Chinese artists break records at Bonhams Hong Kong November 2017 Modern and Contemporary Art Sale.

Chinese artists triumphed once again in Bonhams Hong Kong November auctions. Art Radar takes a look at the sale highlights.

Zao Wou-Ki (ZHAO WUJI) 'Dordogne', 1954, 46 x 61cm. Image courtesy the artist estate and Bonhams.

Zao Wou-Ki, ‘Dordogne’, 1954, 46 x 61 cm. Image courtesy the artist estate and Bonhams.

The highest lot at the Bonhams Hong Kong Modern and Contemporary Art Sale, held on the 21 November 2017, was achieved by Dordogne (1954). The work was created by Chinese modern artist Zao Wou-Ki and is from an important period in Zao’s career in which the painter began to experiment with a new language of abstraction, drawing from Chinese calligraphy, signs, ancient bronze and oracle bone inscriptions as inspiration for his brushwork. Amidst a bidding war, an unnamed Southeast Asian collector snapped up the work over the phone. The work’s sale is a record high for the artist at Bonhams, selling for HK11,380,000, well over its estimate, pitted at HK6,000,000.

KEY HIRAGA, 'Man and Woman', 1975, 27.4 x 22cm. Image courtesy Bonhams.

Key Hiraga, ‘Man and Woman’, 1975, 27.4 x 22 cm. Image courtesy Bonhams.

The 39-lot auction totalled HK19,616,250 with a high sell through rate by value (85 percent) and by lot (80 percent). Bonhams Global Head of Post-War & Contemporary Art Ralph Taylor explained:

Interest and bidding poured in, and the sale was lively and often fierce throughout, with action from California to Japan, in the room, on the phones, and on-line.

The art market boom in Hong Kong in the mid-2000s lured a growing number of overseas auction houses, with Bonhams arriving in Hong Kong in 2007. Thier sales have grown steadily since, taking a leap in 2016, which coincided with the departure of Bonhams Hong Kong Deputy Chairman of Asia Magnus Renfew as well as a general upturn in the global art market. The November Hong Kong sale was unique when it first arrived in 2014 in that it mixes the modern and the contemporary. Since the mid-2000s more auction houses are holding similar auctions that forground medium or style as opposed to time period.

Kishio Sugarcoated, 'Inside and Out of Lattice', 1990, 149 x 133 x 8cm. Image courtesy the artist estate and Bonhams.

Kishio Sugarcoated, ‘Inside and Out of Lattice’, 1990, 149 x 133 x 8 cm. Image courtesy the artist estate and Bonhams.

The cover lot was a rare piece by Japanese artist Kishio Suga (b. 1944). Kishio Suga was among the prime movers of Mono-ha, an arts group founded in the late 1960s in Japan. Suga began showing his work at a time of great cultural ferment in Japan and international experimentation, marked by movements like Postminimalism and Land Art in the United States and Arte Povera in Italy. In 1978, Suga was chosen to represent his Country at the Venice Biennale, introducing the West to an artistic language in which the investigation of materials and space is rooted in a deep affinity to nature and the environment. Inside and Out of Lattice (1990) bears the imprint of the artist’s decade long explorations into the dynamic relationship between everyday objects and the negative space around them. The work fetched HK450,000, reaching the mean of its bracket estimate.

Zeng Fanzhi, 1989, Smiling Bei Ke Ning, 75 x 59cm. Image courtesy the artist and Bonham's.

Zeng Fanzhi, 1989, ‘Smiling Bei Ke Ning’, 75 x 59 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Bonhams.

Hsiao Chin, 'Untitled', 1956, 35 x 46cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Hsiao Chin, ‘Untitled’, 1956, 35 x 46 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Other sale highlights include an early piece by Zeng Fanzhi (b. 1964)a consistent presence among high selling work in auctions in Asia. Smiling Bei Ke Ning (1989) went under the hammer for HK4,300,000. The first lot, a work entitled Man and Woman (1975) by Key Hiraga, went for nearly double the estimate at HK68,750. There was also strong interest in an early work by Hsiao Chin (b.1935), Untitled (1956), which sold for five times the estimate at HK500,000 (estimate at HK80,000 – 100,000). This piece is a rare example of an oil painting from his early “Chinese Opera” series.

Ingrid Dudek, Bonhams Director of Contemporary Art, Asia said:

We were especially gratified to see pieces by Mono-Ha artists, Kishio Suga and Susumu Koshimizu, both go to important private collections, as well as to see local favorites like Luis Chan sell for multiples of their estimates. We look forward to continuing to shine an international spotlight on the fine and historic works from Asia.

Rebecca Close


Related posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar for more art market watch news


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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *