F or Sotheby’s Asia, 2022 was an eventful year packed with artist records and spectacular sales for modern and contemporary art, from the first-ever exhibition in Vietnam in the company’s history, to outstanding results and new records in Sotheby’s first modern and contemporary art auction staged in Singapore in 15 years, and more. In 2022, Modern and Contemporary Art in Asia combined achieved more than HK$3.1 billion, affirming the company’s leadership and growth in the region.
“Discerning eyes, tasteful curation and accurate strategy are the keystones of the solid success of Modern Art in Asia in 2022.”
Standout moments of the year include the sale of Pablo Picasso’s Dora Maar, which became the second highest auction record for the artist in Asia when it sold for HK$169 million in April’s spring marquee Modern Evening Auction. At present, Sotheby’s holds four of the top five records, including the top artist auction record in Asia, for Femme Accroupie, sold for HK$191 million in October 2021.
Sotheby’s also saw monumental results for Vietnamese art, making headlines when Le Pho’s triptych Figures in a garden sold for HK$17.9 million – nine times its pre-sale estimate – marking the second highest auction record for Vietnamese art (of which Sotheby’s holds all the top three), and a world auction record for the artist.
The Modern Art department also celebrated the successful selling exhibition, André Brasilier: Grande Fantasia, curated by the team, which took place in August in Hong Kong after two extensive years of preparation.
Meanwhile contemporary art also saw many new artist records set, including Louise Bourgeois’ Spider IV, which sold for HK$129.2 million in April, becoming the most expensive sculpture of Modern and Contemporary Art ever sold at auction in Asia, the third highest auction record for the artist and set a new world auction record for Bourgeois’ wall-mounted spiders. Among those that Sotheby’s Asia broke world artist auction records in 2022 were Michel Majerus, Kei Imazu, Tetsuya Ishida, and Emily Mae Smith, just to name a few.
As 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of Sotheby’s in Asia, Modern and Contemporary Art are looking forward to making history in the global art business, and continue to be a pillar in the Asia market, with extended interest in the scholarship of art and continued efforts in creative promotion of the market.
- Pablo Picasso | Dora Maar
- Chen Yifei | Banquet
- Wu Guanzhong | Plum Blossoms
- Le Pho | Figures in a garden
- André Brasilier | Grande chevauchée du lac en automne
- Sanyu | Branches
- Pierre Soulages | Peinture 195 x 130 cm, 3 décembre 1956
- Walter Spies | Tierfabel (Animal fable)
- Georgette Chen | Boats and shophouses
- Pablo Picasso | Femme assise à la galette des rois
Pablo Picasso | Dora MaarSold: HK$169.4 million
This is the first pre-WWII Picasso muses painting to be offered in Asia, and it sold for the second highest record of the artist in Asia in our spring marquee Modern Evening Auction in April.
Chen Yifei | BanquetSold: HK$54.5 million
This masterpiece by Chen Yifei belongs to the collection of Sir Run Run Shaw, the legendary Chinese entrepreneur and philanthropist. As a specialist I thought it would never be seen in the market, but for charity purpose we were honoured to present it together with his collection of modern oil paintings, Chinese paintings and Chinese works of art in our spring marquee auction in Hong Kong.
Wu Guanzhong | Plum BlossomsSold: HK$103.9 million
This is one of the most cheerful paintings by Wu Guanzhong that I have even seen from the 1970s, its vivid colour, almost abstract expressionistic composition, great brushwork and thick impasto have made this painting a real masterpiece and sold as the most expensive painting of the artist in 2022.
Le Pho | Figures in a gardenSold: HK$17.9 million
This fresh-to-market triptych by Le Pho generated a whirlwind of global bidding, from a bidding war between London and Hong Kong phone banks, to competition from the online bidding platform. Figures in the Garden not only broke the artist’s auction record set three years ago but did so significantly by HK$6.99 million. It achieved nine times the pre-sale estimate, marking the second highest auction record for Vietnamese art. Sotheby’s currently holds the top three prices achieved for Vietnamese art in history.
