Phillips wrapped the HKD 72,600,000 ($9.4 million) 20th century and contemporary art and design day sale in Hong Kong on Thursday after a successful HKD 199,495,000 ($26 million) evening auction the day prior. Jonathan Crockett, Phillips chairman of Asia, directed the sale of 39 lots, which saw a 94 percent sell-through rate.
The sale’s top lot was Chinese painter Liu Ye‘s single-figure nude Girl! (2004), which sold for HKD 7.8 million ($1.01 million), well in excess of its presale high value. Liu’s work set a new record in Sotheby’s contemporary evening sale, ringing in the second-highest sum ever reached for a work sold in an Asian auction.
The sale marked the Asian auction debut for French-born, Los Angeles–based painter Claire Tabouret, with her 2015 painting Les déguisements (Disguises) scoring its high estimate of HKD 750,000 ($96,200) five times over to establish a new HKD 3.5 million ($451,500) record for the artist. The result far surpassed her previous record price of $81,250, which was achieved earlier this year. The work comes to a new audience abroad following the figurative painter’s February exhibition at Night Gallery in Los Angeles.
Japanese artist and global auction staple Yoshitomo Nara’s Wheels Go Round (1994) hammered at the high end of its estimate, selling for HKD 3.8 million ($483,750). Chinese artist Chu Teh-Chun’s No.111 (2011) made HKD 2.4 million ($307,000).
With emerging names competing for big sales alongside blue-chip ones, the sale extended Phillips’s reach as a global leader in the contemporary middle market. The auction established six new artist records for contemporary names alongside Tabouret’s, among them Maria Taniguchi, Cleon Peterson, and Ruben Pang. An untitled Taniguchi from 2016 went for HKD 437,500 ($56,400), blowing away its high estimate of HKD 260,000 ($33,300).
This auction’s total sales were up 31 percent from the 2019 spring season equivalent, which brought in $7.2 million. Thursday’s sale also shows a steady increase from the $6.6 million brought in by a similar Phillips Hong Kong auction held in fall 2018, the house’s first contemporary day sale staged in the city.
Chinese painter Firenze Lai, an auction newcomer, was represented here by a grayscale ink on paper figurative work, The Army (2014), which sold for HKD $237,500 ($30,644), nearly four times its high HKD 60,000 ($7,700) estimate. Another piece by Lai, Folding Arms (2012) performed similarly, selling for HKD 200,000 ($25,800) against a high estimate of HKD 80,000 ($10,300).
Vying bidders also drove up numbers for in-demand primary-market darlings like Genieve Figgis, Daniel Arsham, and Nicolas Party. Figgis’s 2014 painting Ladies Picnic collected two and a half times its high estimate of HKD 400,000 ($51,300), finding a buyer at HKD 1.03 million ($132,300)—which is still only a third of the Irish artist’s record of HKD 2,375,000 (more than $300,000), realized at a Phillips Hong Kong sale in November 2019.