Christie’s various sales this week in Hong Kong, including the 30th anniversary sale meant as a valedictory bow for three decades in the nation-state, totaled 2.8bn HKD which was 13% lower than the previous year’s sale. Although Chinese works of art continue to retreat as an auction category—and there was a little unpleasantness as a collection of more than 100 scrolls said to be by Huang Yongyu were withdrawn from a sale because the artist denied their authenticity—paintings from many collecting categories continue to find strong, receptive markets in Asia.
This is still quite a new phenomenon but the South China Morning Post caught a bit of action during the sales that suggests painting now has pride of place in Hong Kong’s sales:
[A]n oil painting by Adrien-Jean le Mayeur de Merpres, the Belgian artist who was the Gauguin of Bali [,] Women Around the Lotus Pond, which features semi-naked women making merry in a tropical setting, last sold for HK$17.1 million including fees in 2007.
This time, Pylkkanen opened the bidding at HK$15 million. The first offer, by phone, was HK$21 million. That drew a gasp across the packed hall and caused other interested parties to regroup.
It finally went to Alexander Tedja, the Indonesian property developer and avid art buyer, who made the final bid of HK$26 million. During a period of correction in the art market – and we are still in one, given China’s slowing economic growth and the instability of the financial markets – many people expect contemporary Asian art to suffer because of the absence of the sort of speculative demand that drove up prices immediately after the global financial crisis.
But Asian contemporary art sales appeared to be holding up, especially where the works were of solid provenance. Hong Kong gallerist and collector Johnson Chang Tsong-zung put 30 pieces of Chinese contemporary art up for sale with Christie’s and most found buyers, including Zeng Fanzhi’s Meat No. 3 (Nativity), which sold for HK$30.4 million, including fees. Among the few lots left unsold was a painting by Liu Dahong, who has a solo exhibition at Chang’s gallery this month.
Christie’s Hong Kong spring auction sales fall 13pc; Chinese works of art fare poorly (South China Morning Post)