Borobodur Auction Pte’s two-day sale of Chinese and Southeast Asian art totaled S$11 million ($7.5 million), compared with a presale estimate of S$18 million, according to John Andreas, the company’s founder. Rival Larasati Auctioneers’ Oct. 11 sale tallied S$2.1 million, less than the S$2.5 million predicted. The auction houses released results today.
The day before the auctions began, Singapore announced its economy had slipped into a recession and the MSCI Asia Pacific stocks index fell 6.9 percent, capping its worst week since the measure was created in 1987.
Sales of Chinese contemporary art were weakest, with only about 40 percent of lots finding buyers, Andreas said. Works by top Chinese artists have risen tenfold or more in the past decade, making them the most expensive in Asia.
“The financial crisis does not affect the Southeast Asian art as much, but for the Chinese artists it is very bad,” said Andreas. “For the artists that have not gone up so high, the demand is still strong.”
Borobodur’s top lot from its Oct. 12 Southeast Asian sale was Agus Suwage’s “Cleaning the Mirror: Homage to Marina Abramovic,” which sold for S$444,000, including fees. The highest price in the company’s Asian art auction the day before was Chinese artist Wang Guangyi’s “Rolex,” which fetched S$504,000, including commission. Yue Minjun’s “Life Pose,” which had the top presale estimate of as much as S$500,000, didn’t sell. Three quarters of the Southeast Asian lots sold against 57 percent of the Asian session.
Larasati’s top lot was I Nyoman Masriadi’s “The Target,” a picture of a woman, face and arms painted red, with hands clasped like a gun. The 1.9 meter-wide, acrylic-on-canvas sold for S$156,000, with fees, compared with the S$150,000 presale estimate, the company said. A third of the lots offered didn’t find buyers.
A week earlier at Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong, Masriadi broke the record for a Southeast Asian contemporary work, when his picture “The Man From Bantul (The Final Round)” sold for HK$7.8 million ($1 million).
The weekend auctions took place during the four-day ArtSingapore fair, Southeast Asia’s biggest, which ended yesterday. The event drew 110 galleries from 16 countries, with a special emphasis on art from India and South Korea. About S$80 million of art was offered, the organizer said.
Stallholders at the sale echoed the mood at the auctions, with sub-S$20,000 works from South and Southeast Asia more popular with buyers than higher-priced Chinese works.
Cheaper Lots Sell
“It went very well under the circumstances,” said Chen Shen Po, director of ArtSingapore. “Last year, everyone was selling S$50,000, S$100,000, S$200,000 works. This year it was more the S$20,000-to-S$30,000 range.”
She said the sale total was probably about the same as 2007, declining to give specifics.
“Given the circumstances coming into the fair, our expectations were quite low,” said Adam Chu of Shanghai-based Hwa’s Gallery, which showed works by Chinese artists such as He Juan and Guo Rui. “This was the least-attended of the five fairs we’ve been to this year.”
Chu said the gallery sold 20 works at the SHContemporary show in Shanghai in September. In Singapore it sold none.