NEW YORK—Sotheby’s posted its highest-ever total for a series of sales in Hong Kong, realizing HK$3.1 billion ($400 million) for auctions that included ceramics, jewelry, watches and wines in addition to modern and contemporary Asian art. Of the total receipts, fine art (paintings and sculpture) accounted for HK$878 million ($113.3 million).
Contemporary Asian art continued to see a solid rebound and recovery in prices, nearing levels seen at the height of the boom in 2008. A new record was set for a work by Chinese artist Zhang Xiaogang, whose prices have been among the highest for any work by a contemporary artist.
Patti Wong, chairman of Sotheby’s Asia, said, “What has emerged time and again . . . is the extent to which Asia is asserting itself as a world center for the sale of art.”
Sotheby’s CEO Asia, Kevin Ching commented, “While mainland Chinese buying continued to be extremely strong, the driver of our remarkable results this week was the fierce competition of the international collecting community.”
Two sales of contemporary Asian art were held on Oct. 4. One, featuring work from a private European collection, realized HK$49.9 million ($6.4 million) for 38 lots offered. Of these, 29 were sold. By value the auction realized 94 percent. The second contemporary Asian art sale featured property consigned by various owners and brought in HK$205.9 million ($26.4 million) for 177 lots offered. Of these 138, or 76 percent, were sold. By value the auction realized 96 percent.
The top lot of the private European offerings was a six-part acrylic on tartan and check cloth, Appearance of Crosses – 6, 2005, by Ding Yi, sold for HK$8.4 million ($1.1 million) to an Asian private buyer (estimate: HK$1.5 million/2.5 million). It was followed by Fang Lijun’s oil-on-canvas triptych 2006.5.5, 2005, which sold to a Hong Kong dealer for HK$7.8 million ($1 million) compared with an estimate of HK$6 million/8 million.
Zhang Xiaogang’s Bloodline Series: Yellow Baby, 1997, sold for HK$6.6 million ($848,718), the third-highest sale of the auction (estimate: HK$5 million/7 million). An American collector paid the identical amount for an acrylic on canvas by Yu Youhan, The Waving Mao, 1995 (estimate: HK$700,000/900,000). Buying by private Asian buyers dominated the high end of this sale.
At the various owners sale, a new record was set for Zhang Xiaogang when Chapter of a New Century–Birth of the People’s Republic of China II, 1992 was bought for HK$52.2 million ($6.7 million) on an estimate of HK$21 million/23 million, surpassing the previous auction record of HK$47.4 million ($6.08 million), set at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in April 2008, for his oil painting, Bloodline: The Big Family No. 3, 1995.
Sotheby’s said the work was acquired by Yu Deyao (also known as Budi Tek), for a museum scheduled to open in Jiading, Shanghai in 2013.
A Middle Eastern private collector was listed as the buyer of the second-highest lot, Zeng Fanzhi’s Mask Series No. 5, 1994, which brought HK$16.9 million ($2.2 million). Another Mask Series painting, dated 1999, and estimated at HK$6 million/8 million, sold for HK$12.4 million ($1.6 million) to a European private buyer.
Evelyn Lin, head of Sotheby’s contemporary Asian art department said the results “indicate the steadily improving condition of the market; since 2004 buyers have continued to grow in both the sophistication of their tastes and the selectivity of their purchases. Important early contemporary Chinese art in today’s sales fetched very strong and solid prices, which is beneficial and positive for the long-term health of the market.”
Among other top lots, Cai Guo-Qiang’s eight-panel screen, Man, Eagle and Eye in the Sky: People, 2003, gunpowder and ink on paper, sold for HK$11.9 million ($1.5 million) compared with an estimate of HK$7 million/9 million.
Among other fine art sales in the Hong Kong series, an auction of 20th-Century Chinese art on Oct. 4 realized HK$137.3 million ($17.6 million) and fine Chinese paintings on Oct. 5 realized HK$407.3 million ($52.2 million).
The 20th century sale was led by an oil on canvas by Zao Wou-Ki, 18-10-60, 1960, which sold for HK$14.1 million ($1.8 million) compared with an estimate of HK$12 million/18 million.
A work by Fu Baoshi, Court Ladies, an ink on paper hanging scroll, 1945, was the top seller at the fine Chinese paintings sale, realizing HK$33.1 million ($4.2 million) far above the estimate of HK$5 million/7 million.