Christie’s “The Era of Asia, The Art of Asia” Spring sales in Hong Kong usher in a new wave of energy in the art market.

Christie’s Hong Kong held its Spring auctions “The Era of Asia, The Art of Asia” on 24 and 25 May 2014. Although no new auction records were set, the sales demonstrated the continued and growing interest of regional collectors in acquiring art.

Auction scene at Christie's Hong Kong during "The Era of Asia, The Art of Asia" Spring Auctions 2014. Image courtesy Christie's.

Auction scene at Christie’s Hong Kong during the sale of Sanyu’s ‘Potted Chrysantemums’, the highest fetching work sold during “The Era of Asia, The Art of Asia” Spring Auctions 2014. Image courtesy Christie’s.

On 24 and 25 May 2014, Christie’s Hong Kong presented its Spring auctions entitled “The Era of Asia, The Art of Asia”, building on the success of its previous Autumn 2013 edition. The weekend sales included an Asian Twentieth Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale and two day sales.

The three auctions presented seven artistic themes, representing the diversity and possibilities in Asian art:

  • The Natural and the Sublime
  • Transcendence and Abstraction
  • Patterns and Form
  • Myth and Enchantment
  • Portraits of Ourselves
  • Portraits of Others
  • Reality through the Kaleidoscope

A successful rate of sales

Offering more than 600 artworks in total, the auctions sold, on an average, more than 80 percent by lot and 90 percent by value and totaled USD97,889,180 (HKD755,317,750). While the Evening Sale saw prices for a single work of art soar up to almost USD6 million, the Day Sales were more tame and realised prices that didn’t exceed USD1.2 million. Nonetheless, both days were successful in terms of sales and collectors’ interest. Eric Chang, Deputy Chairman of Asia and Department Head of Asian Twentieth Century and Contemporary Art, commented in the Evening Sales results press release:

We saw a strong sell-through rate, with special strength in Southeast Asian and Korean art. This confirms the diverse interests of collectors in Asian twentieth century and contemporary art, while demand for works by twentieth century masters such as Sanyu and Xu Beihong is consistently strong. The enthusiasm from private collectors for the category from across Asia was also very evident in the evening sale.

SANYU, (CHANG YU, Chinese, 1901-1966), 'Potted Chrysanthemums', painted circa 1950s, oil on masonite, 91.5 x 48 cm. Image courtesy Christie's.

Sanyu (Chang Yu, Chinese, 1901-1966), ‘Potted Chrysanthemums’, painted circa 1950s, oil on masonite, 91.5 x 48 cm. Image courtesy Christie’s.

Chinese art, Asian private collectors still at the top

In the Evening Sale, the top ten of the 54 (out of 63) lots sold were by Chinese artists, and all sold to Asian private collections – as did all the top tens of the three sales.

Highlights included the highest selling piece, entitled Potted Chrysantemums by Sanyu, which was sold to an Asian private collector for USD5,966,784 (HKD46,040,000), which more than double its estimate of HKD18,000,000-22,000,000. Another version of this work achieved double the price, USD10.4 million (HKD80.76 million), at Sotheby’s Hong Kong Modern and Contemporary Asian Art evening sale on 5 April 2014, marking the second highest price for Sanyu at auction.

At its heels was a work by another Asian twentieth century art auction favourite, Xu Beihong, whose Eagles sold for USD3,208,896 (HKD24,760,000), just above the maximum estimate of HKD20 million. Third in line was Chu Teh-Chun’s No. 229, which sold for USD3,063,744 (HKD23,640,000), almost HKD3 million below its highest estimate.

Xu Beihong, (Chinese, 1895-1953), 'Eagles', painted circa late 1930s to early 1940s, signed and inscribed in Chinese (lower right), oil on canvas, 78.4 x 73.4 cm. Image courtesy Christie's.

Xu Beihong (Chinese, 1895-1953), ‘Eagles’, painted circa late 1930s to early 1940s, signed and inscribed in Chinese (lower right), oil on canvas, 78.4 x 73.4 cm. Image courtesy Christie’s.

Liu Wei, (Chinese, b. 1965), 'Landscape', painted in 1998, oil on canvas 170 x 169.2 cm & 170 x 168.9 cm. Image courtesy Christie's.

Liu Wei (Chinese, b. 1965), ‘Landscape’, painted in 1998, oil on canvas
170 x 169.2 cm & 170 x 168.9 cm. Image courtesy Christie’s.

The highest contemporary lots sold were also by Chinese artists. In the lead, Liu Wei’s Landscape sold at USD2,773,440 (HKD21,400,000), almost doubling its highest estimate of HKD12 million and breaking the artist’s previous record of HKD20.3 million at Christie’s Hong Kong in November 2013.

Zeng Fanzhi – who achieved the record for a contemporary Asian artwork ever sold at auction at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in October 2013 – proved his popularity again with a work from his “Mask Series” which sold at USD2,483,136 (HKD19,160,000) and After the Long March Andy Warhol Arrived in China for USD2,337,984 (HKD18,040,000).

Zeng Fanzhi, (Chinese, B. 1964), 'Mask Series 1997 No. 17', oil on canvas, 150 x 179.5 cm. Image courtesy Christie's.

Zeng Fanzhi (Chinese, b. 1964), ‘Mask Series 1997 No. 17’, oil on canvas, 150 x 179.5 cm. Image courtesy Christie’s.

