Hong Kong Spring Auctions 2016 – round-up

Christie’s 30-year anniversary sale in Hong Kong earlier this week rounds up the spring auction season.

Art Radar brings you key takeaways from Spring 2016.

Liu Dan's 'Poppy' on auction at The Origo Collection, the first single-owner sale of contemporary ink works at Sotheby's Hong Kong, April 2016. Image from Blouin Artino.

Liu Dan’s ‘Poppy’ on auction at The Origo Collection, the first single-owner sale of contemporary ink works at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, April 2016. Image from Blouin Artinfo.

30 Years: Eclipsed by the Birkin

As Christie’s Hong Kong Spring 2016 auctions wrap up this week, media coverage is focusing almost exclusively on the record-breaking Hermès Birkin that sold for a staggering HKD2.34 million. The auction house’s much anticipated anniversary sale “30 Years: The Sale” proved to be most well-received of the season, enjoying a 100% sell-through rate with over 40% of the 30-lot sale selling above their high estimate.

As Blouin Artinfo reports, antiquities and older Chinese ink works performed best, with hammer prices reaching quadruple times the pre-sale estimates, while modern Chinese paintings performed respectably. For contemporary works, Zeng Fanzhi‘s Enigmatic Night (07-18) (2007) sold for HKD18.04 million against a high estimate of HKD10 million. Kazuo Shiraga‘s CHIKISEI SESUISHO, boasting a powerful provenance of having once belonged to Lucio Fontana, fetched HKD20.84 million while Kusama Yayoi‘s Sex Obsession-C (1992) sold for HKD15.64 million.

Earlier in the weekend, Christie’s Modern & Contemporary Art Evening Sales attained only mediocre results. Contemporary works fetched a total of approximately HKD186 million, missing its total low estimate of HKD194 million. The Contemporary Art Day Sale was more satisfactory, achieving a total of HKD77.7 million against a total low estimate of approximately HKD60 million.

Rounding up the Hong Kong season

In April this year, Asian art circles breathed a sigh of relief when Sotheby’s opened the Hong Kong Spring 2016 auction season with a reported strong start. Bloomberg observed that the sales defied the economic downturn, spotlighting the HKD270 million Zhang Daqian painting purchased by Chinese taxi driver turned billionaire Liu Yiqian.

Liu Wei, 'The Revolutionary Family Series (triptych)', 1994. Image from artnet.

Liu Wei, ‘The Revolutionary Family Series (triptych)’, 1994. Image from artnet.

On the contemporary front, a new auction record was set for Liu Wei, whose Revolutionary Family Series (Triptych) sold to a private Asian collector for HKD38.84 million. “Brushwork: From Asia to the World”, a specially curated themed sale featuring both Asian and Western artists, achieved white-glove-sale status with its 100% sell-through rate. For contemporary ink works, The Origo Collection, the first auction of a single-owner collection of contemporary ink art, broke four artist records to net HKD43.5 million in total.

The strong results overall were anchored by demand for modern Chinese art. Top lots included Wang Huaiqing‘s Feet 2 (diptych), which set an artist record of HKD54.5 million, and Xu Beihong‘s The Sleeping Venus, which fetched HKD39.4 million. According to Jing Daily, all top lots were sold to Asian collectors, including one sale to Shanghai’s Long Museum. The report said:

the auction results showed buoyant Chinese demand that defied concerns about a slumping luxury and auction market.

Spring 2016 global: “The sky is not falling”

In all, Spring 2016 demonstrates a resilient market in spite of shaky circumstances. Dealers, galleries and auction houses continue to skillfully manoeuvre a tricky market amidst the economic downturn and major personnel upheavals. Christie’s sales in Hong Kong rounds up the global Spring 2016 auction calendar following a frenzied auction week in New York earlier in May; summing up the New York sales, artnet News quotes private dealer Andrea Crane:

The sky is not falling. The sales were sober. People are buying. There’s no disaster out there, at all, and in fact the market is more solid than anyone thought it would be.

While sales volume is quite significantly down from previous years, experts cite that as an indication of a normalising market – a good sign after a frothy period of overly ambitious estimates and excessive guarantees. New York art advisor Lisa Schiff told artnet News:

We’ve gotten rid of the speculative market entirely, which is very healthy. People aren’t just grabbing up any great artist. They’re cherry picking the best. They’ll overpay for anything exceptional but they don’t want to pay at all for anything less. That’s the difference between a really frothy year and a year like this one.

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Related Topics: Japanese artists, Chinese artists, business of art, auctions, round up, events in Hong Kong

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