This report on the Sotheby’s Hong Kong modern art evening sale is available to AMMpro subscribers. (The first month of AMMpro is free and subscribers are welcome to sign up for the first month and cancel before they are billed.)
On Monday, Sotheby’s Hong Kong modern art evening sale brought in a total HKD 747.8 million ($96.5 million) with buyer’s premium across 25 lots. It hammered well above the pre-sale high estimate of HKD $468.1 million ($60.4 million). The sell-through rate of 92.3 percent speaks to the rebound of demand in Asia and the client base’s preference for regional artists over global names sold in Tuesday’s contemporary art evening sale, which saw a slightly lower total sale of HKD 684 million ($88 million). The result was an increase of 22.5 percent over the October 2019 equivalent sale total of $78.8 million across 32 sold lots. The two sales bracket the global Covid-19 pandemic and demonstrate the strength of the Asian market.
46 percent of works sold above the high estimate and 42% sold within their pre-sale expectations. Only one work failed to reach its low estimate.
The leading lots of the sale included Chinese French master Sanyu’s blue and white floral still life from the 1950s, which sold for HKD 187.1 million ($24.1 million), going for more than three times the low estimate of HKD 50 million ($6.5 million). It last sold at Christie’s in 2009 for HKD $34.8 million ($4.5 million). The work was previously owned by French dealer Raymond Toupenet, before going to prominent Sanyu patorn Jean-Claude Riedel. It then sold at Taiwan-based Ravenel International Art Group in November 2004 for NT $20.37 million ($701,000). The painting came to auction again in 2009, when it sold in Christie’s 20th century Asian art sale for HKD 34.8 million ($4.5 million). In just over a decade, the work’s value has increased by 436 percent.
Six of the artist’s top ten auction prices are for his flower paintings, four of which depict the chrysanthemum. The highest selling Sanyu works depict nude figures. In Sotheby’s sale, Sanyu’s ‘Nu’ made in the 1950s-60s, once owned by Taiwanese billionaire Pierre Chen sold for HKD 168.7 million ($21.8 million). It surpassed its expectation of HKD 105 million ($13.5 million). It last sold at Christie’s in 2004 for HKD 7.3 million ($947,000) and set a record for the artist at the time.
Elsewhere in sale, Wu Guanzhong‘s winter landscape of Northern China from 1973 sold for HKD 151.4 million ($19.5 million), making it the fourth highest selling work by the artist. The largest of three versions, it was also expected to fetch HKD 105 million ($13.5 million). It last sold at Christie’s Hong Kong in 2007 for HKD 31.7 million ($4.1 million). A second work by Wu sold from 1973 titled Scenery of Guilin was among the top sellers. It went for HKD 43.4 million ($5.6 million), more than doubling the low estimate of HKD 18 million ($2.3 million). It last sold at Christie’s in 2007 for $1.3 million. In its 13 year holding period, the value has increased by 330%.
Another Chinese-French modernist saw high returns. Chu Teh-Chun’s landscape No. 312 (1969), first debuted at the Sao Paulo Biennale the same year it was completed, went for HKD 60.7 million ($7.8 million). It beat its high expectation of HKD 47 million ($6.1 million). The work last sold at Christie’s in May 2016 for HKD 40.4 million ($5.2 million), where it was acquired by the current seller. Another by the artist, an ink calligraphy work on paper from 1994 sold for HKD 3.8 million ($488,000), more than nine times the low estimate of $51,600. Another landscape by Chu Teh-Chun from 1959 titled No. 40 Au bord de la riviere went for $HKD $22 million ($2.8 million).
Georges Mathieu’s Desespoir de Lumiere sold for HKD 5.6 million ($725,000), seven times the low estimate of HKD 700,000 ($90,000). Zao Wou-Ki’s green landscape 17.06.61 went for HKD 25.6 million ($3.3 million), 40% above the low estimate of HKD 15 million ($1.9 million). Another late example by the artist titled 04.08.98 sold for HKD 24.4 million ($3.2 million), meeting its low estimate. Lin Fengmian’s Still Life, a work on paper dated 1952, sold for HKD 6.2 million ($803,000), making 2.5 times its estimate of HKD 2.5 million ($323,000).