Hong Kong Auctions Spring to Life, as White-Glove Contemporary Art Sale Soars to New Record

Hong Kong Auctions Spring to Life, as White-Glove Contemporary Art Sale Soars to New Record

T he Sotheby’s Hong Kong fine art auctions had another outstanding evening as the Contemporary Art auction tonight was 100% sold by lot, achieving a HK$951.9 million (US$123.7 million) combined total. That's the highest for any contemporary evening sale in Asia, breaking the previous record set by Sotheby's in 2020. Presiding over the livestreamed event for a second night was Ian McGinlay, as he took bids from specialists on phone banks in real time from New York, London and Hong Kong. The masks worn by Sotheby's staff were provided courtesy of KAZE.

Together with the previous evening’s marquee auctions – ICONS: Masterpieces from across time and space and Beyond Legends: Modern Art Evening Sale – the stellar results suggest that collectors are eager to snap up extraordinary works of art, a promising sign for the many auctions still to go in the week. While this underscores the resilience of the art market in Asia even in the midst of a pandemic, their success can also be attributed to the top quality works offered, presenting opportunities too rare for collectors to pass up.

The Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Leading the Contemporary Art Evening Sale was Clyfford Still’s PH-568, a fresh-to-the-market late work from the artist’s Maryland period. The American Abstract Expressionist painting ultimately sold to the winning bidder for HK$126.2 million (US$16.4 million), while Gerhard Richter's Schwefel (Sulphur) also fetched a phenomenal price of HK$118.1 million (US$15.4 million). Along with these two heavyweights, works by Roy Lichtenstein, Willem de Kooning, and Adrian Ghenie all attracted keen interest and fierce bidding. Tonight’s sale affirms the ascent of Asia as a global platform for contemporary art. As the collector base continues to grow, we see strong demand in the region not only for artists from Asia, but also for those from Europe and North America, driven perhaps by the broadening of participation in the sales.

left: YOSHITOMO NARA, FROG GIRL , 1998. Lot sold: 96,284,000 HKD; right: Willem De Kooning, Untitled XLVIII , 1983. Lot sold: 46,877,000 HKD

Yoshitomo Nara’s disgruntled young protagonists present powerful images of disaffected youth that are both endearing and universal. In a thrilling bidding battle first in New York and then in Hong Kong, Frog Girl achieved a sale price of more than HK$96.3 million (US$12.5 million). Together, the works by Nara realised a total of about HK$152.3 million, attesting to the broad appeal of the Japanese artist and the eagerness of collectors, new and experienced alike, to secure his works.

Works by young artists were also making a big impact at tonight's auction. The sale opened with a bang, as Three Boys by Salman Toor, Skye waNehanda by Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, Untitled Cube by Avery Singer, Weeping Willow by Shara Hughes, and The Beginning by Matthew Wong attracted fervent interest, each soaring far higher than predicted estimates. New artist auction records were set for Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, Joel Mesler, and Chris Huen Sin Kan during the sale.

Scroll below to see the individual highlights of the Contemporary Art Evening Sale.

ICONS: Masterpieces from across time and space

In a tightly curated sale, ICONS brought together five masterpieces from the vast sweep of art history, each representing a celebration of the human form. Presenting masterworks of the utmost rarity, the auction was a thrilling event that realised a total of HK$374 million (US$48.1 million), and reached new records in Asia by Pablo Picasso's Buste de matador and Alberto Giacometti's Petit buste sur colonne, sold respectively at HK$139.9 million (US$18 million) and 25.6 million (US$3.3 million).

The Modern Art Evening Sale achieved HK$771.1 million (US$99.2 million), a tremendous result led by works from abstract masters Zao Wou-Ki and Chu Teh-Chun. The standout moment of the night was a 20-minute bidding war for the monumental work by Chu Teh-Chun Harmonie hivernale, which at HK$229.6 million (US$29.5 million) topped the auction record for the artist. The sale also saw new artist records for Li Huayi, Ma Trung Thu, Pham Hau, Le Thi Luu, André Brasilier and Chen Chi. Artist records in Asia were achieved for Pierre Soulages and Terry Frost. Vietnamese modern art had an impressive showing with brisk bidding for works from The Madame Dothi Dumonteil collection. The paintings from the collection were 100% sold, led by Mai Trung Thu’s Portrait of Mademoiselle Phuong.

Scroll below to see the individual highlights of Sunday evening's Beyond Legends: Modern Art Evening Sale.

Hong Kong Spring Auctions

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