It is a testimony to how far the market for Zao Wou-ki has come that this very small watercolor sold for nearly twice its estimate in Hong Kong yesterday. The overall success of the $65m sale—which as nearly 20% above the presale low estimate on a hammer price basis—was built on stalwart names like Zao, Wu Guanzhong, a tiny Sanyu that made up for its tiny size with a big price, Yayoi Kusama, Yoshitomo Nara, Zeng Fanzhi and, even, the historically important Liu Xiaodong work once owned by the Ullens.
All of those works sold well but within the estimates. Those prices underscore the fact that the value of much Asian Contemporary art is well established. The market seems to be strong in the face of broader economic weakness in the region. Nonetheless, sale had more than a dozen works that out performed the estimate range. Some merely sold slightly above expectations. Others seemed to provide some directional information.
Perhaps the most surprising work to leap above estimates was Yue Minjun’s Immortal Cranes which made twice the estimate range at HK$14.48m (US$1.86m.) Yue’s market has hardly witnessed this kind of strength since before the global credit crisis in 2008. Works by bigger names in Asian Contemporary art sold for larger numbers but few jumped higher than this work. Among those that doubled the estimate range were works by Affandi, Shiy De-Jinn, Christine Ay Tjoe, Ronald Ventura and Shiraga.
No particular country showed strength. Most of these artists are familiar to Asian and Western collectors too. Attached is a gallery of the works that significantly out-performed estimates: