Press Release

HISTORIC YEAR FOR SOTHEBY’S IN ASIA As 2021 Sales Reach Record High of HK$10 Billion / US$1.3 Billion & Positioning Sotheby’s As the Leading International Auction House in Asia For the Sixth Consecutive Year

By Sotheby's

Hong Kong, 15 December 2021          Further to the preliminary numbers released earlier this month, Sotheby’s is now able to share both updated figures, and fresh insights into the activity of Asian clients, both in its Hong Kong sales, and across other sale locations and platforms.

With a further five sales to go this month in Hong Kong, Sotheby’s sales in Asia now stand at a record HK$10b / US$1.3b (auction and private sales combined),  driven by strength and depth of demand, and also by an influx of new collectors from the region and beyond, in turn powered by this year’s rapid expansion of offerings and platforms. The contribution of Asian collectors, active both in the region and in Sotheby’s sales across the globe, helped power Sotheby’s worldwide results this year to an historic record high.

“2021 has been an exceptional year for Sotheby’s in Asia, and it doesn’t stop here as 2022 will see our ambition for the region evolve with further growth opportunities.”
Nathan Drahi, Managing Director, Sotheby’s Asia

“As the results demonstrate, Asian collectors are a big force in today’s art market, and particularly at the top end, where they account for almost half of the activity on higher value lots sold at Sotheby’s, worldwide. Their bids carry a lot of punch too:   when Asian collectors really want something, they are rarely constrained by auction estimates.”
Patti Wong, Chairman, Sotheby’s Asia


· Sotheby’s YTD auction total is currently at a record high: HK$8.8b / US$1.13b, with a further HK$1.2b / US$176m realised through private sales in the region

· 90% sell through rate across all sales staged at Sotheby’s Asia

· 65% of the lots sold went for prices in excess of their high estimates

· Market leader in Luxury, Modern & Contemporary Art and Chinese Art:

- Historic high sales total for Modern & Contemporary art in Asia YTD: HK$4.7b / US$603m, up 36% on 2020 full year total

- Strongest total for Western art at Sotheby’s Asia: HK$2.6b / US$332m

- Sold the most expensive lots in Hong Kong in all Chinese Art categories:

  • · Zhang Daqian’s Mist at Dawn (HK$215m / US$27.6m);
  • · An imperial inscribed white jade “Ji’entang” seal, Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period (HK$146m / US$18.8m);
  • · Hongren’s Landscapes and Calligraphy (HK$128m / US$16.5m)

- Leads Chinese Works of Art market in Asia for 12th consecutive year - a leader in the field for 16 of the past 17 years

- Highest sale total for a Watches auction at Sotheby’s Asia: HK$261m / US$33.6m (October 2021)

- Record-breaking year for Sotheby’s sales of Wine & Spirits in Asia: HK$520m / US$67m


  • · Sotheby’s Asia launches its first tea auction in December, presenting some of the world’s most treasured Puerh to cater to an ever-growing market demand and the diversifying taste of today’s collectors
  • · White-glove inaugural ‘Contemporary Curated’ Evening Sale in Asia with Mando-pop megastar Jay Chou achieved HK$846m / US$109m (100% sold) 
  • · Sotheby’s collaborated with acclaimed film director Wong Kar Wai in October, and offered Wong’s first ever NFT creation, In the Mood for Love - Day One (HK$4.3m / US$550K) 
  • · The ‘Cult Canvas’ auction marked Sotheby’s first dedicated sneaker auction in Asia 
  • · Increase in NFT offerings at Sotheby’s Asia, including the collection, ‘Machine Hallucinations - Space: Metaverse’, from Refik Anadol, which more than double its high estimate to total HK$39.4m / US$5.1m 
  • · Extension of cryptocurrency payment options for Sotheby’s luxury sales in Asia: the second largest D Colour Flawless pear-shaped diamond to appear on the market became the highest price for any jewellery or gemstone purchased with cryptocurrency (HK$95.1m / US$12.3m)
  • · Sotheby’s staged its first travelling exhibition in Shenzhen, China in March, attracting more than 2,000 visitors


  • · Asian collectors remain a strong force across all locations and categories, accounting for one third of all bids by value in Sotheby’s worldwide sales, and a stunning 46% bid or bought on lots over US$5m
  • · On average, Asian collectors are ready to bid double the value of bidders from elsewhere
  • · 2021 also saw a sizable influx of new generation collectors from Asia: the number of under 40 Asian bidders in Sotheby’s worldwide sales increased by 38% this year over last
  • · Every year sees a significant increase in new bidders from Asia; this year in particular, the number of new bidders from the region participating in Sotheby’s worldwide sales is up by a remarkable 60% on 2019
  • · In the New York November marquee sales, participants in Asia accounted for approximately 20% of the bids, acquiring or underbidding a number of the big ticket lots including Alberto Giacometti’s Le Nez (bought by Justin Sun, founder of the cryptocurrency platform TRON), Mark Rothko, Yoshitomo Nara, Ellsworth Kelly, Alexander Calder, Gerhard Richter, Banksy, Monet’s Le Bassin aux nymphéas, Egon Schiele, Roy Lichtenstein and Pierre-Auguste Renoir
  • · During the Frieze Week Contemporary Art Sale in London, Banksy’s Love is in the Bin went to an Asian collector for £18.6m / US$25.4m, setting a record for the artist. 


  1. Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled. Sold for HK$289m / US$37.3m (June 2021)
  2. Chu Teh-Chun, Harmonie Hivernale. Sold for HK$230m / US$29.5m (April 2021)
  3. Zhang Daqian, Mist at Dawn. Sold for HK$215m / US$27.6m (October 2021) 
  4. Pablo Picasso, Femme Accroupie. Sold for HK$192m / US$24.6m (October 2021)
  5. Zao Wou-Ki, 13.02.62. Sold for HK$163m / US$21m (April 2021) &
    Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (Red Warrior). Sold for HK$163m/ US$21m (Oct 2021)


Olympic Dreams Charity Auction (22 December): Presented by Sotheby’s, together with HomeArt and Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China (SF&OC) and Hong Kong Olympic Fans Club (HKOFC), this charity auction benefits the SF&OC Sports Legacy Scheme which supports local underprivileged students, and retired or planning to retire athletes to pursue their dreams in sports.

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