ASIAN ART AUCTIONS
A painting by Chinese contemporary artist Zhang Xiaogang offered by Hollywood director Oliver Stone fetched HK$26.4 million ($3.4 million) at a Hong Kong art sale where half the lots were unsold, reflecting the prevailing gloom.
Zhang’s “Bloodline: Big Family, No. 2,” from 1995, was the most-expensive lot sold at Christie’s International’s evening sale yesterday. There was less enthusiasm for most other lots: buyers shunned 44 percent of Asian contemporary works and more than half of 20th-century Chinese paintings for a sale that tallied HK$140.6 million.
“You could sense the caution; no one wants to make a rash move,” said Tian Kai, a Beijing-based art dealer who flew in to attend the sale. “It’s a sign of the times.”
Hong Kong’s art market remains in the throes of a slump it heralded in October when Sotheby’s auction in the city missed its target by half. Subsequent major auctions in New York, London and Dubai fell short of estimates, spelling an art-world rout sparked by the Sept. 15 bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and the ensuing global credit and stock-market crisis.
Zhang’s 1.8 meter-by-2.3 meter work shows a pursed-lipped couple with a tuft-haired toddler painted yellow. It went to an anonymous buyer after a 2-minute tussle between phone and salesroom bidders.
Last night’s sale was the most-glamorous part of Christie’s five-day Hong Kong auction (Nov. 29-Dec. 3) of 2,500 antiques, gems and art that the company expects to raise HK$1.75 billion. At least 500 people, some decked in their evening best of chiffon, silks and gems, packed the standing-room-only auction- hall at the Exhibition Center which overlooks the harbor.
“Overall, there’s clearly been a price readjustment,” said Jonathan Stone, Christie’s Hong Kong-based international business director, in an interview after the sale. Stone, not related to Oliver, said the company is pleased that it set several artist records at the sale, “economic circumstances notwithstanding.”
Artist record for Zao Wou-ki
“Hommage a Tou-Fou,” a painting by China-born, Paris-based Zao Wou-ki sold for an artist record of HK$45.5 million. Chinese artist Sanyu’s “Potted Chrysanthemums” fetched HK$8.4 million, against the presale top forecast of HK$5 million.
Biggest upset Zeng Fanzhi’s Mao
Last evening’s biggest upset was a 1993 painting of Mao Zedong by China’s most-expensive contemporary artist Zeng Fanzhi, which failed to sell against a presale estimate of HK$30 million.
Bidding on Zeng’s oil-on-canvas “Mao I: From the Masses, to the Masses” was labored, even with auctioneer Andrea Fiuczynskic’s effort at coaxing more bids. The last offer of HK$28 million wasn’t good enough for Fiuczynskic, who rapped the gavel and called in the lot.
“Mao I,” is the twin of a like-sized painting “Chairman Mao II,” also dated 1993, that fetched 2.17 million pounds ($3.3 million) at Phillips de Pury & Co.’s London auction on June 29.
Other Oliver Stone owned works sold at near low estimates
Oliver Stone had consigned five Chinese contemporary paintings at this sale, three of which featured at last night’s event. The other two, both Liu Weis, sold for a combined HK$7.5 million, near the low end of estimates. Two last paintings will be offered at Christie’s day sale this afternoon.
“These are challenging times,” said Tian. “Both sellers and buyers are trying to make the best of a difficult situation.”
Southeast Asian art prices eased
Demand for Southeast Asian art, whose prices defied the demand weakness at Sotheby’s October auction, eased at this sale.
A mixed-media painting by the region’s most-expensive painter I Nyoman Masriadi fetched HK$2.1 million, against the work’s top estimate of HK$1.6 million. The priciest lot sold at the Southeast Asian auction was Filipina Juan Luna’s “Roman Maidens,” which fetched HK$4.7 million, against the painting’s low estimate of HK$8 million.
Except for wines, Christie’s charges buyers 25 percent on the first HK$400,000 of the hammer price, 20 percent of the amount above that, up to and including HK$8 million, and 12 percent of subsequent sums.