Philippine artists came out strong at Sotheby’s fall 2012 Modern & Contemporary Southeast Asian Paintings sale in Hong Kong. 

Sotheby’s Modern & Contemporary Southeast Asian Paintings was a well-managed sale for the times: compact and affordable, with few surprise names or results. Predictably, most artists were from Indonesia and the Philippines with one from China and a couple from Thailand.

Indieguerillas, 'Fraud Against Beaux Arts (Presented in Analog)', 2009, acrylic on canvas, 200 x 200 cm.

Out of over fifty contemporary lots, six were passed with one big surprise: established Indonesian artist Rudi Mantofani’s Untitled failed to sell. The Jendela Group’s results were unspectacular. Stand out successes came from the Philippines this year, with Ronald Ventura’s piece The Dive achieving six times its estimate with a final price of HKD4 million (USD515,000) before commission.

Still room on a hot day

At 10am, umbrellas provided just a little shelter from Hong Kong’s raging autumn sun. It was a relief to dive into the air conditioned environment of the Hong Kong Convention Centre where Sotheby’s held its Autumn 2012 Hong Kong Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Paintings sale.

In the sale room itself, half the seats remained unoccupied. A relief for auction-goers (who may have felt at risk of overheating), but the staff looked tense and the start of the sale was delayed. Two passes in the first four lots heightened the tension: Was this going to be one of those tricky sticky sales?

Randy Solon, 'Untitled', 2011, oil on canvas, mounted on board, 91.5 x 123cm.

Compact, affordable

The lots on offer suggested that Sotheby’s was not in the mood for chances. The sale was compact: the contemporary lots numbered just over fifty and were combined with the modern works into one sale. Catalogue prices were low. Of the lots on offer, 29 bore estimates of under HKD100,000 (USD12,800) and there were only three lots with estimates in excess of HKD500,000 (USD64,000) including a stunning 2008 acrylic on canvas white abstract Tutur Karena, Nelan by Indonesian artist Handiwirman Saputra (HKD680,000 to HKD880,000 estimate), an oil called The Dive by popular Filipino artist Ronald Ventura and a bright splashy female nude by Chinese-American artist Walasse Ting.

Star lots and successes

Indonesian artists have enjoyed a spectacularly strong market in recent years, when other parts of the contemporary market have been wilting. However, it was the Philippine artists who caused the buzz in this sale. Below are four highlights.

Ronald Ventura
b. 1973

Sotheby’s took the unusual step of bringing the large, spectacular work The Dive by Filipino artist Ronald Ventura into the showroom for display during the auction, an act that helped it achieve six times its estimate.

Ronald Ventura, 'The Dive', 2010-2012, oil on canvas, 215 x 305 cm.

Ronald Ventura, 'The Dive', 2010-2012, oil on canvas, 215 x 305cm.

Estimate: HKD480,000 to 600,000/ Actual before commission HKD4,000,000.

Rolando Ventura
b. 1976

Ventura’s Jean-Michel Basquiat achieved more than three times its estimate.

Rolando Ventura, 'Jean-Michel Basquiat', acrylic on canvas, 2012, 183 x 305cm.

Estimate: HKD45 to 65,000/ Actual HKD220,000 before commission.

Ay Tjoe Christine
b. 1973

This oil on canvas work by this Indonesian artist achieved three times its estimate.

Ay Tjoe Christina, 'The Workers', 2010, oil on canvas, 170 x 200 cm.

Ay Tjoe Christina, 'The Workers', 2010, oil on canvas, 170 x 200cm.

Estimate HKD220,000 to 320,000/ Actual HKD1million before commission.

Jon Jaylo
b. 1975

After heavy interest from the room and four bidders on the phone, this work went for over six times its estimate, a big surprise. This was the first lot in the sale to rouse excitement in the room.

Jon Jaylo, 'Bright Days are Upon Us', 2012, oil on canvas, 152 x 213cm.

Estimate HKD40,000 to 60,000/ Actual HKD400,000.

More success stories

Other artists who achieved substantially more than estimates include

  • Walasse Ting (China/America).
  • Indieguerillas (Indonesia).
  • Rodel Tapaya, Nona Garcia, Alfredo Esquillo Jr and Geraldine Javier (all from the Philippines).

Rodel Tapaya, 'The Magic Dog', 2011, acrylic on canvas, 193 x 151cm.

Lots which failed to sell

Radi Arwinda
b. 1983

This work by Radi Arwinda was the second lot in the sale; early lots are challenging at the best of times.

Radi Arwinda, Fap Fap Fap for Dephina, Acrylic on Canvas,150 x 195cms

Radi Arwinda, 'Fap Fap Fap for Dephina', acrylic on canvas, 150 x 195cm.

Yusra Martunus
b. 1973

This stunning but difficult to photograph three dimensional steel work estimated at HKD160,000 to 240,000 is by Indonesian artist, Yusra Martunus.

Yusra Martunus, 'ART series', 2009-2010, stainless steel in 255 parts, 400 x 400 x 20cm.

Rudi Mantofani

This surprise failure by Jendela Group member Rudi Mantofani was estimated at HKD140,000 to 200,000. However, it is best not to extrapolate from this result as another work by this artist was estimated at HKD140,00 to 200,000 and achieved HKD350,000 before commission.

Rudi Mantofani, 'Untitled (Red)', 2002, oil on canvas, 145.5 x 145.5 cm.

Rudi Mantofani, 'Untitled (Red)', 2002, oil on canvas, 145.5 x 145.5cm.

Yuli Prayitno

This mixed media work was estimated at HKD60,000 to HKD90,000.

Yuli Prayitno, 'Uniform', silicone rubber and Perspex, 251 x 130cm.

The Sotheby’s Modern & Contemporary Southeast Asian Paintings sale was held on 7 October 2012 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

[Editorial correction | Tuesday 16 October 2012: We incorrectly stated that Lot 203, Lynyrd Paras, ‘Untitled’, 2012, failed to sell in this auction. In response to reader feedback, this information has been removed from this article.]


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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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