, which offered contemporary works, was led by auctioneer Georgina Hilton, Christie’s Asia Pacific director. She passed the gavel to Christie’s Asia Chairman Elaine Kwok for the second part dedicated to modern art.
The sales featured works by Yoshitomo Nara, Zao Wou-Ki, and Izumi Kato, all of whom have become staples in marquee Asian auctions. The night also brought records for long-established names—Françoise Gilot, Bernard Buffet, and Yayoi Kusama—signaling strong demand for elder artists that rivaled competitive bidding that usually surrounds emerging market darlings. In a statement, Jacky Ho, Christie’s Asia Pacific head of modern and contemporary art evening sale, cited “heated participation” in the sales as a “tremendous display of market confidence in Asia.”
The evening’s top lot was Jean-Michel Basquiat’s vibrant canvas Donut Revenge from 1982, featuring a crowned and bulbous floating character with the words “Little Fat Man with a Chicken Leg” written across its chest. Offered in the sale with a guarantee, it hammered at its low estimate of HKD 140 million ($18 million) estimate, going to a Hong Kong bidder on the phone with Eric Chang, Christie’s Asia chair of modern and contemporary art. The final price with premium was HKD 163.3 million ($21 million).
Among the other top sellers was Yayoi Kusama’s black-and-yellow canvas titled Pumpkin (LPASG) from 2013. The work attracted multiple bidders from Hong Kong. The hammer fell on a bid of HKD 52 million, above its low estimate at HKD 45 million, going for a final price of HKD 62 million ($8 million). It met Kusama’s previous auction high of $8 million set in 2019 at Sotheby’s.
Françoise Gilot’s Living Forest (1977), a red abstract canvas depicting a cluster of patterned trees foregrounding a yellow and white horizon, was among the works that attracted the most attention from bidders. It hammered at HKD 8 million ($1.03 million), more than double the low estimate. It sold for a final price of $1.3 million. The result was on par with the current auction record for the artist, which was set at Sotheby’s in June. Prices have been rising steadily for the painter as historians have gone to great length to consider her more than just Picasso’s muse.
Also among the top sellers was Picasso’s 1964 portrait Homme au chapeau, which sold for HKD 52 million ($6.7 million), going to a bidder on the phone with Christie’s London modern specialist Olivier Camu. A Zao Wou-Ki abstract landscape scene Sans titre (Bateaux au claire de la lune) (Untitled (Ships in the Moonlight) from 1952 sold for HKD 54.2 million (7 million) with premium, hammering within its estimate.
Emerging artists attracted attention from international bidders, setting new records in the process. Amoako Boafo’s Hands Up (2018) drew multiple bidders from Hong Kong, New York, and London. After a protracted bidding spar, it eventually sold to the Asia-based bidder for HKD 26.7 million ($3.4 million). The result set a new record for the last auction high for Boafo of $1 million paid for Baba Diop at Christie’s last year. Avery Singer saw a new record when Untitled (Tuesday), from 2017, sold for HKD 35 million ($4.5 million). A vibrant 2017 painting by Shara Hughes It’s Not My Jungle I’m Just Living In It sold for HKD 9.9 million ($1.26 million). The result was the second-highest price achieved at auction for the artist, who is currently the subject of a solo exhibition at the Yuz Museum in Shanghai.