Christie’s ‘Faces of New China’ Private Collection Sale underperforms amidst art market slowdown


Christie’s Hong Kong 26 November 2011 Private Collection Sale, ‘Faces of New China: An Important Private Collection’, provides a dramatic example of the susceptibility of single-owner sales to a faltering Asian art market. Art Radar reports from the Christie’s auction room.

Christie's Hong Kong 'Faces of New China' private collection's highest yielding artwork was Yue Minjun's 'The Massacre at Chios', bringing a hammer price of HKD28.5 million (USD3.65 million). Image courtesy Christie's.

The Christie’s Asian 20th Century & Contemporary Art sale featured 14 lots that comprised the highly anticipated ‘Faces of New China: An Important Private Collection’ offering. The crowded auction room allowed standing room only to non-buying observers, with all seating fully occupied by properly registered bidders. A refundable deposit of HKD1 million (USD128,000) was necessary to acquire the opportunity to bid on the works, which ranged in estimated prices up to HKD30 million (USD3.8 million). Comparatively, the Asian Contemporary Day Sale held on the following day attracted a noticeably smaller crowd, featured a highest-valued work estimated at HKD6-8 million (USD770,000-1 million) and required a lower pre-sale deposit of HKD200,000 (USD25,600).

Zhang Xiaogang's 'Portrait in Yellow' failed to sell to a bid of HKD22 million (USD2.82 million) with a pre-sale estimate at HKD25-30 million. Image courtesy Christie's.

Single-owner sales hurt by market slowdown

‘Faces of New China: An Important Private Collection’ sorely underperformed with 10 of 14 works (71 percent) failing to meet their lowest pre-sale estimates, and 6 of 14 lots (43 percent) failing to sell completely. This poor performance is notable considering that single-owner sales, including Sotheby’s record-breaking Ullen’s Collection Sale, have attracted an especially healthy interest from collectors in 2011.

Christie’s results indicate that single-owner sales are not impervious to the Asian art market’s newly developed slowdown, as buyers cautiously refused to pay low-end estimates for supposedly highly sought works. The stagnation in prices is especially apparent in Zhang Xiaogang’s Portrait in Yellow, valued at HKD25-30 million (USD3.2-3.9 million), which failed to trade to a safe bid of HKD22 million (USD2.6 million) and The Happy Family by Liu Ye, estimated at HKD12-18 million (USD1.5-2.3 million), which held fast with a bid of HKD9.5 million (USD1.2 million).

Liu Ye's 'The Happy Family' failed to sell to a bid of HKD9.5 million (USD1.2 million) with a pre-sale estimate of HKD12-18 million (USD1.5-2.3 million). Image courtesy Christie's.

Liu Ye's 'Blue Sea' met its reserve price with a winning bid of HKD12 million (USD1.5 million). Image courtesy Christie's.

Works that met reserves

Liu Ye’s Blue Sea achieved its anticipated hammer price, selling at HKD12 million (USD1.5 million), and the sale’s two cheapest works achieved pre-sale estimates, reaching HKD650,000 (USD84,000) and HKD800,000 (USD103,000). No pre-sale estimate was published for Yue Minjun’s The Massacre at Chios, which proved to be the evening’s highest-earning artwork with HKD28.5 million (USD$3.65 million).

Christie’s Hong Kong 26 November 2011 Evening Sale Results: ‘Faces of New China: An Important Private Collection’
Lot # Artist Highest bid Sale status Pre-sale estimate
1025 Liu Ye HKD9.5 million Not sold HKD12-18 million
1026 Zhang Xiaogang HKD22 million Not sold HKD25-30 million
1027 Yue Minjun HKD20 million Sold HKD25-30 million
1028 Yue Minjun HKD13 million Sold HKD15-18 million
1029 Yue Minjun HKD28.5 million Sold Not available
1030 Liu Ye HKD12 million Sold HKD10-15 million
1031 Liu Ye HKD7 million Sold HKD8-12 million
1032 Tang Zhigang HKD1.8 million Not sold HKD2-3 million
1033 Tang Zhigang HKD2 million Not sold HKD2.2-2.8 million
1034 Cai Guo-Qiang HKD5 million Sold HKD6-8 million
1035 Cai Guo-Qiang HKD4.8 million Not sold HKD6-8 million
1036 Cai Guo-Qiang HKD4.8 million Not sold HKD6-8 million
1037 Wang Qingsong HKD650K Sold HKD500-700K
1038 Kim Tschang-Yeul HKD800K Sold HKD600-800K

Market indications

The disappointing results of Asian contemporary art at Sotheby’s and Christie’s Autumn 2011 sales indicate that investors are now questioning the prices established in the Chinese art market bubble, which hit record highs in spring 2011. Furthermore, if Christie’s ‘Faces of New China’ private collection is a market indicator, works of art will not escape heightened investor scrutiny simply because they were created by a prominent Chinese artist or are part of a distinguished private collection. In the currently unstable Chinese art market, it seems only the most exemplary and justifiably priced works executed by reputable artists will emerge unscathed from falling prices.


Related Topics: market watch – art auctions, art happenings in Hong Kong, Asian artists

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