NEW YORK—The spring series of auctions at Christie’s in Hong Kong May 28–June 2 took in a total of HK$2.3billion ($294million). Sales of fine art totaled HK$994.6 million ($127.7 million), and records were set for works by Chinese, Japanese, Italian and Filipino artists. Last year’s sales of Asian art brought in a total of HK$401.2million ($51.6million) in comparison (ANL, 6/9/09).
The evening sale of Asian contemporary art and Chinese 20th-century art on May 29 was 100 percent sold both by lot and by value—a rare event. The 36-lot sale brought in a total of HK$303.4million ($39million). String Quartet, 1986, an oil on canvas by Chen Yifei (1946–2005), sold for ten times its estimate of HK$4million/6million, setting a new auction record for the artist. It was bought by an Asian trade buyer for HK$61.1million ($7.9million).
The second- and third-highest selling lots in the sale were both paintings by Sanyu: Vase of Lilies with Red Ground, 1940s (estimate: HK$12million/18million), and Pink Leopard, 1940s–’50s (estimate: HK$8million/12million), sold for above-estimate prices of HK$25.3million ($3.25million) and HK$21.9million ($2.8million), respectively. Three of the top ten lots were by Zao Wou-Ki (b. 1920). The oil 02-1-65, 1965, sold for HK$20.8million ($2.7million) on an HK$8million/12million estimate; 14-3-59, 1959, brought the same price against an estimate of HK$10million/15million. And 25-10-90, 1990, sold for HK$9.6million ($1.2million), within the estimate of HK$6.5million/10million.
Records were also set for Japanese artists Tomoko Konoike (b. 1960)—whose Chapter Three “Wreck,” 2005, a set of seven paintings, sold for HK$2.06million ($266,000) on an estimate of HK$800,000/1.2million—and Akira Yamaguchi (b. 1969), whose set of four paintings Shintenno (Jikokuten, Zochoten, Tamonten, Komokuten), 2006, was sold for HK$1.9million ($239,096) against a HK$1.5million/2.5million estimate.
Eric Chang, Christie’s international director of Asian contemporary and Chinese 20th-century art, said, “With Asian buyers winning many of the lots among intensive international bidding, it is clear that collectors in the region are more sophisticated and diverse than ever before, and that the Hong Kong art market has now firmly established itself as a formidable hub in the contemporary art world.”
The day sale of Asian contemporary art yielded a total of HK$115million ($14.76million), with the top lot, Portrait of Andy Warhol, 2005, by Zeng Fanzhi (b. 1964), selling for HK$5.06million ($649,704), three times the estimate of HK$1million/1.5million. A record was set for a work by Chinese artist Yu Youhan (b. 1943), whose Mao in an Easy Chair, 1992, sold for HK$4.2million ($541,848), 14 times the HK$200,000/300,000 estimate. Records were also set for works by Ding Yi (b. 1962)—whose Appearance of Crosses, ca. 1990s, sold for HK$4.10 million ($526,440), six times the estimate of HK$400,000/600,000—and Guan Yong (b. 1975), whose Do You Know? We are so distressed, 2007, fetched HK$2.4million ($310,728) on a HK$1.2million/2.2million estimate. Liu Wei’s Landscape, 2006, sold for HK$4.6million ($588,700) on a HK$1.5million/2million estimate, and Zhang Xiaogang’s Bloodline Series, 1997, sold for HK$4.1million ($526,000) against a HK$2.5million/3.5million estimate.
The day sale of Chinese 20th-century art on May 30 brought in a total of HK$105million ($13.5million), and was 80 percent sold by lot and 91 percent sold by value. Zao again dominated the high end of the sale, with six out of the top ten lots. All brought higher-than-expected prices, the highest being for La course de Chevaux (Horse Racing), 1952, which sold for HK$5.4million ($695,928) on a HK$1.5million/2million estimate, followed by 3-1-61, 1961, which took HK$4.8million ($618,888) on a HK$2.4million/3.2million estimate.
The sale of Chinese modern paintings on May 28 totaled HK$215.1million ($27.6million). Lady Holding Lotus, 1954, a scroll painting by Zhang Daqian (1899–1983), sold to a Chinese collector for HK$14.1million ($1.81million), more than four times the estimate of HK$2million/3million. Cormorants, 1935, a scroll painting by Xu Beihong (1895–1953), sold for HK$13.5million ($1.74million) against an identical estimate. Ben Kong, Christie’s international specialist head of Chinese paintings, said the “sales showed continuing strength with active bidding, with many lots going well over the high estimates.”
The sale of Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art on May 30 brought in a total of HK$44.5million ($5.7million). The top lot was Young Balinese Girl with Hibiscus, 1939, by Italian painter Romualdo Locatelli (1905–43), which set an artist record, selling to an Asian collector for HK$6million ($773,000) against an estimate of HK$2.2million/3.2million. The oil on canvas was one of the first portraits the artist painted in Bali. Lavenderas, 1923, by Filipino painter Fernando Cueto Amorsolo (1892–1972), also set a record, selling for HK$3.4million ($437,000) against an estimate of HK$300,000/500,000.
The sale of Chinese classical paintings and calligraphy on May 28 totaled HK$115.9million ($14.9million), led by Birds and Flowers, 1748, by Hua Yan (1682–1756) which sold for HK$19.1million ($2.45million), three times estimate. The Young Hercules, 1732, by Leng Mei (17th–18th century) sold for HK$16.9million ($2.17 million), 11 times the high estimate.
The Songde Tang Collection of Chinese modern paintings took in HK$95.7million ($12.3million), and was 95 percent sold by lot, 99 percent by value. The top lot, Amaranth, Crickets, Persimmon and Peaches, a scroll by Qi Baishi (1863–1957), sold for HK$10.6million ($1.36million) on an estimate of HK$800,000/1million.