I t was an action-packed and thrilling eight days of live auctions at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) last week, beginning from Sunday 2 October, to the final hammer in the evening of Sunday 9 October. While there are further online auctions before we call it a season, the live auctions across art and luxury are already well-worth a celebratory glass of champagne (or burgundy) – so far already raking up a combined total of HK$3.5 billion (US$446 million), the highest autumn total for Sotheby’s in Asia in four years.
“We are very proud to conclude our Fall marquee series with a robust sales total, newly established records and a reinvigorated momentum in Chinese art thanks to truly unique private collections.”
Hong Kong 2022 Autumn Auctions | Action-Packed Record Setters
It was the first time since 2019 that the autumn marquee live auctions have been held at HKCEC, welcoming a return of exciting in-room bidding and Sotheby’s regional office colleagues from around Asia. A week of high emotions and on-the-edge-of-your-seat thrills, the saleroom saw a packed turnout at various times with in-room bidders taking home some of the highest valued lots to great rounds of applause, including Pablo Picasso’s Femme assise à la galette des rois from the Modern Evening Auction, and the single-lot Williamson Pink Star, which set a new world record price per carat for any diamond or gemstone, and became the second most valuable jewel or gemstone ever sold at auction.
If you missed any of the action, don’t fret, we’ve got you covered. Here are the eight key takeaways from the Hong Kong autumn auctions last week that you need to know.
Chinese art is experiencing a revival of momentum, affirmed by the HK$1.2 billion (US$159 million) sales total across Chinese Works of Art, Classical and Fine Chinese Paintings.
The results this season of Chinese Works of Art, Classical and Fine Chinese Paintings are indicative that the resurgence of interest in Chinese art is still enjoying growing momentum. Continuing to say buoyant above the one billion dollar mark, sales this autumn brought in a combined HK$1.2 billion (US$159 million), comfortably exceeding the past two marquee seasons. Star lots include a glorious ruby-ground yangcai “trigrams” reticulated vase dating to the Qianlong period from the collection of Dr. Wou Kiuan, which saw 30 minutes of action and more than 80 bids placed before finally selling for HK$177.46 million (US$22.6 million). Setting a world auction record for a Chinese chair, and becoming the second most valuable piece of Chinese classical furniture sold at auction, an extremely rare Late Ming dynasty folding horseshoe-back huanghuali chair from the private collection of the late Sir Joseph Hotung saw more than 60 bids placed in 15 minutes. Surpassing its high estimate more than eight times over, the chair sold for HK$125 million (US$16 million). Chinese paintings were also snapped up by collectors with eager interest. Among them include several of Zhang Daqian's lush splashed ink landscapes such as Silvery Peaks, Lush Mountains by Reed Grove, and Secluded Village amongst the Mountains, all of which soared above high estimates. Equally respected and coveted, Flowers and Fruit and Bodhidharma Meditating Under the Bodhi Tree by Qi Baishi both demanded more than two times its estimates, achieving HK$78.65 million (US$10 million) and HK$30.63 million (US$3.9 million), respectively, while other works such as Sailboots Fleet, and Wine and Crabs all rose above estimates. Other notable lots were Letter to Yang Yiqing by Li Mengyang and Qi Zhijia's handscroll of Li Bai's Poems in Running Script which sold above estimates for HK$27.6 million (US$3.52 million) and HK$6.55 million (US$834,659) respectively.
The exceptional results of the private single-owner collections attest to the long-standing importance of strong provenance in collections and works of art.
While the above Late Ming dynasty chair certainly is unforgettable, overall the 129 lots offered in the evening and day auctions of HOTUNG | 何東 The Personal Collection of the late Sir Joseph Hotung Part 1 garnered heavy interest and a lot of eager bidding. Achieving a 95.3 percent sell-through rate, both sales exceeded pre-sale high estimates, bringing in a combined total of HK$563.6 million (US$72 million). Hong Kong’s autumn auctions this season also saw other single-owner private collections go under the hammer including Part II of The Dr. Wou Kiuan Collection, Part II of imperial porcelain from the private collection of Joseph Lau, and New Wave Beyond Yuanmingyuan, a private European collection of Chinese Contemporary art. If there’s one lesson we saw across all these sales, it’s that strong provenance is one of the backbones to a great collection.
Rarity in art and luxury is still highly prized, confirmed by the extraordinary sale of the Williamson Pink Star.
