NEW YORK—Sotheby’s spring series of auctions in Hong Kong April 3–8 took in a record total of HK$2billion ($256.2million), much higher than last year’s total of HK$691 million ($88.6 million). Sales of fine Chinese art and contemporary art brought in HK$735million ($94.2million). The sale of Chinese paintings on April 6 was 97 percent sold by lot and 99 percent sold by value, and realized a total of HK$304.9million ($39.2million). Chess Playing, 1943, an ink and pigment on paper by Fu Baoshi (1904–65) sold to a private Asian buyer for HK$38.74million ($4.97million), five times the estimate of HK$5million/7million. Four works by Zhang Daqian (1899–1983) figured among the top ten lots, with Landscape, 1981, a splashed ink and pigment on paper hanging scroll, selling for HK$21.9million ($2.8million), more than four times the estimate of HK$3.2million/4.5million. Hen on the Rock, 1956, an ink and pigment on paper hanging scroll by Pan Tianshou (1897–1971) sold for HK$17.5million ($2.2million) on an estimate of HK$5million/7million.
A separate session dedicated to paintings from the Robert Chang collection brought in a total of HK$113.3million ($14.5million). Tiger, 1950, an ink and pigment on paper by Qi Baishi (1864–1957), was the top lot of the Chang sale, fetching HK$32million ($4.1million) against an unpublished estimate in excess of HK$28million.
Patti Wong, chairman, Sotheby’s Asia, said “participation by established collectors and numerous new buyers provoked fierce bidding which resulted in our setting many records for individual artists and objects.” The sales, she said, “emphasized the growing importance of Hong Kong as one of the vibrant auction centers.” Kevin Ching, CEO of Sotheby’s Asia, noted “growing involvement and participation by mainland Chinese.”
Blue-Chip Contemporary Art Fuels $19M Sale
The sale of contemporary Asian art on April 5 totaled HK$144.9million ($18.6million), with 129, or 76 percent, of the 170 lots sold. By value the auction was 88 percent sold. Bright Road, 1995, an acrylic and oil on canvas by Liu Ye (b. 1978) set a record for the artist, bringing HK$19.1million ($2.5million) against an estimate of HK$4.5million/6.5million. The top ten lots included two paintings by Cai Guo-Qiang (b. 1957). A Certain Lunar Eclipse: Project for Humankind No. 2, 1991, a gunpowder and ink drawing on Japanese paper mounted on seven wood panels, was bought by an Asian bidder for HK$18.58 million ($2.38 million). Two works by Yue Minjun (b. 1962) were also in the top ten, including On the Lake, 1994, an oil on canvas, which sold for HK$14.7million ($1.9million) on an estimate of HK$7million/10million.
Evelyn Lin, Sotheby’s head of Asian contemporary art, said the results “demonstrated a strong return for blue-chip contemporary Chinese artists after a period of adjustment in which we experienced constricted supply.” Results showed a “pent-up demand for great art with bidders from China, Indonesia, Korea, Europe, the United States and Taiwan in heated competition for top talents.”
The sale of 20th-century Chinese art on April 5 realized HK$102.6million ($13.15million), with 52, or 80 percent, of the 65 lots finding buyers. By value the auction was 84 percent sold.
Four of the top ten lots were works by Zao Wou-Ki (Zhao Wuji, b. 1921), which represented various periods of the artist’s career ranging from figurative work from the early 1950s to his later abstract paintings. These included the top lot of the sale, 4.4.1959, 1959, an oil on canvas, which sold for HK$20.8million ($2.7million) against an estimate of HK$5.8million/9million. Zao’s abstract painting 10-3-78, 1978, sold for HK$15.2million ($1.95 million) against an estimate of HK$7million/10million. And his oil The Lillies, ca. 1950, sold for HK$9.84million ($1.26million) against an estimate of HK$2.5million/4million.
The sale of modern and contemporary Southeast Asian paintings on April 5 took in a total of HK$69.3million ($8.88million) for 141 lots. Of those, 124, or 88 percent, found buyers, and the auction was 99 percent sold by value. The top lot was Bali Life, ca. 1960s, an oil by Lee Man Fong (1913–88), which set a record for a Southeast Asian painting at auction as well as an artist record. The lot opened at HK$4million, and sparked strong competition; after 31 bids the winner was an Asian collector on the phone, who bought the work for HK$25.3million ($3.24million). Mok Kim Chuan, Sotheby’s head of southeast Asian paintings, said that “in today’s more mature market, collectors are selective and discerning but eager to compete for quality works.”