Le-Min Lim files this take on the Southeast Asian sale Sotheby’s just held in Hong Kong. Bloomberg decides to go comparative price route suggesting that sales of an artist’s work should make steady progress in price to define a stable market:
A work by I Nyoman Masriadi was the top lot yesterday in Sotheby’s Hong Kong auction — at a price that was a fifth of the record for the artist set last year. [ . . . ] Art dealers said demand was being held back by economic weakness. Last October, a Masriadi image of boxers sold for HK$7.8 million ($1 million), the most for Southeast Asian contemporary art. [ . . . ] Collectors said that last year’s exuberance has gone as export-reliant economies suffer the worst recession in years. Indonesia’s decision in November to prop up the rupiah by restricting foreign-currency purchases has made it harder for the nation’s collectors to buy at overseas auctions.
“It’s a difficult market for Southeast Asian art,” Zhao Xu, a Beijing-based art collector, said in an interview at the sale. “Many Indonesians couldn’t buy even if they wanted to.”
Other Southeast Asian artists also did well in the sale in relation to their pre-sale estimates. Bloomberg suggests this has more to do with overall weak prices. Nonetheless, there was demonstrable and healthy:
As many as 15 bidders fought to buy Filipino artist Ronald Ventura’s 2009 “Oh Boy!” a 274 centimeter-by-202 centimeter oil-on-canvas painting of the battle-scarred Astro Boy movie character turning into a human from a machine. It sold for HK$836,000, against the top estimate of HK$180,000.
“This is a great time to scoop a bargain,” said Philip Ng, a Singapore-based collector, who competed to buy “Oh Boy!” and stopped bidding at HK$550,000. “Prices aren’t outrageous like they were a year or two ago.”