After Sotheby’s successful $96.5 million Hong Kong modern evening auction on Monday, the house’s contemporary evening sale on Tuesday brought HKD 678.4 million ($87.5 million) with buyer’s fees across 24 lots, realizing a near-perfect 92 percent sell-through rate.
The two evening sales in Hong Kong demonstrated growth in the market overall. The contemporary sale total marks a 26 percent increase over last year’s equivalent October Hong Kong contemporary sale result of HKD 538.2 million ($69.4 million).
Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild (649-2), from 1987, sold for HKD 214.6 million ($27.7 million), setting a record-high price paid for a Western artist at auction in Asia. It was acquired by Japan’s Pola Museum of Art. The result follows Sotheby’s sale of David Hockney’s $14.8 million 30 Sunflowers (1996) in July, which then was the second-most expensive work by a Western artist to sell at public auction in the region.
The work exceeded it pre-sale estimate of HKD 120 million–HKD 140 million ($15.5 million–$18 million). It comes from the collection of billionaire investor and Revlon Inc. owner Ronald Perelman, who has made headlines in recent weeks for selling off $200 million worth of his formidable modern and contemporary collection through auction and private sales. This is the first time the work has been sold at auction. Prior to Perelman’s ownership, it resided in a private collection in Düsseldorf.
Richter’s abstractions command some of the artist’s top sale prices and have seen solid demand in the Asian art market. In July, a Richter abstraction titled Frost (1), 1989, led the Hong Kong portion of Christie’s global “ONE” sale. It sold for HKD 79.3 million ($10.2 million), beating its high estimate of HKD 68 million ($8.8 million).
Modern art sales have historically outweighed the contemporary sales in the region, but both segments continue to expand. Both the Richter and Hockney sales mark a shift in the region towards buyer activity increasing in Hong Kong auctions for Western artists and rising value of those star lots in evening sales.