KAWS gets promoted to the Evening sales in May; Hong Kong goes better than expected for Sotheby’s; Taipei is 8th on list of cities with most rich people; Sean Scully’s biography as a documentary.
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KAWS Gets Promoted to NY Evening Sales in May
That didn’t take long. In the wake of KAWS’s big breakout sale in Hong Kong, two major works have been lined up for the May Evening sales in New York, the first time the artist has appeared in that slot at Christie’s or Sotheby’s.
Upon seeing the Kurf (Hot Dog) in Hong Kong, one KAWS collector weighed it next to The KAWS Album in rarity and significance within KAWS’s body of work. He judged it on a par with the $14.7m work and noted that Irving Blum had bought one of these works from the same show comparing it to the original Pop artists in significance.
It turns out that Christie’s also has consigned for the May Evening sales a far larger, 6 feet by 8 feet, KAWS work called Kurf Tangle (above) from the same show. In deciding upon an estimate, Christie’s and the seller looked at last November’s record-setting results for KAWS works before settling on an attractive estimate of $600-800k. In light of Monday’s results where Nigo was able to sell $28m worth of work by KAWS, they did a gut check. Then they decided to keep the estimate where it is.
The seller has already turned down better offers as third-party guarantees and believes the estimates will be irrelevant considering the level of demand for the artist.
Watching these works move as quickly as they have from peripheral sales to the marquee Evening events in May will bother many who make their living from art. The Hong Kong success has already caused great consternation and confusion within the art world. The public cries of outrage and scorn are outdone by the private teeth gnashing by some that can, at times, tip over into near apocalyptic despair.
The mood might change in a month’s time. But right now it seems like there will be more folks in the Evening sale audience rooting against these lots than for them. We will see whether the bidders will show up to mortify them.
Sotheby’s Hong Kong = $482m
Sotheby’s went into this Hong Kong sales cycle without great expectations. Mainland China’s economy has slowed and the government is in the process of managing a recovery at the same time the US has engaged in a stand off over trade. Within the art market, there has been a steady stream of commentary lately suggesting Asian buyers wouldn’t continue to spend.
Someone should have told the buyers because Sotheby’s saw a 90% sell-through rate for the whole of the 20-sale event and a total of HKD 3.78bn. The original estimate range was HKD 2.34 to 3.4bn which means Sotheby’s sold fairly close to the high estimate on a hammer basis.
In US dollar terms, the sales made $482m against a $300-428m estimate range.
Sotheby’s also says that 20% of the buyers in the sales were new to the auction house.
Taiwan Is the Not-So-Secret Asian Art Market
Bloomberg points out that Taiwan is a major driver of the Asian art market and the place that Sotheby’s increasingly brings their biggest lots to attract buyers:
- “We take the art to where the buyers are,” said Patti Wong, chairman of Sotheby’s Asia, who hosted a two-day preview attended by Maggie and Richard Tsai and Yageo Corp. chairman Pierre Chen. “The Taiwanese market is hugely important for us.”China may be minting billionaires faster than anywhere else, but Taiwan has been building fortunes since the 1950s. According to Knight Frank’s 2019 Wealth Report, Taipei was eighth in a global list of cities ranked by the number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals, with 1,519 people who have at least $30 million in assets. And the property firm predicts that number will rise to 1,864 by 2023.
- “His luscious abstracts now sell for seven figures, yet the Irish-born artist is less well-known in the UK, where he grew up from the age of four, than he is in America or Germany or China. He rejects the idea that he is one of the wealthiest artists in the world (a perception that may have something to do with his art collection, estimated to be worth £400 million). But his story is a remarkable one: from poverty and homelessness as a child, through gang violence, four marriages, the loss of a son, and a Charles Saatchi-triggered dive in the middle of his career, from which he made his way back to global significance.”