What can this round-up of Sotheby’s sale in Hong Kong last month signal to Christie’s as it faces upcoming auction? The seven day Sotheby’s Hong Kong Autumn 2010 sales series, held in the city in October, was a revealing and record-making event. Revealing in that it informed professionals in which direction the Asian, particularly Chinese, art market is likely to head, and record-breaking in terms of overall takings – Sotheby’s this sale made double what was made in the whole 2009 sales year – and item sales.



Zeng Fanzhi was among the Chinese artists who sold well at Sotheby's autumn 2010 auctions. Zeng Fanzhi, 'Mask Series no. 6' (diptych), 1996, oil on canvas, 200 x 360 cm. Image taken from artnet.com.

Zeng Fanzhi was among the Chinese artists whose work sold well at Sotheby's autumn 2010 auctions. Zeng Fanzhi, 'Mask Series no. 6' (diptych), 1996, oil on canvas, 200 x 360 cm. Image taken from artnet.com.

Most artworks sold for well above estimates

As reported by Bloomberg, the auctions of modern and contemporary Asian art tallied HKD471 million and popular artists included Zhang Xiaogang, whose painting Chapter of a New Century – Birth of the People’s Republic of China II (1992) set an artist record of HKD52.18 million, Zeng Fanzhi and his “Mask Series”, Cai Guo-Qiang, Liu Ye, Yu Yaohan and Zhang Huan. Among the modern selection, work by S. Sudjojono, I Nyoman Masriadi and Ronald Ventura all fetched prices well above their estimates, in the case of Ventura, nine times above.

Jing Daily reported that Monday’s contemporary art sale resulted in an above-estimate sales total, likely being attributed to the number of high quality Chinese artworks on offer. The newspaper noted that “Chinese collectors showed a preference for single-owner lots and even indicated a growing interest in contemporary photography.”

Mainland buyers outnumbered those from Hong Kong

I Nyoman Masriadi, 'The Man from Bantul -- The Monster', 2000, mixed media on canvas, 200 x 150 cm.

Work by Southeast Asian modern artist I Nyoman Masriadi did well at Sotheby's autumn 2010 auctions. I Nyoman Masriadi, 'The Man from Bantul — The Monster', 2000, mixed media on canvas, 200 x 150 cm. Image taken from artknowledgenews.com.

Interestingly, while Jing Daily states that Hong Kong is to become a market for Western art, perhaps due to an increasing scarcity of Chinese antiques and master works, ARTINFO reported that “Western art offered to test the market’s attractiveness … was largely overlooked.” They go on to say that “while some Chinese collectors have decided to test the waters of Western works of art, it is clear that objects attesting to the long tradition of the country’s imperial past – and more recent economic ascent – continue to command the most attention from buyers.”

The article by Jing Daily supports its statement by paraphrasing Kevin Ching of Sotheby’s: “…the burgeoning interest in art collecting as a status symbol or financial hedge among China’s newly wealthy – and the creeping scarcity of high-quality pieces – could see Hong Kong becoming a major market for Western art.”

Chinese art also sold in greater numbers and for higher prices than works by Japanese or Korean artists.

Hong Kong set to become a major auction market

“The quality of items up for the hammer this week in Hong Kong underscored the importance that Sotheby’s is placing on Hong Kong, not as a dumping ground but as a key, thriving auction market.” Jing Daily

Kevin Ching, the CEO of Sotheby’s Asia was quoted by Reuters as expecting “the momentum [created by the autumn sale] to spill into next year’s Asian sales but conceded matching the calibre of this season’s collections would be difficult as more and more Chinese antiques get snapped up…”

Christie’s Hong Kong Autumn 2010 auctions will take place 26 November – 2 December and will be held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The Asian Contemporary Art (Day Sale) will be held on 28 November, 2.30 p.m.. There is also a Southeast Asian Modern & Contemporary Art sale to be held on 29 November from 10 a.m.. Top contemporary paintings presented for auction include Luxury Crime by Indonesian artist Agus Suwage and Zhang Xiaogang‘s early work, Untitled.


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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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