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Last week, Sotheby’s Hong Kong Contemporary Art online sale wrapped its online bidding period—offering a total of 105 lots, the sale saw a high sell-through rate of 96% with 78% of the 102 total lots sold making prices above their high estimate. The conservatively priced sale realized a total result of HKD $10.1 million ($1.3M) reaching over 300% its original pre-sale estimate of HKD 3.4-5.8 million.
The leading lot among the group of works was Yayoi Kusama’s enamel on paper The Wave Inside a Memory of an Illusion from 1978 – the work is an example of Kusama’s signature repeated patterning garnered a total of 17 bids, tripling its low estimate of HKD 300,000 ultimately selling for a total of HKD 937,500. Yoshitomo Nara’s 2007 Sleepless Night Sitting, an editioned sculpture featuring a variation of the artist’s manga-style protagonist, sold for five times its pre-sale high estimate of HKD $120,000 reaching a stunning total of HKD 600,000. Another of Kusama’s works Silver Sea from 1980, featuring the artist’s netting style in silver hue found 23 bids before doubling its high estimate of HKD 250,000, fetching a total of HDK 600,000.
Also featured in the successful online sale was a 1995 photograph by famed photographer Nobuyoshi Araki, whose explicit portraiture of bound female nudes has been met with controversy in Japan. Araki’s Tokyo Novelle realized 36 bids, selling for five times its high estimate of HKD 40,000 at HKD 212,500. Works by contemporary Beijing-based artist Liu Ye, who is represented by David Zwirner, saw robust interest with his Crying Over Mondrian collecting 38 bids reaching and selling for HKD 237,500 HKD, over seven times its high estimate of HKD 30,000. Chinese painter Zhang Xiaogang’s 2007 screenprint The Big Family – Father and Daughter- featuring the artist’s signature photographs of family in postwar China-tripled its high estimate of HKD 30,000 found 21 bids overall before realizing a selling price of HKD 93,750.
A set of KAWS X Dior toy editions produced in 2019 from an edition 500 were offered at a price of HKD 120,000-220,000 – a collaborative commission from Dior Homme’s Summer 2019 collection. The black and pink toy figure set encased in an acrylic box saw 11 bids total reaching, doubled its low estimate and reaching a selling price of HKD 250,000. Daniel Arsham’s Eroded Basketball from his ‘Future Relics’ series achieved well above its low estimate of HKD 80,000, seeing 9 bids total before reaching HKD 150,000. A 2001 edition toy-sized box by Kusama saw high bidding as well. Mirror Box: Type 2, published in collaboration with Japanese studio Okabe Print Editions Ltd.— the surface of which is painted with the artists’ signature dotted style seen on her pumpkin sculptures— bears a small lens on the side into which you can see an illusion of the artist’s mirror room installation. The work found 28 bids total, reaching five times its low estimate of HKD 7,000 eventually selling for HKD 40,000.
The segment of urban art items on offer saw a high level of interest with a Mr. Doodle orange and black screenprint selling for seventy-fifty times its low estimate of HKD 1,000, reaching 41 bids total before selling eventually for HKD 75,000. A Nara X Murakami skate deck made in collaboration with Japanese BRUTUS magazine in 2001 collected 26 bids and sold ultimately for HDK 43,450 over its pre-sale high estimate of HKD 4,000.
In the past few seasons, the online segment has seen notable growth. A Sotheby’s Hong Kong representative confirmed the sale has increased in value by 670% since the sales series first edition in 2018. The growth marks a clear corner of demand being cultivated in the Chinese market and seems to coincide with a heightened engagement around digital collecting. The Hong Kong Contemporary sale series is a particularly unique sector where offerings among genre-bending limited edition collectibles and affordably priced fine art works by contemporary blue-chip mainstays coexist. As select artists like Kusama, Nara, KAWS and Daniel Arsham continue to expand in market share in Asia and the U.S., lively bidding sustained in the online segment echoes that increasing collecting craze for the small group of top influencers.