André Brasilier | Grande chevauchée du lac en automneSold: HK$3.8 million
André Brasilier’s Grande chevauchée du lac en automne achieved the artist’s record price of HK$ 3.78 million in Sotheby’s Modern Evening Auction in Hong Kong in April 2022 – a testament to the artist’s recent demand in Asia, coupled by his international appeal and geographically vast collector base.
Sanyu | BranchesSold: HK$86.7 million
This is one of the most important Sanyu paintings that every Modern Asian specialist has been searching for: grand format, great colour, unusual composition, clear provenance, museum exhibition record, well published. It was a great honour for us to offer it in our autumn marquee sales and promote it with full scale marketing.
Pierre Soulages | Peinture 195 x 130 cm, 3 décembre 1956Sold: HK$45.1 million
We sold this important painting by Soulages which was shown by the artist in the 1959 documenta. It achieved the second highest price of the artist in Asia (the highest record of the artist in Asia was also achieved by Sotheby’s Hong Kong in April 2021). A few weeks shortly after this auction, the artist passed away and I think making his top two auction records in Asia is the highest tribute we have paid to the artist.
Walter Spies | Tierfabel (Animal fable)Sold: SG$4.03 million
The oil paintings by Russian-born German artist Walter Spies are exceptionally rare – there had been only around 20 unique paintings by the artist auctioned in the past 34 years. Tierfabel (Animal fable) was demonstrative of the favoured themes that frequented the artist’s paintings following his move to Bali 1927, where he created his most coveted works. This painting achieved SG$4.03 million – the third highest price for the artist. Sotheby’s holds the top three prices for the artist.
Georgette Chen | Boats and shophousesSold: SG$2.02 million
Georgette Chen’s Boats and Shophouses - one of the strongest works by the artist to come to market and the first of a Singapore shophouse, waterfront scene to be presented at auction – fittingly graced our inaugural auction in Singapore and achieved the artist’s record price at auction at the time – SG$2.02 million. A highly accomplished painter with tremendous ability, Chen was an independent female who carved a unique identity amidst the male-dominated arena of 20th century art.
Pablo Picasso | Femme assise à la galette des roisSold: HK$76.4 million
It’s a beautiful Jacqueline painting by Picasso which really impressed every visitor during our Hong Kong autumn auction preview in October. It was a keen competition between Hong Kong and New York during the bidding, and finally it found a new home in Asia.
- Louise Bourgeois | Spider IV
- Yoshitomo Nara | Oddly Cozy
- Emily Mae Smith | The Riddle
- Tetsuya Ishida | The Men On A Belt Conveyor
- Bridget Riley | Delos
- Gerhard Richter | Abstraktes Bild
- Michel Majerus | o.T. (collaboration Nr. 8)
- Takashi Murakami | 69 Arhats Beneath the Bodhi Tree
- Robert Alice | Block 34 (51.895167° N, 1.4805° E) from Portraits of a Mind
- Kei Imazu | Black Eyes
Louise Bourgeois | Spider IVSold: HK$129.2 million
Captivated by the idea of the spider, Bourgeois returned repeatedly to its forms throughout her career. The highlight of April’s spring marquee Contemporary Evening Auction, Spider IV sold for HK$129.2 million, becoming the most expensive sculpture of Modern and Contemporary Art ever sold at auction in Asia, the third highest auction record for the artist and set a new world auction record for Bourgeois’ wall-mounted spiders.
Yoshitomo Nara | Oddly CozySold: HK$112 million
A beguiling and dazzling painting that is a superlative example of the artist’s mature works, Oddly Cozy was fresh to auction and sold for HK$112 million in the spring marquee Contemporary Evening Auction setting a world auction record for the artist’s post-2012 mature works, and became the fourth highest auction record for the artist’s paintings.
