Sotheby’s Ullens Collection: private collection sales stay strong


Art Radar was present in the auction room for the second instalment of Sotheby’s Ullens Collection Sale on October 2, 2011 in Hong Kong. Composed of 90 lots, this highly anticipated sale achieved sales of 93% of its featured artworks, amounting to HKD 132 million/ USD 16.9 million, far exceeding pre-sale estimates of HKD 77-106 million / USD 10-13.5 million.

Sotheby's HK Autumn 2011 Ullens Auction scene (2 October). Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Together with the Sotheby’s spring offering of The Ullens Collection – The Nascence of Avant-Garde China, the complete collection brought HKD 559,652,250 / USD 71,750,288, and earned the distinction as the highest-value single-owner collection of Contemporary Chinese art ever sold.

The 'premium lot': Zeng Fanzhi's 'Mask Series 1998 No.26' sold for a hammer price of HKD 17.5 million, totaling HKD 20.3 million (USD 2.6 million)


The sale featured a single ‘premium lot’, Zeng Fanzhi’s Mask Series 1998 No.26, which sold for a hammer price of HKD 17.5 million/ USD 2.2 million to a Chinese buyer in the auction room. Including Sotheby’s ‘buyer’s premium’ (sales fee) the painting brought HKD 20.3 million / USD 2.6 million.

Experts consider the artworks sold at Experimentation and Evolution to be the ‘leftovers’ that were not deemed good enough to be auctioned at the Spring sale, which was hailed as a ‘white glove’, or perfect, sale. However, bidders were unfazed by the autumn offering’s excess of second-tier works, and bids often exceeded their high estimates by many times.

Notable artworks whose final hammer price far exceeded their estimated value include:

Lui Ye, 'Portrait of Qi Baishi'. Sold for a hammer price of HKD 12 million / USD 1.5 million; estimated at HKD 7-9 million.

Ding Yi, 'Appearance of Crosses', sold for a hammer price of HKD 4.5 million / USD 576K; estimated at HKD 1.2-1.8 million

Yu Youhan, 'Circle 1986-8', sold for a hammer price of HKD6 million / USD 769K; estimated at HKD 2-3 million.

Wang Ziwei, 'Hopeless: Take Care', sold for a hammer price of HKD 500K / USD 64K; estimated at HKD 150-200K.

Lu Shengzhong, 'Magic and Acrobatics' (4 works), sold at a hammer price of HKD 1 million, USD 128K; estimated at HKD 160-200K.

Ullens Collection fared better than general Asian Contemporary sale

In comparison to the Sotheby’s auction of Asian contemporary art that was held the following evening, October 3, 2011, the Ullens Collection Experimentation and Evolution Sale performed better in terms of percentage of sales. The Sotheby’s Hong Kong Autumn Asian Contemporary Auction achieved sales of only 71% of the artworks offered, while the Ullens Collection sold 93% of available artworks. This is a notable difference, considering these auctions were both predominantly contemporary Chinese and featured many of the same artists.

However, this development is consistent with the market trend observed by art market analyst Nicolas Forrest, which concludes that single-owner art auctions are defying the art market downturn. Forrest offers a variety of reasons to explain this phenomena, including that single-owner auctions provide a reliable provenance for artworks, indicate a prominent private collector’s superior taste and quality, and are usually available on the market less often than the artworks in general sales.

Ullens still ‘in’ Chinese art

Despite rumors that Guy Ullens plans to get out of Chinese art completely, ARTINFO quotes him as saying he looks forward to “building and enhancing” his collection by “working with ground-breaking artists from China, India, Japan, and Korea.”

Philip Tinari assumes the role of Director of UCCA in December 2011

Furthermore, the recent decision to appoint Beijing-based Philip Tinari as the new director of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing has signaled the organisation is committed to staying in China. Tinari brings a wealth of experience to the UCCA, as he is Art Basel’s representative in China, and is currently the editor of LEAP, a bilingual contemporary culture magazine published by China’s Modern Media group. He previously edited Artforum‘s China edition.

Click here to browse the Sotheby’s catalogue for more prices and lot details from the Autumn 2011 Hong Kong The Ullens Collection – Experimentation and Evolution Sale.


Related Topics: art auctionsart in Hong KongAsian art

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