A History-Making Night in Hong Kong for Modern and Contemporary Art Anchored by World Record Pink Diamond

A History-Making Night in Hong Kong for Modern and Contemporary Art Anchored by World Record Pink Diamond

With a realised combined total of HK$1.45 billion (US$184.2 million), Sotheby’s saw an electrifying evening of modern and contemporary art go under the hammer in Hong Kong, anchored by the world record single-lot sale of the Williamson Pink Star diamond.
With a realised combined total of HK$1.45 billion (US$184.2 million), Sotheby’s saw an electrifying evening of modern and contemporary art go under the hammer in Hong Kong, anchored by the world record single-lot sale of the Williamson Pink Star diamond.

H ot on the heels of Sotheby’s first auction of Modern & Contemporary Art in Singapore in 15 years that raked in the highest total for any Sotheby’s sale in the city-state, and sturdy day sales on 6 October, Hong Kong’s evening auctions on 7 October, which witnessed a packed saleroom, further cemented the robust position of Sotheby’s in Asia’s thriving art market. The three marquee sales on Friday evening achieved a combined total of HK$1.45 billion (US$184.2 million), taking home a sell-through rate of 97.1 percent.

Anchoring the evening – and quite literally the crown jewel of the night – was the spectacular history-making single-lot sale of the Williamson Pink Star diamond. Weighing 11.15 carats and bearing one of the rarest colours to naturally occur in diamonds, the Williamson Pink Star is the second largest internally flawless fancy vivid pink diamond to ever go under the hammer. Electrifying energy filled the room as a bidding battle went underway, with the Williamson Pink Star quickly surpassing pre-sale high estimates. After an intense 20-minute face off, the final winning bid went to a gentleman in the room for a staggering HK$453,223,000 (US$57,736,078) – setting an exceptional new world record price per carat for any diamond or gemstone and becoming the second most valuable jewel or gemstone ever sold at auction.

Earlier, the warm autumn evening kicked off with the Modern Evening Auction, led by the auction debut of Pablo Picasso’s Femme assise à la galette des rois, a regal and loving portrait of the artist’s second wife, Jacqueline Roque. Unseen in the public sphere for more than 30 years, the portrait hammered for HK$76,351,000 (US$9,726,354) with a great round of applause to a bidder in the room after a tense face off with phone bidders in Hong Kong and New York.

Pablo Picasso, Femme assise à la galette des rois . lot sold for 76,351,000 hkd

Among Chinese works of modern art, notable lots include Pan Yuliang’s Bouquet de chrysanthèmes roses, painted in 1944, which brought in HK$6,048,000 (US$770,455) and sold to a bidder in the room. Respected as one of the first female students at Shanghai Art Academy, and later, the academy’s first ever Chinese female professor, still life flowers were a prime subject in her decades-long career, with chrysanthemums particularly prominent. Other high performers of modern Asian art include Sanyu’s Branches, the only flower painting among more than 130 known to be created by the master where the vase is placed to the right side, which sold to a phone bidder with Wendy Lin, Deputy Chairman, Asia, for HK$86,692,000 (US$11,043,694) after a long 13-minute battle; and a two-metre canvas, 15.02.65, by Zao Wou-Ki that fetched HK$77,500,000 (US$9,872,725).

Pan Yuliang, Bouquet de chrysanthèmes roses . Lot sold for 6,048,000 HKD

Affirming the proliferating interest in Southeast Asian modern masters, the sale had commenced earlier that evening with Singaporean artist Georgette Chen who is currently one of the most sought-after female artists in Asia. Chen’s Pansies, painted while the artist was residing in Shanghai from 1940–1947, fetched HK$7,434,000 (US$947,017). Bids for Vietnamese works of art were fast and furious. A fierce five-minute bidding battle for The et Sympathie, a glorious painting depicting a leisurely afternoon tea in a vibrant garden, rendered in a style reminiscent of Impressionism and created during the artist’s Findlay Period, saw the painting soar above its high estimate, selling for HK$10,660,000 (US$1,357,977) to an online bidder. Le Pho’s Pivoines au vase hammered for HK$3,528,000 (US$449,432); while Mai Trung Thu’s Still Life of lilies and Mère et Enfant consolation achieved HK$4,032,000 (US$513,636) and HK$3,024,000 (US$385,227) respectively; and, after a heated bidding battle with eager phone and online bidders, Vu Can Dam’s Seated Lady from circa 1935-1940 sold for HK$4,000,000 (US$642,046).

The air in the room continued to intensify for the Contemporary Evening Auction following the exhilarating world record-setting sale of the Williamson Pink Star. The top lot of the evening for contemporary art, Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild a monumental painting from 1990 belonging to the artist’s 725 series of just five works – saw fast and fierce bidding, achieving a final price of HK$200,443,000 (US$25,534,434).

Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild . lot sold for 200,443,000 hkd

Market darling Louise Bonnet saw yet another astonishing performance. Only the second oil painting by the artist to ever appear at auction, Faucethead exceeded its high estimate more than four times over to hammer for HK$5,796,000 (US$738,352), surpassing her previous record of HK$5.67 million (US$573,525) set by Sotheby’s Hong Kong for Ice Skater in spring of this year. It has been a stellar year for Bonnet, who held her first solo show in Asia with Gagosian in May, coinciding with her participation in the 59th Venice Biennale. Equally outstanding was Emily Mae Smith’s The Riddle, an exquisite demonstration of the artist’s sophisticated technical mastery, which saw some 10 minutes of bidders facing off across Hong Kong and New York, the final bid going to a room bidder in Hong Kong for HK$12,475,000 (US$1,589,190). A surrealist riff of the famous 1808–1825 painting Oedipus and the Sphynx by Jean August Dominque Ingres, The Riddle set a new world record for the artist at auction.

Works by women artists took centre stage tonight, comprising both established talents and much sought-after fresh names bringing the largest offering in a contemporary art evening auction staged by Sotheby's in Asia. Lucy Bull’s Time Beads saw fast bidding, quickly surpassing it’s HK$1.2 million high estimate more than six times to achieve HK$7,560,000 (US$963,068). María Berrío’s The Lovers 3 also quickly rose above estimates, realising HK$11,870,000 (US$1,512,119). Among the hottest female names rising in the auction circuit, New York-based artist Loie Hollowell’s Lady in Green was snapped up for HK$7,308,000 (US$144,460). A respected member of the New York School of Abstract Expressionists, Lynne Drexler’s museum-worthy vivacious 1959 work, The Concert, fetched HK$8,190,000 (US$1,043,324), rising comfortably above its HK$4 million high estimate; while Lauren Quin’s vibrant canvas, Hot Mapped exceeded its high estimate three times over, selling to a bidder in New York for HK$3,276,000 (US$417,330). Bridget Riley’s Delos achieved HK$20,945,000 (US$2,668,184), only the second time a work by the renowned British artist has appeared at auction in Asia. Part of her Egyptian Palette series, Delos was painted in 1983, inspired by Riley’s profoundly influential trip to Egypt in the winter of 1979–1980 where she was able to study first-hand the tombs of the Pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings.

Led by the extraordinary per carat world record set by the Williamson Pink Star, it was a thrilling night that saw plenty of excitement and record-smashing successes, asserting the vigour of Asia’s art market and continued appetite for masterpieces and new talents alike.

Hong Kong Autumn Auctions Auction Results

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