NEW YORK—Sotheby’s autumn sales in Hong Kong (Oct. 6-9), which included auctions of Chinese contemporary art, Chinese ceramics and fine paintings, Qing (1644-1911) porcelain and jewels and watches, fetched a total of $200 million.
In the contemporary Chinese art category, sales totaled $42.54 million, with the sell-through rate at 90.8 percent by lot, 95.8 percent by value. A record was set for Cai Guo-Qiang (b. 1957) when his Extending the Great Wall of China, 2000, in gunpowder on paper, fell to an Asian buyer for $2.64 million, well above the $2.3 million high estimate.
Other records were set for such artists as Liu Wei, Wang Guangyi, Xu Bing, Yu Chen and Zhan Wang. An oil on canvas by Yue Minjun, The Massacre at Chios, 1994, won $4 million, more than double the $1.5 million high estimate, with seven bidders competing.
Three paintings by Chinese Symbolist and Surrealist Zhang Xiaogang (b. 1958) figured in the top ten—all surpassed their estimates and were taken by Asian buyers, each for above $1 million: Zhang’s Big Family, 2001, sold for $1.6 million; Tomorrow Will Be Brighter, 1958, made $1.08 million; and Comrad Adult took $1.05 million.
Evelyn Lin, head of the contemporary Chinese art department at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, calls activity in the contemporary Chinese art market “truly phenomenal.” Lin points out that “what is most impressive is the depth of the bidding, confirming the impressive vitality and confidence of this sector of the market.”
Some dealers and collectors think speculation is pushing prices too high, and they gripe about being priced out of the market. Other experts, however, suggest there is still room for further appreciation, especially in view of the current prices for works by other mainstream contemporary artists.
Says Christophe Mao, owner of New York’s Chambers Fine Art, specializing in Chinese contemporary art: “With the continued success of Chinese contemporary art, I am optimistic about Chinese artists growing in reputation and value.” Mao hopes, he told ARTnewsletter, that “it’s a matter of time before they will match Western artists in terms of dollar value too.”
The auction of fine Chinese paintings, which featured more traditional works, realized $20.97 million and was 93.2 percent sold by lot, 98.6 percent by value.
An artist’s record was set for Jiang Zhaohe (1904-1986) when his hanging scroll Street Singers, 1939, won $449,504, four times the high estimate of $120,000.