06/08/2011 03:35 am ET Updated Aug 07, 2011

Christie's Hong Kong Modern & Contemporary Sales Achieve $227 Million (PHOTOS)

(Via Mutual Art)


The Asian market was on every enthusiast’s radar this past week, following a series of highly successful Christies auctions spread over six days. Works by Zao Wou-Ki, Zeng Fanzhi, Fang Lijun, and Zhang Daqian drove the art spree, with sales climbing to more than HK$1.77 billion ($227 million). "The art market tends to follow wealth and the greatest wealth is being created in Asia," said Magnus Renfrew, director of Art HK, which ended Monday night.

Following the fallout from Bainbridges over the unpaid Chinese-vase fiasco, Christie’s initiated a deposit requirement of HK$1 million for bidders on any items valued at HK$8 million or more. This did not seem to deter the big-ticket buyers, as five lots sold for more than HK$30 million and 17 more sold for over HK$10 million while eighteen world records were broken.

Saturday’s sale of 20th Century and Contemporary Asian art alone fetched HK$492.6 million ($63 million), doubling the pre-sale estimate and setting the bar as Christie’s highest-ever sale in the category. At the blockbuster evening event, 45 lots were offered and all but two found buyers with 95% sold by value. The top two lots of the night came from Zao Wou Ki, whose 2.11.59 was hammered down at over HK$40 million ($5 million) to a private Asian buyer for several times its pre-sale estimate (HK$10-15 million). Zeng Fanzhi, The Leopard

However, the true star of the evening was Zeng Fanzhi, whose The Leopard (pictured above) provided the liveliest moment of the weekend. As the last work offered Saturday night, a bidding war erupted as 10 hands jumped at the opening offer of HK$4 million; the audience broke into applause when the hammer finally settled at HK$36 million, four times the painting’s pre-sale high estimate. Profits from The Leopard were donated to the nonprofit environmental organization The Nature Conservatory. The winner, Chinese entrepreneur Zhao Zhijun, said of his purchase, “Zeng Fanzhi’s act of generosity is tremendously moving. I, like him, also wish to contribute in my own way to help protect the environment.”

The overall results doubled the pre-sale estimates of the evening and day sales combined, and proved a 74% increase from the Fall 2010 sales. “We are gratified that the strong prices for these Asian masters show that the Asian art market is consolidating and maturing in the same way that the London and New York art markets have developed,” commented Eric Chang, Christie’s Director for Contemporary and 20th Century Asian Art.

Sunday continued with strong results; contemporary art sales rendered HK$160 million ($20.5 million), with sell-through rates of 77% by lot and 88% by value. Chinese 20th Century art performed more impressively with sell-through rates of 88% by lot and 98% by value, but comparatively only raised HK$108.6 million ($13.9 million). Once again, Zeng Fanzhi and Zou Wou Ki reigned at the top, for Fanzhi’s Warhol (HK$9.6m, pictured below) and Sky No.2 (HK$9 m) and Wou-Ki’s 5.6.63 (HK$18.5m) and Ciel de Paris (HK$6.5m) selling for several times their high estimates.Zeng Fanzhi, Warhol

Warhol, by Zeng Fanzhi, 2005

Xin Dongwang and Lin Fendmian also performed beyond expectations, as Dongwang fetched HK$5 million for Golden Wedding against an estimate of only HK$600,000-900,000, and Fendmian achieved HK$3.3 million, more than five times the pre-sale estimate.

The weekend proved that Asian works are increasing in demand, with 67% of the Chinese works selling over their high estimates, and multiple world auction records set, including for Japanese artist Zenzaburo Kojima and Chinese artist Pang Jiun. Chang said, “With 64% of the lots sold over the high estimate, an overall 94% sold by value across three sales and an average lot value of HK$1,937,695 - our highest ever – we see a growing recognition of quality and a demand for top-tier Asian 20th Century and Contemporary works.”

Continuing to Southeast Asia, modern and contemporary artists were showcased on Monday in a HK$49 million ($6.3 million) sale, led by Belgian ex-pat artist Adrien Jean Le mayeur de Merpes, whose Temple Festival in Bali scene grabbed the highest bid of the sale at HK$7.7 million ($989,450). Affandi also proved popular in second place (HK$3.6 million against a HK$1 million high estimate) and with two other paintings finishing in the top ten.

A surprise standout of the sale was Filipino artists: Jose John Santos III, whose Paper Dolls was estimated at a mere HK$80,000-120,000 but fetched HK$1.1 million, nearly 10 times its high estimate; and two records for Filipino artists - La Piedra IV by Fernando Zobel (pictured below), which sold for more than four times its pre-sale estimate at HK$1,580,000 ($203,030) and Anxiety by Benedicto "Bencab" Cabrera, which sold for HK$740,000 ($95,090) image

La Piedra IV, by Fernando Zobel, 1973

Ruoh-Ling Keong, Christie’s head of Southeast Asian Modern and Contemporary Art, commented, “The success of this auction exemplifies the exceptional breadth and diversity of the Southeast Asian category,” adding, “Contemporary art from the Philippines in particular showed an impressive growth, with 95% of the lots by Filipino artists being sold.”

The art series ended on Tuesday, with Zhang Daqian securing the top three spots with bids of more than HK$50 million. The sale of Fine Chinese Paintings, which witnessed 340 lots offered and all but eight sold, accumulated HK$958 million ($123 million) with 309 lots exceeding their high estimates. The biggest gains were achieved by: Mynah by Huang Junbi sold for HK$1.220,000 - 3,967% above estimate; and Spring Calling by Wu Guanzhong, at HK$17,460,000 - 1,646% above estimate.

Sotheby’s managed to steal some of the limelight Tuesday with their solo sale of Zhang Daqian pieces, which realized HK$681 million ($87.5 million) and set an auction record for the artist. Lotus and Mandarin Ducks surpassed the high estimate by nine times thanks to an Asian telephone bidder, selling for a record HK$191 million. The auction house also announced its Hong Kong total for the first half of 2011 was HK$4.28 billion ($549 million), more than double the previous 2010 double for the same time period.

Written by Staff

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