NEW YORK—Asian art sales held in Hong Kong last month continued to break auction records across a range of genres, including Chinese ceramics, contemporary Chinese art and Southeast Asian and modern Indian paintings, including contemporary art.
Christie’s achieved a total of $89.6 million in auctions held May 29-30. Chinese ceramics and works of art yielded about a third of that figure at $30.96 million. On May 29 Christie’s also sold pieces from the Yageo Foundation, Taiwan: 28 major contemporary Chinese artworks that netted $8.26 million and set several artist records.
Sotheby’s sales from May 1-2 totaled $57.57 million, topped, as at Christie’s, by Chinese ceramics and works of art that fetched a total of $33.32 million.
Commenting on Sotheby’s highest sales ever in Hong Kong, Henry Howard-Sneyd, managing director, Sotheby’s China, Southeast Asia and Australasia, said, “The unprecedented prices achieved, particularly in the fine art auctions, affirm the strength of the market.”
At Sotheby’s a new world record was set for Qing porcelain when London dealer Giuseppe Eskenazi won a rare celadon-glazed reticulated hexagonal vase with seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-95) for $5.76 million.
An auction record was set for Chinese artist Xie Zhiliu when his hanging scroll in ink and color on paper Luxuriant Pines fell for $1.16 million to an Asian buyer at 11 times the high estimate.
C.K. Cheung, head of Sotheby’s Chinese paintings department, commented on the “extremely active bidding in the salesroom and on the telephone, and the high participation rate of Asian buyers who are willing to pay high prices for the best items in the sale.” Three works by Zhang Daqian figured in the top ten, with his ink-and-color works selling at prices ranging from $489,478/906,099.
Said Evelyn Lin, specialist in Chinese contemporary art at Sotheby’s: “Works from well-known artists Gu Wenda, Wang Guangyi, Xu Bing, Zhang Xiaogang and Lu Ye brought tremendous prices, with frenzied bidding from around the world.” An oil-on-canvas, 11.1.1959, by Zhao Wuji (also known as Zao Wou-ki, b. 1921), realized $733,704; and in the top ten contemporary art prices, Wu Guanzhong had four oils—three on canvas, one on board—each selling at prices ranging from $273,985/475,112, more than three times above the high estimates.
Zhao’s work was recognized again at Christie’s when his triptych Juin-Octobre, 1985, set an auction record for a Chinese oil painting at $2.34 million. Three more paintings by Zhao figured in the top ten, selling at prices ranging from $627,120/889,200.
Additional artists’ records at Christie’s were set for works by Lin Fengmian (1900-91), whose Hamlet, 1940-59, made $947,440, three times the high estimate, and for Chinese artist Cai Guo Qiang (b. 1957), famous for his “gunpowder paintings.” A Certain Lunar-Eclipse (Project for Humankind No. 2), 1991 was picked up by a private buyer for $568,880, well above estimate.
Emphasizing that “three Chinese artists have now achieved prices exceeding $1 million,” Eric Chang, head of Christie’s 20th-century Chinese art department, said, “Chinese contemporary art sold amazingly well, and the section represents a record total for this art area and is a testament to Hong Kong’s role as the leading market for Chinese art and Asian contemporary art.”
Chang added that “the Yageo Foundation collection was 100 percent sold, demonstrating the high quality of the works offered.” In this group three artists set auction records: Liao Chi-Ch’un (Liao Jichun, 1902-76), for The Spanish Chateau ($1.39 million); Sanyu (Chang Yu, 1901-66), for White Chrysanthemum in a Blue & White Jardiniere ($1 million); and Wu Guanzhong (b. 1919), for the picture Village Under Mountain Lau ($627,120).
At Christie’s modern and contemporary Chinese paintings auction, Two Horses Under Pine Trees, by Xu Beihong (1895-1953), established an auction record when it was picked up by a private Asian buyer for $1.26 million, more than twice the high estimate. In this group too, Fengmian’s Admiring the Maple Wood was bought for $568,880; and Mount Jinggang, by Li Keran (1907-89), went for $452,400, as did Gathering Beside the Waterfall, by Fu Baoshi (1904-65).
The top paintings from the Southeast Asian section of contemporary art featured an international sampling of artists from Belgium, India, the Netherlands, Indonesia and the Philippines. The works all fetched above-estimate prices.
Ruoh-Ling Keong, head of Christie’s Southeast Asian pictures department, and Yamini Mehta, head of Christie’s modern Indian and contemporary art, stated, “We are thrilled with the very good results across the board and delighted to see the successful cross-marketing of this sale, which demonstrates Indian clients bidding for Southeast Asian works and vice versa.” Woman by the Lotus Pond, by a Belgian Impressionist, Adrien-Jean le Mayeur de Merpres (1880-1958), brought $379,600; Untitled, by Maqbool Fida Husain (b. 1915), realized $218,400; and Trishna, by Syed Haider Raza (b. 1922), fell to a private American buyer for $218,400.