This season there will be no going past the jaw-dropping sale of the 11.15 carats Fancy Vivid Pink internally flawless Williamson Pink Star which fetched a stellar HK$453.2 million (US$58 million) in a single-lot sale and took out two world auction records after a frenzied 20 minutes, with the final bid going to a gentleman in the room. At a per carat price of US$5,178,124, not only did it nearly double the global per carat price for a Fancy Vivid pink diamond, it also set a new world record per carat price for any diamond or gemstone. Additionally, the Williamson Pink Star became the second most valuable jewel or gemstone ever sold at auction, just behind the 59.6 carats CTF Pink Star sold at Sotheby’s for US$72.1 million in April 2017. If that isn’t impressive enough, among all the diamonds submitted to the GIA, less than 3 percent are classified as coloured diamonds, within which less than 5 percent of those are considered pink, and only a few are classified Fancy Vivid Pink. For these reasons, the Williamson Pink Star is undoubtedly among the rarest of gemstones in the world.
The Williamson Pink Star | Bidding Battle
Exquisite craftsmanship and exclusivity makes some watches simply stand out from the rest, as seen in the Patek Philippe Reference 5002 Skymoon Tourbillon and Philippe Dufour Simplicity.
The top two lots of Important Watches I demonstrated that craftsmanship and exclusivity are highly important in horology circles. Commanding the highest auction price achieved for a Philippe Dufour Simplicity Watch, the white gold Simplicity numbered 167 sold to an online bidder for HK$7.3 million (US$931,000), more than double its low estimate. One of the most influential independent watchmakers, Philippe Dufour is a living legend in the world of horology, and the Simplicity is viewed by many as his legacy. Introduced in 2000, only about 12 Simplicity watches are made a year, and to date there is less than 250 in circulation worldwide. Simplicity aside, the top lot of the sale was the Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon “988” reference 5002 which sold for HK$12.47 million (US$1.59 million). Equally coveted, and extremely rare, only two pieces of the Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon reference 5002 were produced annually when it launched in 2001, and before it was inherited by the reference 6002 in 2013. At the time, it was the world’s most complicated wristwatch, and collectors had to also pass an interview just to enter the extensive waiting list for the timepiece.
Burgundy wines took the top spot in the single-collection 872-lot white glove sale, indicative of the global demand for Burgundy wines that we are witnessing.
The white glove sale of A Pristine Modern Cellar saw remarkable interest for Burgundy wines, which made up 603 of the 872 lots offered in the sale. Burgundy red and white wines are among the most coveted in the world, and those offered in this auction comprised of 51 lots from Comte Georges de Vogüé, 88 lots of Armand Rousseau, 26 lots of Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair, 39 lots from Domaine Leroy, and 166 lots from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti – all from a single cellar amassed over two decades (which takes us back to point two again).
Works of art by women artists, both modern and contemporary, are taking centre stage and seeing record-smashing demand.
Accounting for nearly 40 percent of the Contemporary Evening Auction, and marking the largest offering of works by women artists offered in a contemporary art evening auction staged by Sotheby’s in Asia, there is no question women artists are rising to the fore. The auction began with a succession of six works by women artists, five of which rose above their high estimates including Lucy Bull’s Time Beads that soared to HK$7.56 million (US$963,068), more than six times its HK$1.2 million estimate. Meanwhile market darling Louise Bonnet’s Faucethead set a new world record for the artist’s work at auction, realising HK$5.79 million (US$738,352), and still life flower paintings by Georgette Chen and Pan Yuliang offered in the Modern Evening Auction also fetched noteworthy prices.
Sanyu’s Branches confirms that significant works of art by Chinese modern masters continue to demand top dollars.
Speaking of still life flowers, 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, sold to a phone bidder in the Modern Evening Auction for HK$86.69 million (US$11 million) after 13 long minutes of fierce bidding. Affirming the continued strong demand for works by Chinese modern masters, six of the top ten lots in that sale were works by Sanyu, Zao Wou-Ki, Wu Guanzhong, and Chu Teh-Chun.
Vietnamese works of art continue to see burgeoning interest among collectors, demonstrated in the 30 works by Vietnamese modern masters that were snapped up across the Modern evening and day auctions.
All but one of the 31 Vietnamese works of art that went under the hammer across both Modern Evening and Day Auctions were sold. After five minutes of fast bidding, Le Pho’s masterpiece The et sympathie, portraying a leisurely afternoon garden tea soared above its high estimate to reach HK$10.66 million (US$1.35 million). Also in the Evening sale, Vu Can Dam’s Seated Lady from circa 1935-1940 sold for HK$4 million (US$642,046). Five of the top ten lots of the Day sale went to works by Vietnamese artists, with two works by Mai Trung Thu and one by Le Pho taking the top three places. Such success follows hot on the heels of Sotheby’s first non-selling exhibition in Vietnam just a few months ago in July, which welcomed more than 4,000 visitors over the four-day period, and Sotheby’s first auction in Singapore in 15 years that that achieved the highest total for any Sotheby’s sale in the city-state.