Christie’s HK 20th C & Cont Asian Art = $140.34m; Phillips HK 20th C & Cont Asian Art = $30.66m; Hauser + Wirth already made an Art Basel sale; Jerry Saltz declares victory.
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KAWS & Tomoo Gokita Have Strong Weekends in HK
It was a big weekend in Hong Kong with both Phillips and Christie’s holding sales cycles. Phillips was able to clear $30m in a day and evening sale that combined Western, Asian and Design works. There were directional sales for Eddie Martinez ($318k, $135k and $119k), Tomoo Gokita ($540k, $151k and $98k) and, of course, KAWS who posted strong numbers in the lower tier of his market that had previously been priced as collectibles and now may be getting priced as works of art.
There were strong single sales at Phillips for Takashi Murakami at $478k, Zao at $936k, Botero at $477k, Dana Schutz for $350k, Stanley Whitney for $302.5k.
Christie’s posted $140.34m in the comparable sales in Hong Kong this weekend with a disappointing centerpiece lot from Zao Wou-ki which was estimated quite low and sold for $22.7m even though a comparable triptych from the same series of seven massive works was sold last October at Sotheby’s for $65m. Works of art, even from the same series, cannot be priced like commodities. But the re-calibration of this sub-category of Zao’s oeuvre so soon after its unexpected success suggests the Sotheby’s sale, executed through a third-party guarantee will not further accelerate Zao’s market as many thought. The next highest Zao work in Christie’s Evening sale made a very healthy $12.5m. Another work was bought-in.
Asian art advisors following the all-important Zao market don’t see the issue as one of demand but an example of Christie’s perhaps not lining up buyers well enough. Chu Teh-Chun’s No. 229 came in with a strong price near $4.9m with a second strong work at $1.7m. Yoshitomo Nara’s Sleepless Night (Cat) outperformed estimates to sell for $4.45m as well as Home which made $1.77m. Wu Guanzhong’s Spring Shoots Among Bamboos sold even better than the Nara with a final price of $2.6m as well as a second work Montmartre of Paris (V) that sold for another strong price of $2.08m. Liu Ye’s Portrait of a Battleship also came in well above expectations with a $2.5m sale. Kazuo Shiraga’s untiled work also sold for multiples of the estimate range to make $780k.
Among the Western artists in Christie’s sale, there were strong prices for Antony Gormley’s figures which made $1.08m. Sean Scully performed within expectations but made $856k and Botero who also was priced at $780k for a statue. Serge Poliakoff’s work made $535k above estimates; two George Condo works also ran ahead of the pre-sale pricing to make $413k and $780k.
KAWS remains the biggest Western story in Hong Kong with strong prices for a huge painting from 2014 that made $3m pricing the work according to its size as much as the category and type of work. Among the other KAWS works at Christie’s were a three small Companion works that were originally sold as toys. Two works took home $222k and a third made $207k which are numbers that are anything buy playthings.
In Christie’s day sales, there was a Nara sold for $1m and three others in the afternoon that significantly out performed. Liu Ye’s Daydream work sold for 10 times the low estimate to make $933k. A Richard Lin work failed at Phillips but another work sold for $350k at Christie’s day sale.
In the morning, Vietnamese painters Le Pho, To Ngoc Van, Luong Xuan Nhi, Mai Trung Thu and Nguyen Phan Chanh starred in the sales and posted the top prices. Indonesian’ painting Arie Smit did very well.
Hauser + Wirth Has Already Made an Art Basel Sale
The trend toward pre-selling art fair booths has gotten a lot of attention lately as gallery PR staff routinely release a raft of sales moments after the doors open at an art fair. The arms race was raised by Hauser + Wirth this year for Art Basel when the firm sent out two thick, heavy catalogues for Art Basel this year, one had a photograph of a small Philip Guston panel depicting a boot on the front cover.
Demand for Guston’s work seemed to reach a plateau in New York this month. The one work that performed well was a small untitled panel depicting two Klansmen that made $644k against a high estimate of $350k. (Though there are those in the Guston market who will tell you the work should have run even higher.)
Whatever the case, there is enough demand for these small Guston panels because the one on the cover of Hauser’s Art Basel catalogue has already been sold. Art Basel’s all-important preview opens two weeks from today.
Hold Off on the Leonardo Victory Dances
Jerry Saltz posted a strong claim to having his skepticism about the authenticity of Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi validated today. Saltz leapt onto Twitter to declare:
Ahem and lol! I stood-alone as the so-called “village idiot” when I repeatedly wrote & TV-ed that any idiot could see this was a fake & was all a big @Christies flimflam. “Louvre casts doubts on authenticity of $450 million ‘Leonardo'” https://t.co/EGpY1DmK01 @Nymag @Vulture
— Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) May 27, 2019
What momentous corroboration does the Telegraph have? Along with The Guardian, these are reports from the Hay literary festival where Ben Lewis was promoting his book on the Leonardo picture with this anonymous claim:
“My inside sources at the Louvre, various sources, tell me that not many curators think this picture is an autograph Leonardo da Vinci.
“If they did exhibit it … they would want to exhibit it as ‘workshop’.
“If that’s the case, it will be very unlikely that it will be shown, because the owner can’t possibly lend it … the value will go down to somewhere north of $1.5m (£1.2m).”
This is a pretty thin reed to rest upon. Lewis’s claim is difficult to check because he’s asking people to trust his sources. But he has no previous scoop related to the Louvre or any other major museum to suggest he has the inside track.
More to the point, Lewis has already tried this gambit with the National Gallery’s Leonardo show held in London eight years ago. Lewis claimed scholars were split on whether to attribute the work to Leonardo even though everyone agreed that the artist had painted significant portions of the surviving work.
In other words, there’s nothing new here. The painting remains what it always was and was advertised as, a heavily restored work that retains sections painted by Leonardo himself. Whether the rest of the picture was painted by his workshop or lost over time is really no longer ascertainable. But that’s a far cry from Saltz’s “toldja!”