The analysis of the Fall 2020 Hong Kong auctions at Christie's, Sotheby's and Phillips 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.)
In the Fall of 2020—following changes to the auction calendar, an expansion of online sales and several strategic partnerships between market players—the art market seemed to be losing its pandemic momentum. The strong demand seen in March, at the beginning of lockdowns across the Europe and U.S., turned towards a more selective market, with collectors still driven by opportunism amid the economic lag.
By December, the auctions in both Hong Kong and in New York, had revealed strong demand from Asian buyers that would ultimately power the late-season sales held to make up some market volume lost during the lockdown. Although the demand from Asia was also visible in the New York results through either bidding from Hong Kong in the relay sales or simply direct bidding from Asia in the New York livestream sales, the Hong Kong results provided the starkest evidence that a market slump was being avoided because of robust Asian buying.
Phillips doubled down on the region, following its strongest Asia-based sale of 20th-century and contemporary art and design in July, by teaming up with China’s largest state-owned auction house, Poly Auction. The joint evening sale was a watershed event for the smallest of the three global auction houses. The sale made a total of HKD 400 million ($50 million) and brought in a host of records for emerging artists like Salman Toor and the late Matthew Wong.
At Christie's, the December evening sale and a single-lot auction devoted to a Sanyu painting depicting goldfish, generated a collective HKD 1.02 billion ($132 million) across 53 lots. That is in addition to the $119.3 million realized in the New York-Hong Kong relay sale that followed the same day. Weeks prior, Sotheby's brought in $184 million across its Hong Kong modern and contemporary art evening auctions—up 26 percent from the 2019 equivalent sales.
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