HONG KONG AUCTION COLLECTORS SOTHEBY’S CHINESE CONTEMPORARY MODERN ART
What can this round-up of Sotheby’s sale in Hong Kong last month signal to Christie’s as it faces upcoming auction? The seven day Sotheby’s Hong Kong Autumn 2010 sales series, held in the city in October, was a revealing and record-making event. Revealing in that it informed professionals in which direction the Asian, particularly Chinese, art market is likely to head, and record-breaking in terms of overall takings – Sotheby’s this sale made double what was made in the whole 2009 sales year – and item sales.
Most artworks sold for well above estimates
As reported by Bloomberg, the auctions of modern and contemporary Asian art tallied HKD471 million and popular artists included Zhang Xiaogang, whose painting Chapter of a New Century – Birth of the People’s Republic of China II (1992) set an artist record of HKD52.18 million, Zeng Fanzhi and his “Mask Series”, Cai Guo-Qiang, Liu Ye, Yu Yaohan and Zhang Huan. Among the modern selection, work by S. Sudjojono, I Nyoman Masriadi and Ronald Ventura all fetched prices well above their estimates, in the case of Ventura, nine times above.
Jing Daily reported that Monday’s contemporary art sale resulted in an above-estimate sales total, likely being attributed to the number of high quality Chinese artworks on offer. The newspaper noted that “Chinese collectors showed a preference for single-owner lots and even indicated a growing interest in contemporary photography.”
Mainland buyers outnumbered those from Hong Kong
All coverage of the sales noted the large number of collectors from the mainland. The Global Times, citing figures from Sotheby’s, reported that “42 percent of buyers at the 2009 autumn sales were from the mainland, compared with 40 percent from Hong Kong.”
The Global Times, in an interesting side story on the prevalence of fake artifacts on the Chinese mainland auction circuit, quotes Dong Guoqiang, general manager of the Beijing Council International Auction Company, as saying he was “excited that bidders were willing to pay astronomical sums for Chinese artworks – which is not always the case on the Chinese mainland…. ‘I was shocked that rich Chinese people spent so much money at international auction sales rather than at domestic ones.'”
The newspaper goes on to suggest that this is due to the abundance of fake auctions and the auctioning of fake objects at high prices in mainland China, causing buyers to feel safer at international auctions and distrusting of local events.
Traditional Chinese paintings and artifacts or antiques achieved very high sales results and were the most popular items among mainland collectors. As ARTINFO states, “traditional Chinese paintings … achieved stunning results, reflecting the shortage of Chinese classical works available on the market.”
Asian art sales eclipsed those of Western art
Bloomberg tells us that of the 485 lots offered in the modern and contemporary Asian art auction, 372 found buyers.
Interestingly, while Jing Daily states that Hong Kong is to become a market for Western art, perhaps due to an increasing scarcity of Chinese antiques and master works, ARTINFO reported that “Western art offered to test the market’s attractiveness … was largely overlooked.” They go on to say that “while some Chinese collectors have decided to test the waters of Western works of art, it is clear that objects attesting to the long tradition of the country’s imperial past – and more recent economic ascent – continue to command the most attention from buyers.”
The article by Jing Daily supports its statement by paraphrasing Kevin Ching of Sotheby’s: “…the burgeoning interest in art collecting as a status symbol or financial hedge among China’s newly wealthy – and the creeping scarcity of high-quality pieces – could see Hong Kong becoming a major market for Western art.”
Chinese art also sold in greater numbers and for higher prices than works by Japanese or Korean artists.
Hong Kong set to become a major auction market
“The quality of items up for the hammer this week in Hong Kong underscored the importance that Sotheby’s is placing on Hong Kong, not as a dumping ground but as a key, thriving auction market.” Jing Daily
Kevin Ching, the CEO of Sotheby’s Asia was quoted by Reuters as expecting “the momentum [created by the autumn sale] to spill into next year’s Asian sales but conceded matching the calibre of this season’s collections would be difficult as more and more Chinese antiques get snapped up…”
Christie’s Hong Kong Autumn 2010 auctions will take place 26 November – 2 December and will be held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The Asian Contemporary Art (Day Sale) will be held on 28 November, 2.30 p.m.. There is also a Southeast Asian Modern & Contemporary Art sale to be held on 29 November from 10 a.m.. Top contemporary paintings presented for auction include Luxury Crime by Indonesian artist Agus Suwage and Zhang Xiaogang‘s early work, Untitled.
- Cai Guo-Qiang’s largest gunpowder drawings to date at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston opened to public this October – October 2010 – an overview of the artwork on display
- Top 20 Asian artists June 2010: Art Radar’s most-searched artists – July 2010 – a comprehensive list of the results from our search data, with reasons why we think the results have occurred
- Indonesian, Filipino prices rise at Sotheby’s despite meltdown – October 2008 – in direct contrast with this year’s sales, autumn 2008 proved grim for the auction company
- Top price for Oliver Stone’s Zhang Xiaogang, half lots unsold at Christie’s Hong Kong sale – Bloomberg – December 2008 – contains details on Christie’s results from contemporary art at auction in autumn 2008
- Chinese, Indian leading artists fail to sell at Sotheby’s Asian Art evening sale October 2008 – October 2008 – an overview of sales results, compared with results of equivalent Christie’s sale