Sotheby’s HK Modern and Contemporary and Ink Art sales and Poly Auctions HK Contemporary Art sale – round-up

Art sales soared and records were broken over the weekend, across Hong Kong’s Autumn auctions.

Sotheby’s Hong Kong Modern, Contemporary & Ink Arts Sales, and Poly Auction Hong Kong, enjoyed high sales, showing a diverse yet stable market. 

Auction scene. Image courtesy Sothebys.

Sotheby’s ‘Evening Sale’, Hong Kong, 30 September 2017. Image courtesy Sotheby’s Hong Kong.

Finishing on Sunday 1 October 2017, Hong Kong’s Autumn Sales saw Sotheby’s and Poly Auction present a vast range of works from both Western and Eastern traditions. Most successful was Sotheby’s Modern and Contemporary Art Autumn Sale, which totalled HKD890,771,875 with multiple lots selling at record prices.

Yun Gee, "Wheels: Industrial New York", 1932, oil on canvas, 214 x 122 cm. Image courtesy Sothebys.

Yun Gee, ‘Wheels: Industrial New York’, 1932, oil on canvas, 214 x 122 cm. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

For Sotheby’s, the highlight was the Evening Sales star-lot of Chinese-American artist Yun Gee, who set a new auction record when Wheels: Industrial New York (1932) sold for HKD105 million. Eagerly anticipated, this was the work’s first appearance on the market after being kept by the artist’s family for the last eighty years.

Sanyu, "Léopard", 1931, oil on canvas, 93 x 116 cm. Image courtesy Sothebys.

Sanyu, ‘Léopard’, 1931, oil on canvas, 93 x 116 cm. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

As Sotheby’s stated,

The momentous invitation to contribute to an exhibition showcasing the creativity of a select group of artists of American nationality or citizenship prompted Yun Gee to produce his masterpiece… serving as a significant milestone for both the artist and Chinese Modern art at large.

Other notable sales from the evening included strong prices for Gerhard Richter, Yayoi Kusama, Jonas Wood. Patti Wong, Chairman of Sotheby’s Asia, explained how collectors had responded enthusiastically to the highly curated auction, with a total of 93 percent of lots being sold.

Yayoi Kusama, "Shirley MacLaine", 1970. Image courtesy Sothebys.

Yayoi Kusama, ‘Shirley MacLaine’, 1970. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art sale highlighted rare 19th century oil work by Indonesian artists such as Raden Saleh and Anita Magsaysay-Ho, as well as the first dedicated Burmese Art Section. 

7 Mai Trung Thu - Cinq Petites Filles (Five Little Girls), .jpg

Mai Trung Thu, ‘Cinq Petites Filles (Five Little Girls)’, 1973. Image courtesy Sotheby’s Hong Kong.

Of this new, pioneering genre, Sotheby’s Head of Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art, Mok Kim Chuan, commented:

Still a relatively fresh category at auction, Burmese art has a long tradition and significant artistic value which we plan to introduce to our collectors through the debut of a dedicated section of Burmese paintings in our day sale.

There was a strong sell through rate for this inaugural section, with collectors from Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Vietnam buying 10 out of the 12 pieces offered. There was also a high demand for rare lacquer works, such as Nguyen Gia Tri’s breaking the auction record twice in successive evening and day sales. The artist’s Provincial Village (1940) set the new record at HKD5.14 million.

Nguyen Gia Tri - Provincial Village.jpg

Nguyen Gia Tri, ‘Provincial Village’, 1940. Image courtesy Sotheby’s Hong Kong.

Marking its fifth anniversary this year, the four-day Modern and Contemporary Art auction at Poly Auction on 2 October also boasted high sales, reaching a total of HKD280 million. Particularly noteworthy was the sale of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (1984) for HKD44,250,000 – the first time that the auction had presented a work by the artist.

尚・米榭・巴斯基亞《無題》JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT_ Untitled

Jean-Michel Basquiat, ‘Untitled’, 1984. Image courtesy Poly Auction Hong Kong.

Special focus was made on the work of artist Wu Guanzhong, often praised as the founder of modern Chinese painting. The presentation at Poly Auction spanned his artistic career and his progressive journey, the highlight being his large-scale and historically significant piece from the 1970s, The Great Fall of Tanzania (1977), which sold at HKD53,690,000. The piece was one of four on sale from the artist; other successes include the sale of Guilin (1973) at HKD17,700,000 while his Beyond the Horizon (1998) was sold for HKD12,980,000

吳冠中《在天涯》WU GUANZHONG_Beyond the Horizon

Wu Guanzhong, ‘Beyond the Horizon’, 1998. Image courtesy Poly Auction Hong Kong.

Beyond the Horizon

Wu Guanzhong, ‘The Great Fall of Tanzania’, 1977Image courtesy Poly Auction Hong Kong.

趙無極《24.3.59-31.12.59》ZAO WOU-KI _ 24.03.59-31.12.59

Zao Wou-Ki, ‘24.03.59-31.12.59’, 1959. Image courtesy Poly Auction Hong Kong.

Like Sotheby’s, Poly Auction also was auctioning work from Japanese heavy-weight artist Yayoi Kusama, including three rarely seen pieces. Her better-known Pumpkin (1992) was sold for HKD13,570,000, exceeding expectations and making it the highest selling price ever of the artist’s sculpture.


Yayoi Kusama, ‘Mt. Fuji’, 1983. Image courtesy Poly Auction Hong Kong.

Finally, Contemporary Ink Art: Confluence also had some successful results, with its total sale reaching HKD17,955,000. The thematic contemporary art sale displayed the range of works by artists trained or influenced by the tradition of ink painting, bringing together works from China and its neighbours, as well as specific European, South Asian and Middle Eastern pieces. Including the work of a number of contemporary artists, high sales included the work of Li Jin (HKD2 million) and Liu Dan (HKD1,875,000).

Anna Jamieson


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