Mid auction season Hong Kong art market update: Sotheby’s sale round-up

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.

 

 

Zeng Fanzhi was among the Chinese artists who sold well at Sotheby's autumn 2010 auctions. Zeng Fanzhi, 'Mask Series no. 6' (diptych), 1996, oil on canvas, 200 x 360 cm. Image taken from artnet.com.

Zeng Fanzhi was among the Chinese artists whose work sold well at Sotheby's autumn 2010 auctions. Zeng Fanzhi, 'Mask Series no. 6' (diptych), 1996, oil on canvas, 200 x 360 cm. Image taken from artnet.com.

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

Zhang Xiaogang, Chapter of a New Century -- Birth of the People's Republic of China II, 330 x 330 cm.

Zhang Xiaogang's 'Chapter of a New Century -- Birth of the People's Republic of China II' (1992) set set an artist record of HKD52.18 million at Sotheby's autumn 2010 sales. Image taken from artmarketmonitor.com.

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 Timesin 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.

 

I Nyoman Masriadi, 'The Man from Bantul -- The Monster', 2000, mixed media on canvas, 200 x 150 cm.

Work by Southeast Asian modern artist I Nyoman Masriadi did well at Sotheby's autumn 2010 auctions. I Nyoman Masriadi, 'The Man from Bantul -- The Monster', 2000, mixed media on canvas, 200 x 150 cm. Image taken from artknowledgenews.com.

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.

KN/HH/KCE

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Comments

Mid auction season Hong Kong art market update: Sotheby’s sale round-up — 2 Comments

  1. Jing Daily, your article proved very useful in gaining an understanding of what took place at the sale and was a good source of market predictions. Thank you for publishing such an insightful report. The upcoming Christie’s auction will be watched closely because of the results Sotheby’s saw.

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