Emily Mae Smith | The RiddleSold: HK$12.5 million
Works by women artists took centre stage in October’s marquee Contemporary Evening Auction, and one such work was Emily Mae Smith’s The Riddle . A surrealist riff of the famous 1808–1825 painting Oedipus and the Sphynx by Jean Auguste Dominque Ingres, the painting sold for HK$12.5 million after a 10-minute bidding battle across Hong Kong and New York, with the final bid going to a room bidder in Hong Kong, and setting a new world auction record for the artist.
Tetsuya Ishida | The Men On A Belt ConveyorSold: HK$8.06 million
A powerful painting that interrogates the anonymity of Japan’s professional workforce, The Men On A Belt Conveyor is one of just 217 paintings ever created in Ishida’s brief decade-long career. Fresh to auction marking a rare appearance on the market and the first time a painting by the artist has been offered by Sotheby’s, The Men On A Belt Conveyor set a new world auction record for the artist in July when it sold for more than HK$8 million in Contemporary Curated: Hong Kong.
Bridget Riley | DelosSold: HK$21 million
Rare to auction in Asia, Delos was executed in 1983 and belongs to the artist’s cycle of ‘Egyptian Palette’ paintings produced following her profoundly influential travels in the winter of 1979-1980. The painting stands among the most optically arresting and jubilant of this important series and sold for HK$21 million, setting a new auction record for the artist in Asia.
Gerhard Richter | Abstraktes BildSold: HK$200.5 million
A masterwork of Gerhard Richter’s epic cycle of Abstraktes Bild paintings, the work belongs to the concise 725 series of just five works and is exemplary of Richter’s unique, highly-sophisticated painting method for which is he revered. The top lot of October’s Contemporary Evening Auction, the painting sold for HK$200.5 million and became the second highest auction record for the artist in Asia, meanwhile Sotheby’s Asia holds three of the top four records for the artist in Asia, including the highest auction record.
Michel Majerus | o.T. (collaboration Nr. 8)Sold: SG$1.1 million
The painting is an exemplary of the artist’s inventive artistic language that draws upon art historical precedents and elements from pop culture and bursts with a myriad of symbols and referencing the unmistakable visual vocabulary of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Offered in August in the first modern and contemporary art auction staged by Sotheby’s Asia in 15 years, o.T. (collaboration Nr. 8) attracted fierce international bidding and sold for SG$1.1 million, more than triple it’s pre-sale estimate and seeing a new world auction record for the artist.
Takashi Murakami | 69 Arhats Beneath the Bodhi TreeSold: HK$38.5 million
Executed in 2013, 69 Arhats Beneath the Bodhi Tree is an extraordinary work by Takashi Murakami, the largest of his Arhats paintings to ever appear at auction. Exceeding 170% of its low estimate, the monumental painting sold for HK$38.5 million in April’s spring marquee Contemporary Evening Auction, becoming the 6th world auction record for the artist, and the 2nd world auction record for an Arhat painting.
Robert Alice | Block 34 (51.895167° N, 1.4805° E) from Portraits of a MindSold: HK$5.04 million
Portraits of a Mind, of which Block 34 is part, is the largest work of art in bitcoin’s history. Along with the other 39 blocks, the 40 paintings and NFTs stretch to over 50 meters long and compromise the 12.3 million digits from Satoshi Nakamoto’s BTC v0.1.0. The work sold for HK$5.04 million in the spring Contemporary Evening Auction, and is a testament to Sotheby’s leadership in NFTs in Asia which has thus far seen a 100% sell- through rate in live and marquee sales.
Kei Imazu | Black EyesSold: HK$1.8 million
Born in 1980 and raised in Japan, Indonesia-based Kei Imazu has gained popularity for her visually engaging works, often rich in classical references and electrified with her own spin. Black Eyes gained viral attention on the artist's social media and is adapted as the cover art for American musician Boldy James's studio album The Price of Tea in China. The work made its auction debut in March in the online sale Contemporary Art | Hong Kong, and sold for HK$1.8 million, soaring more than five times above its high estimate and seeing a new world auction record for the artist.