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In July 2020, Hong Kong Modern and Contemporary art evening and day sales at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips brought in HK $2.64 billion ($341 million). French-Chinese artists led this season: Zao Wou-Ki generated HK$617 million, Sanyu HK$505 million and Chu Teh-Chun HK$143 million – the three artists accounted for 48% of the total modern and contemporary sales.
July 2020 Hong Kong Modern and Contemporary Evening Sales Figures
The evenings sales achieved a combined total of HKD 2.2 billion ($289 million), seeing a powerful 95% sell-through rate yielding 143 sold lots from 151 offered. Like the New York modern and contemporary art sales, the top ten percent of the evening sales account for slightly more than half of the total sales volume. Works by Zao Wou-Ki, Sanyu, Liu Ye and David Hockney were among the highest sellers. Five Sanyu works were sold in the evening sales, making a total of HKD 490 million together and accounting for 21% of the evening sale total.
The leading results across the top three houses were generated once again by the Franco-Chinese painter Zao Wou-Ki. A master of lyrical abstraction, Zao has joined the giants of the art market with an auction turnover that has grown by 529.3 percent since 2007 from an annual total of $37.8 million to $238 million last year, according to Artprice’s reports. Occupying 23% of the market share this year, 12 Zao paintings were sold in the July Evening sales generating HKD 614 million.
July 2020 Hong Kong Modern and Contemporary Day Sale Figures
Across 509 lots offered and 457 lots sold, the day sales saw a phenomenal sell-through rate of 90 percent, generating a total of HKD 411.6 million. The hammer total of HKD 331 million came in close to the HKD 314 million high pre-estimate. The sell through rate and hammer ratio demonstrate how well the day sales were managed. Liu Ye, who is known for his stark Mondrian-inspired works featuring a child-like protagonist, lead the Hong Kong contemporary market share, placing fourth overall among the artist’s with the highest turnovers in the combined modern and contemporary auctions. Liu topped the day sale auctions with his 1993 picture Wie Gemalt selling for HKD 13.3 million ($1.7 million.) That price was in excess of four times the work’s low estimate of HKD 2.8 million. The three total Liu Ye works traded in the day session were among the top ten of those sale. They had a combined result of HKD 28.5 million.
July 2020 Hong Kong Modern and Contemporary Art Market Share
In contemporary art, Liu Ye lead the group with HKD 139 million ($17.9 million) in total sales with the five paintings offered in the evening sales achieving a combined total of HKD 111 million ($14.3 million) which accounted for 5.27% of the total market share across the combined category results. The bulk of the share was composed of the price for Leave Me in the Dark which sold for HKD 45.3 million ($5.8 million) at Sotheby’s. The result came in just below the artist’s standing record, set by his single-figure red painting, Smoke (2001–02), which sold for HKD 52.18 million ($6.65 million) in October 2018.
David Hockney’s 30 Sunflowers brought the second highest price achieved for a Western painting in an Asian auction this season. Whether you consider Hockney a California or British artist, he has become one of the highest earners this season in Hong Kong. This sale marks a shift in active bidding in Hong Kong auctions for Western artists with the value of those prices in Hong Kong increasing. The Hockney also shows an expansion in high-value offerings in the contemporary field.
American abstract expressionist Clyfford Still is another Western artist who has been a recent hit in Asia-based auctions. In November 2019, Still’s 1946 PH-399 was purchased in a New York sale by a collector from Asia for $24.3 million against an estimate of $12 to $18 million. This season, PH-306 sold for HKD 64.1 million ($8.3 million) in Hong Kong, within its pre-sale estimate at Sotheby’s.
July 2020 Hong Kong Modern and Contemporary Art Top Evening Sale Lots
Of the top evening sale lots, Zao Wou-ki and Sanyu accounted for a large share of the total sales volume with works performing well against their estimates. Sanyu’s 1950s work Quatre nus drew 21 bids before selling for HKD 258 million (US$33.3 million)—the second-highest auction price next to his comparable Five Nudes, which sold for HK$303.9 million (US$38.8 million) at Christie’s in November 2019.
Another leading modernist in this auction series was French-Chinese painter Chu Teh-Chun known for his pioneering style combining Western and Eastern aesthetic elements. Wielding an impressive provenance and exhibition record in several of the artist’s surveys in Asia—Chu Teh-Chun‘s monumental painting Les éléments confédérés from 1983-84 came to the market for the first time. Its sole owner, who lives in Eurpoe, was the consignor. The painting sold in Sotheby’s modern art evening sale for HK$113.7 million ($14.7 million)—a new record.
Works by contemporary names like Liu Ye, Yoshitomo Nara and Adrian Ghenie saw the highest single-lot results. Gutai group painter Kazuo Shiraga was also among the top individual lots. The market for Shiraga’s works soared between 2013 and 2017, partly sparked by the influx of Gutai works to the market when Parisian dealer’s Rodolphe Stadler’s sold a portion of his collection at Christie’s Paris in June 2013. His two highest auction records were set in recent years with the sale of his 1959 gestural painting Takao selling for $10.2 million at Sotheby’s Paris. The second top price achieved for the artist is $8.6 million for the sale of his 1960 work Tentaisei Soushiko (The Winged Tiger) at Sotheby’s Paris.
July 2020 Hong Kong Modern and Contemporary Art Top Day Sale Lots
The top day sale lots had no work hammering below its low estimate among the highest selling 30 works. Two thirds of the works sold for hammer prices above the high estimate. This is a strong market indicator.
The day sale lots show an wide range of styles spanning Western and Eastern art movements. Artist like Eddie Martinez, Yoshitomo Nara, and Liu Ye have traditionally topped the Hong Kong contemporary day auctions. Claire Tabouret‘s market in Hong Kong has also seen a recent rise. The artist saw a new record price at Phillips this season with Les déguisements (Disguises), selling for $447,504. George Condo, whose Cubist-inspired paintings have sparked a market rise for the artist between 2016 and 2018 saw his headless portrait La Legion D’Honneur from from 1994-94 sell for five times its low estimate at HKD 5.2 million ($672,872). The early period explains the paintings low price relative to his current record of $6.2 million achieved for his 2014 painting Nude and Forms at Christie’s in May 2018. Condo’s highest records have all been placed by paintings completed after 2010.
July 2020 Hong Kong Modern and Contemporary Art Most Dynamic Lots
Japanese contemporary artist Izumi Kato saw the highest hammer ratio across both categories. Also known for macabre figurative subject matter Irish painter, Genieve Figgis‘s Ladies in the Grass drove up the hammer price far past its pre-sale estimate. Spanish painter, Javier Calleja who recently closed a show in fall 2020 at Shanghai’s Aisho Nanzuka Gallery saw high bidding. The attention was likely driven by exposure in the primary market in both China and Japan for his single-character comic style paintings reminiscent of Liu Ye’s and Nara’s style. Claire Tabouret has seen aggressive secondary market attention in recent seasons. The record-setting Disguises saw a hammer ratio of 5.09 which gives some evidence of the pressing demand among buyers.