NEW YORK—Sotheby’s large and wide-ranging fall auctions in Hong Kong—the offerings of which ran from blue chip Bordeaux wines to antiquities, classical Chinese paintings and contemporary Asian art—once again underscored the intense demand from wealthy Asian buyers for fine art and other luxury goods.
The series was off to a strong start on Oct. 2 with Sotheby’s second offering of contemporary Chinese art from Belgian collectors Guy and Miriam Ullens. The sale, subtitled “Experimentation and Evolution,” featured 90 works, of which 84 (or 93 percent) were sold, for a total of HK$132.4 million ($17 million), well above the high HK$106 million estimate. By value the auction realized 94 percent. Combined with the earlier offering of works from the Ullens collection last spring (ANL, 4/19/11), the house has now sold a total of HK$556 million ($71.5 million) of the couple’s art.
The recent auction featured early works by major artists such as Zeng Fanzhi and Liu Ye with private Asian collectors accounting for all ten of the highest lots.
The top price of the sale was HK$20 million ($2.6 million) paid for Zeng’s Mask Series 1998 No. 26, an oil on canvas, 1998, that cleared the high end of the HK$20 million estimate. It was followed by Liu’s Portrait of Qi Baishi, an acrylic on canvas, 1996, that sold for HK$14 million ($1.8 million), well above the HK$7 million/9 million estimate. Evelyn Lin, head of contemporary Asian art said the results demonstrate a healthy market, adding that, “many of the top lots sold for multiples of the estimates and works created in the 1990s by established contemporary Chinese artists continue to achieve strong prices.”
The following day, Sotheby’s sale of modern and contemporary Southeast Asian paintings took in HK$83 million ($10.6 million) with 95 percent of the lots selling by value and 81 percent sold by lot. Tuak Manis (Sweet Wine), 1979, by Indonesian artist Hendra Gunawan sold for HK$7.2 million ($925,461) at four times the low estimate of HK$1.8 million.
The sale was notable for the number of lots sold at better-than-expected prices and several auction records were set for artists from Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines. Mok Kim Chuan, Sotheby’s head of modern and contemporary Southeast Asian art said, “collectors responded with enthusiastic competition for appealing canvases. Record prices were achieved for Nanyang artists Cheong Soo Pieng and Georgette Chen, as well as for Swiss artist Theo Meier whose career was spent in Bali.”
Women In The Garden by Meier sold for HK$3 million ($402,564), compared with an estimate of HK$850,000/1.3 million, while Untitled (Balinese Girl) by Cheong sold for HK$2.1 million ($269,704), compared with an estimate of HK$240,000/380,000. Layers for the Circles by Ay Tjoe Christine sold for HK$1.8 million ($233,333), compared with an estimate of HK$200,000/300,000, and Chen’s Lotus sold for HK$1.1 million ($141,026), on an estimate of HK$250,000/350,000.
The highest prices of the week were for artist Zhang Xiaogang, whose works have been at the forefront of the explosion in Chinese contemporary art prices, and for Zao Wou-Ki.
At the 20th-century Chinese art sale on Oct. 3, the top lot was Zao’s 10.1.68, which sold for an artist record of HK$69 million ($8.8 million), nearly double the high HK$35 million estimate. Works by Zao accounted for seven of the ten-highest lots, bringing in a total of $16.6 million. This included the second-highest price of the sale for Vaque, which sold for HK$30 million ($3.8 million).
Sylvie Chen, head of Sotheby’s 20th-century Chinese art department, said: “The strong market response to the Spring sale of this category allowed us to source a remarkably deep group of works by the influential Chinese modern master Zao Wou-Ki from collectors across Europe and the United States, which were fresh to the market.”
Other top-selling works included oil on canvas paintings by Wu Guanzhong. His Scenery of the Lijiang River, sold for HK$26 million ($3.4 million).The sale’s total was HK$337 million ($43 million) with 94 percent of the lots selling by value and 77 percent by lot.
In the contemporary Asian art sale, also held Monday, the totals were HK$228 million ($29.2 million) with 88 percent sold by value and 73 percent by lot.
A work by Zhang Xiaogang led the sale, when the 1994 oil on canvas, Bloodline: Big Family No. 1, was bought by a private European collector for HK$65.6 million ($8.4 million), compared with an estimate of HK$58 million/65 million. A record was set for Zeng Fanzhi with five of his oil paintings in the top lots. His oil on canvas, Mask Series 1998 No. 5, sold for HK$31 million ($4 million), compared with an estimate of HK$27 million/35 million. Series 2, No. 11, painted in 1991-92 by Fang Lijun was bought by a European bidder for HK$10 million ($1.3 million), on an estimate of HK$3.5 million/4.5 million.
Sotheby’s specialist Lin said that there was “strong international participation at all levels of the market. We were privileged to be able to offer a core group of masterpieces by key artists, sourced from collections in the U.S. and Europe, and the market pursued them with vigor.”
Sotheby’s said its Oct. 4 sale of fine Chinese paintings marked the highest grossing sale in this category to date, realizing a total of HK$738 million ($95 million), for 364 lots offered. Just a fraction of that group, 15 works or four percent, did not find buyers. By value the sale realized 99.3 percent.
The top lot was Zhang Daquian’s Self Portrait in the Yellow Mountains, which sold for HK$47 million ($6 million) compared with an estimate of HK$8 million/12 million. It was followed by Fu Baoshi’s Boating Under the Willows, which sold for HK$31 million ($4 million), on an estimate of HK$12 million/15 million. Many of the top lots far exceeded expectations, such as Fu’s Pavilion in the Solitude of the Mountains, which sold for HK$30 million ($3.8 million) compared with an estimate of HK$12 million/15 million.