Georgina Adam sums up the action in Hong Kong which was stronger than expected but still down from previous years. Sotheby’s came through well, managing their sales to a 85% sell through rate, including some stand out sales like the Gutai group:
works from the Japanese avant-garde “Gutai” group, from the collection of its co-founder Yoshihara Jiro, did extremely well. The 22 works all found buyers and made a total of HK$26.7m (US$3.4m).
Other houses looking to get a foothold in Asia had mixed results. But the real winner was Hong Kong which remains the acknowledged center of the art trade in Asia:
Artcurial was also relieved by the result of its inaugural sale in the territory, which while coming in slightly under expectations at HK$63m (US$8.2m), saw a Tintin comic strip by Hergé, “The Blue Lotus” (1936) make HK$9.6m (US$1.25m) in a mixed sale that was headed by a 1961 Mercedes-Benz Roadster. Curiously, six of the top ten lots went to European buyers.
But Bonhams had a really rocky ride with its inaugural modern and contemporary art sale in Hong Kong. Of the 88 lots offered, only 36 found buyers, giving a punishing buy-in rate of 48 per cent, and a sale total of about HK$20m (US$2.5m), a far cry from the pre-sale estimate of HK$40m-HK$60m. The top lot, Cai Guo-Qiang’s “Escalator: Explosion Project for Centre Pompidou” (2003), estimated at US$1.2m-US$1.9m, crashed out, although an alluring Romualdo Locatelli nude did make HK$7.2m. “It was a tough first sale,” admitted Magnus Renfrew of Bonhams, “particularly for the mid-range material.”