Diverse collectors, mixed results: Christie’s autumn 2012 contemporary sales results

Some blue chip contemporary Chinese artists fell flat, while others surpassed expectations.

Christie’s Hong Kong held its fall 2012 auctions on the weekend of 24 to 25 November 2012, with modern and contemporary sales totalling HKD674,575,000 (USD87,492,378). Below is a round up of artists who outperformed their estimates as well as those who failed to meet them.

Scene from Christie's Hong Kong autumn Asian contemporary art day sale. Image courtesy Christie's.

Optimism despite average results

On 25 November 2012, Christie’s Asian contemporary day sale took in HKD104,424,000 (USD13,543,793), with a sell through rate of 78 percent by volume and 84 percent by value. For comparison, the Asian twentieth century art auction, which contained modern art and was also scheduled for that Sunday, had a total sales figure of HKD149,751,000 (USD19,422,705) and sold 84 percent of its lots.

The Wall Street Journal spoke with François Curiel, president for Christie’s Asia, who saw the weekend’s sales as indicative of a “strong, but realistic market,” attributing the less lively auction climate to speculators leaving the market. The article goes on to postulate on the overall state of the contemporary Chinese market, saying,

The weekend marks the beginning of the final stretch to a subdued 2012 auction year in Hong Kong. Sales are down compared with the previous year’s, hurt by China’s slowing economy. But optimistic market watchers say that the strong bidding for certain major lots, especially those by twentieth century Chinese oil and ink painters, show that the market has matured and is focusing on the best items, while ignoring lesser works that once might have fetched high prices.

Xu Bing, 'New English Calligraphy: Quotations from Chairman Mao', 2000, ink on paper, four hanging scrolls. Image courtesy Christie's.

In a 25 November 2012 Christie’s press release, Curiel also noted a promisingly larger and more cross-cultural collector base. He said,

This season we expanded the quantity and range of art offered at our sales. This led to increased international and new buyer participation, resulting in a high sold-through rate, as well as a growth in sales. In the spirit of our theme of ‘East meets West’, we witnessed truly cross-cultural buying, including European buying of Southeast Asian works and Japanese buying of Vietnamese art. These results are testament to Christie’s ambition over more than ten years to diversify our buyer base by bringing the markets in Asia and the West closer together and promoting globally the appeal of Asian twentieth century and contemporary art.

Blue chip Chinese artists continue to underperform

At the Saturday evening Asian twentieth century and contemporary art sale, several blue chip contemporary Chinese artists such as Zhang Xiaogang and Zeng Fanzhi sold beneath their low estimates. According to Art Radar‘s in-room reporter, the crowd’s enthusiasm deflated noticeably after the lively modern art segment wrapped up.

Zhou Chunya, 'We Come From Germany', 2008, oil on canvas. Image courtesy Christie's.

Looking at the results of the Sunday sale, expressionist Zhou Chunya was by far the stand-out artist of the day, with thirteen out of the eighteen mostly early works sold, each going for over the high estimate. Zhou’s oil painting We Come From Germany was, at HKD5,780,000 (USD749,312), the most expensive artwork sold that day.

However, many blue chip contemporary Chinese artists struggled to meet expectations. Wang Qingsong, Yue Minjun and Wang Guangyi all sold works below the Christie’s estimates. The hardest hit was Fang Lijun, two of whose paintings sold at a hammer price below the low estimate, while a third sold for just above the estimate.

Ding Yi, 'Appearance of the Crosses Series', 1999, oil on fabric, triptych. Image courtesy Christie's.

There were a few high-profile contemporary Chinese artists that strongly outperformed their estimates:

Other highs and lows

Filipino artists

Looking at their performance related to the auction house estimates, Filipino artists on average performed better than other nationalities at this auction. Five out of the eight works that sold that day went for prices at or above their high estimates, the most expensive being Geraldine Javier’s Blackbird Singing with a hammer price of HKD650,000.

Yoshitomo Nara, 'Wind', 1999, acrylic on canvas. Image courtesy Christie's.

Japanese artists

Japanese contemporary art sales fell mostly within their estimates, with a few notable standouts. Yoshitomo Nara’s Wind was the highest seller with a hammer price of HKD1,800,000, above its high estimate. At the other end of the price scale, all four works by Ryozo Kato that sold had hammer prices at or above their high estimates.

Korean artists

Korean artwork was the most polarised of all categories at the Sunday auction. Of the works that sold, nearly thirty percent of the artworks sold above their high estimates, while over twenty percent did not reach their low.

Indonesian artists

There were also surprising highs and lows for the Indonesian artwork included in the sale. Christine Ay Tjoe’s 3-2 #07 nearly doubled its high estimate with a hammer price of HKD700,000, while Indonesian superstar I Nyoman Masriadi failed to reach the low estimate for his work Budaya Keroyokan (Mob Violence), which sold for HKD1,300,000.

[Editor’s note: the figures on the Christie’s website include the buyer’s premium, which is not factored in to their auction estimates. The buyer’s premium is 25 percent for the first HKD400,000 and 20 percent from HKD400,000 to 8,000,000. For individual artwork sale prices in this post we have excluded the buyer’s premium.]


Related Topics: market watch – auctionsart happenings in Hong Kong

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