NEW YORK—Christie’s Oct. 18 auction of Chinese art—its second such sale in conjunction with the Chinese auction house Forever—realized RMB 53 million ($6.6 million) and was 54 percent sold by lot, 62 percent by value. The total was down by nearly half from last year’s RMB 97 million ($12.1 million). The sale rate was considerably weaker as well. Last year the auction offered 452 lots, of which 81 percent, or 364, were sold. By value last year’s auction was 81 percent sold.
“The results reflect that the market of classical and modern paintings is undergoing adjustments. Buyers [were] more selective in Forever’s 2006 October sale,” says An Li Ping, executive director of Forever.
The auction offered modern and contemporary Chinese paintings, as well as calligraphy. The top lot was Landscape Inspired by Dufu’s Poetic Sentiments, by Fu Baoshi (1904-65), which sold for RMB 11.2 million ($1.4 million); trailing it was Mount Jinggang, by Li Keran (1907-1989), which brought RMB 3.4 million ($420,000).
Ping notes the auction reflected “strong interest in the market for exceptional Chinese paintings and calligraphy.”
Also included among top lots were Galloping Horse, by Xu Beihong (1895-1953), which was purchased for RMB 1.1 million ($140,000); and Chrysanthemum, by Lin Fengmian (1900-91), which brought RMB 952,000 ($119,000).
Christie’s announced its partnership with Forever last fall (ANL, 10/25/05, p. 4). The move, amid soaring prices and demand for Chinese art in recent years, was seen as an important step forward in the market. While both Christie’s and Sotheby’s have long maintained offices in mainland China, including those in Shanghai and Beijing, the houses have been restricted to selling in Hong Kong, a free port. For the most part, Chinese companies—there are an estimated 200 auction houses in mainland China—have been the only firms to profit from the booming market there to date.
However, Sotheby’s has held two highly successful sales of contemporary Chinese, Japanese and Korean art in New York. In the meantime, Hong Kong sale series have continued to produce record overall sale totals.