Sotheby’s Hong Kong sale results: Offering of Ullens Collection sets record for single-owner sale

HONG KONG CONTEMPORARY CHINESE ART AUCTIONS

Art Radar attended the much-anticipated Sotheby’s evening sale of the Ullens Collection on 3 April, 2011. A mixed quality offering of 105 lots of Chinese contemporary art were presented in this controversial sale, but this did nothing to dampen the breathless bidding which ended with multiple smashed price records.

Sotheby's HK Spring 2011 Ullens Auction scene (3 April). Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Sotheby's HK Spring 2011 Ullens Auction scene (3 April). Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Bidders tussled over lots

This sell-out sale had it all. Lot after lot saw six to eight bidders at a time tussling with one another across the crammed room and double bank of phones. Spectacular gasp-inducing preemptive bids were unsuccessful in seeing off competitors.

The sale, which started at 6:30pm and should have been done by dinner, turned into a marathon lasting a wilting four-plus hours and resulting in a zero bought-in rate. At the end of the sale, there was spirited applause for Henry Howard-Sneyd, Vice-Chairman of Asian Art at Sotheby’s, who was presented by a colleague with the rare and well-deserved ceremonial award of white gloves: the equivalent of an Oscar for auctioneers.

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Ullens to sell entire collection

The Ullens Collection – The Nascence of Avant-Garde China, which belongs to the renowned Belgian art collector Baron Guy Ullens and was sold at Sotheby’s on Sunday, included works that have rarely been seen since their creation and acquisition in the late 1980s and the early 1990s.

Aside from amassing a vast collection of contemporary Chinese art, Baron Guy Ullens and his wife Myriam founded the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art in Beijing, China. In February, ARTINFO reported that Beijing’s Ullens Centre will eventually become an all-Chinese run enterprise as the Ullens will withdraw from managing the organisation.

The duo also recently expressed their intention to sell their entire collection of contemporary Chinese art and focus on the acquisition of work by Indian artists.

Baron Guy and Myriam Ullens. Image from english.cri.cn.

Baron Guy and Myriam Ullens. Image from english.cri.cn.

Why so successful?

From Art Radar‘s perspective, the room held a mixed goup of buyers from both West and East; the sales result was not driven by mainland money alone. ArtTactic reported earlier this month that confidence in the Chinese art market has seen a positive increase of 12% from September 2010.

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The Chinese contemporary art market has moved into first place in terms of Market Confidence, 21% above the US & European market Confidence Indicator, and 34% above the Indian Confidence Indicator.

 

The confidence in the Chinese Contemporary market has been on a rapid path of recovery since February 2009, with 75% of the experts surveyed believing the market will go up in the coming 6 months.

ArtTactic and other research companies also report that the auction market is splitting into two: Western auctions houses are perceived as safer compared with mainland houses, which are troubled by high buy-in rates amid concerns about potential fakes. The Sotheby’s imprimatur and the impeccable Ullens provenance combined to create rocket-powered pricing, especially for unique and early works.

Top sales

Zhang Xiaogang, 'Forever Lasting Love (triptych)', oil on canvas, each: 125 x 97.5 cm. Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Zhang Xiaogang, 'Forever Lasting Love (triptych)', oil on canvas, each: 125 x 97.5 cm. Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Record breaking sales include…

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Surprise successes include:

Lot 853, Yang Jiechang, Untitled, 1987, ink on paper, 191.2 x 178.7 cm

  • Estimate: HKD200,000 – 250,000
  • Hammer price: HKD2,420,000
Yang Jiechang, 'Untitled', 1987, ink on paper, 191.2 x 178.7 cm. Image from sothebys.com.

Yang Jiechang, 'Untitled', 1987, ink on paper, 191.2 x 178.7 cm. Image from sothebys.com.

Lot 883, Zhou Tiehai, Mademoiselle Rivére, 2000, gouache on newspaper mounted on canvas, 300 x 225 cm

  • Estimate: HKD 200,000 – 300,000
  • Hammer price:  HKD3,620,000
Zhou Tiehai, 'Mademoiselle Rivére', 2000, gouache on newspaper mounted on canvas, 300 x 225 cm. Image from sothebys.com.

Zhou Tiehai, 'Mademoiselle Rivére', 2000, gouache on newspaper mounted on canvas, 300 x 225 cm. Image from sothebys.com.

Lot 893, Wang Xingwei, Standard Expression After 1989, 1995, oil on canvas, 150 x 201 cm

  • Estimate: HKD400,000 – 600,000 HKD
  • Hammer price: HKD4,580,000
Wang Xingwei, 'Standard Expression After 1989', 1995, oil on canvas, 150 x 201 cm. Image from sothebys.com.

Wang Xingwei, 'Standard Expression After 1989', 1995, oil on canvas, 150 x 201 cm. Image from sothebys.com.

Click here to browse the Sotheby’s catalogue for more prices and lot details from the Spring 2011 Hong Kong The Ullens Collection – The Nascence of Avant-Garde China sale.

KN

Related Topics: art auctionsmarket watchbusiness of artacquisitions, Chinese artists

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