Zeng Fanzhi was also at the top of the list of sold works during the Asian Contemporary Art Day Sale, with another Mask Series work selling at USD860,544 (HKD6,640,000), about HKD2 million below its maximum estimate, and Andy Warhol sold at USD549,504 (HKD4,240,000), above estimate.

All of the top ten selling lots in the Contemporary Art Day Sale were by Chinese artists, except for one by Korean Kang Hyung-Koo, Churchill, which sold for more than double its estimate at USD269,568 (HKD2,080,000).

During the Asian Twentieth Century Art Day Sale, all the top ten lots were once again by Chinese artists except for one work by Belgian artist Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur De Merprès. The top selling lot was by Zao Wou-ki at USD1,124,928 (HKD8,680,000), just above its lower estimate of HKD8 million. Chu Teh-Chun proved another favourite, with lots selling between USD782,784 (HKD6,040,000) and USD549,504 (HKD4,240,000
).

Zeng Fanzhi, (Chinese, B. 1964), 'Andy Warhol', painted in 2005, oil on canvas, 130 x 110 cm. Image courtesy Christie's.

Zeng Fanzhi (Chinese, b. 1964), ‘Andy Warhol’, painted in 2005, oil on canvas, 130 x 110 cm. Image courtesy Christie’s.

Ronald Ventura, (Filipino, B. 1973), 'Wonderful Bait', oil on canvas, 180 x 244 cm. Image courtesy Christie's.

Ronald Ventura (Filipino, b. 1973), ‘Wonderful Bait’, oil on canvas, 180 x 244 cm. Image courtesy Christie’s.

Growing investment in Southeast Asia

Although the top selling lots were all by Chinese artists, other artists from the greater Asia region also did well. Southeast Asian artists proved popular, with Indonesian Affandi’s work going under the hammer for USD502,626 (HKD3,880,000) and Ronald Ventura‘s Wonderful Bait realising USD1,015,616 (HKD7,840,000). In 2011, Ventura’s painting Grayground raised HKD8.4 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2011, the most ever paid at auction for a Southeast Asian contemporary artist. Indonesian I Nyoman Masriadi’s work Man from Bantul sold for USD440,446 (HKD3,400,000).

At Art Basel Hong Kong 2014, both Ventura and Masriadi’s works were among the first to go during the preview day of the fair: the Singapore Tyler Print Institute recorded a sale of Ventura’s Into the Woods no. 2 (2012) for SGD 125,000 (USD99,817) and Paul Kasmin Gallery from New York sold Masriadi’s Spares (2014) for USD350,000.

Lee Ufan, (Korean, B. 1936), 'From Point', painted in 1979, oil on canvas, 145 x 111.5 cm. Image courtesy Christie's.

Lee Ufan (Korean, b. 1936), ‘From Point’, painted in 1979, oil on canvas, 145 x 111.5 cm. Image courtesy Christie’s.

The call for abstract art

Abstract art from the twentieth century proved to be popular among collectors, not only by the usual big name Chinese artists such as Zao Wou-ki and Chu The-Chun, but also by well-known Korean masters such as Lee Ufan, whose work From Point sold for USD1,637,421 (HKD12,640,000) at the Evening Sale. Singaporean Cheong Soo Peing‘s most expensive work went under the hammer for USD626,987 (HKD4,840,000) at the Evening Sale, while his seven lots during the Day Sale sold in the range of USD105,254 (HKD812,500) and USD19,431 (HKD150,000).

Christie’s Deputy Chairman Asia Eric Chang said that:

Abstract works of art have seen expanded interest, such as those by Korea’s Kim Tschang-Yeul, Lee Ufan, Rhee Seundja and Singapore’s Cheong Soo Pieng.

Chu Teh-Chun, (Zhu Dequn, French/Chinese, 1920-2014), 'No. 229', oil on canvas, 130 x 195 cm. Image courtesy Christie's.

Chu Teh-Chun (Zhu Dequn, French/Chinese, 1920-2014), ‘No. 229’, oil on canvas, 130 x 195 cm. Image courtesy Christie’s.

Asian collectors: a new wave of energy

As seen at the recently closed second edition of Art Basel Hong Kong 2014, buyers and collectors from Asia have been seen with increased frequency and with an ever more diverse range of interest in both eastern and western art. Asian collectors now not only buy blue-chip western artists or blue-chip Asian artists, but also seem to take more risks to acquire a wider range of art from across the Asian region. This was also proved during Sotheby’s Hong Kong Spring Sales on 5 to 6 April 2014.

In the day sales result press release, Christie’s Eric Chang said,

As the world becomes more integrated, we are seeing an emergence of appreciation from collectors for artists of different regions and nationalities. This is especially evident within our Asian Contemporary Art sale. In particular, we saw the strength of the Southeast Asian art market carry through from Christie’s evening sale into both day sales, with noteworthy participation from Singaporean buyers. Within our 20th Century Art sale, robust bidding from buyers across Asia was at play. […] Our sales “The Era of Asia, The Art of Asia” signify a new wave of energy that has been sweeping across the art market.

Note: All sold prices include buyer’s premium, while estimates do not. HKD to USD prices are calculated with an exchange rate of HKD1 = USD0.1296.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

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Related Topics: art auctions, business of art, Asia expands, connecting Asia to itself, events in Hong Kong

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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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