You can almost hear the anxiety in the South China Morning Post’s copy as it observes the relatively strong sales of Asian Modern and Contemporary art from the weekend:
Despite some concerns that China’s economic slowdown would lend a subdued air to Hong Kong auction rooms this month, results from the first few days of sales suggest the art market remains fairly resilient.
Sotheby’s modern and contemporary Asian art evening sale is one of the highlights of each auction season and this year’s sale, held on October 4, saw buyers snap up art worth HK$596 million, including fees. That was down only slightly on proceeds from the same sale a year ago – which fetched HK$615 million, albeit from fewer lots; this may be a reflection of collectors’ reluctance to part with top items amid today’s economic downturn. Still, this year’s total beat the pre-sale estimate of HK$420 million, even when discounting the fees, of 12 to 25 per cent, that the latter figure did not include.
The piece that sold for the highest price on Sunday evening was Kusama Yayoi’s No. Red B, which fetched HK$54.5 million, including fees – well above an estimate of HK$30 million to HK$40 million. In general, Japanese and Korean artists have done very well this season, with all works on offer at Sotheby’s October 4 sale finding buyers. The day before, Bonhams also sold a work by Kusama during its first modern and contemporary art sale in Hong Kong, and at a much higher value than estimated. The hammer price for Oil No. 19 was HK$1.6 million, compared with the pre-sale valuation of HK$700,000-900,000.
Art market holding up, early Hong Kong auction results show (South China Morning Post)