Sotheby's Hong Kong Outperforms with US$411 Million Tally at 2020 Spring Auctions in Asia

Sotheby's Hong Kong Outperforms with US$411 Million Tally at 2020 Spring Auctions in Asia

“Hot on the heels of our ground-breaking live-streamed flagship New York sales that demonstrated the market to be vibrant and well, our rescheduled Spring sales in Hong Kong produced robust results and exceptional performance across all categories. This is a true testament to Sotheby’s market-leading position in Asia for five consecutive seasons.”
Kevin Ching, CEO of Sotheby’s Asia

S otheby’s concluded its week of Hong Kong Spring Sales on 11 July. With 3,794 lots sold across seventeen auctions at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, the series tallied a total of HK$3.22 billion (US$411 million). In these extraordinary seven days of sales, Sotheby's once again reinforces its position as the undisputed market leader across all categories in Asia. The July auctions are the seventh consecutive Hong Kong series to surpass US$400 million, despite new global challenges presented in 2020 and exceeding projected estimates.

With buyers hailing from nearly 40 countries, the sale was an exceptional 88% sold by lot, with five works selling for more than HK$100 Million (US$12 Million). Sotheby's added no less than sixteen new world auctions last week. Auctions adapted to the realities of restricted global travel, with about 90 percent of lots bought by phone, online or absentee bids. Across the series, new buyers account for about a fifth of winning bids, and a quarter of all buyers were younger than age 40.

“Our highly successful sales series in Hong Kong once again demonstrates the resilience of the Asian market. … Sotheby’s first-rate sourcing, world-class curation, and intuitive understanding of the market, is our winning formula to produce such stellar results.”
Patti Wong, Chairman of Sotheby’s Asia

Highlights by Category


Three days of auctions achieved the third highest total ever for a wine sale series at Sotheby's Asia.

The 2020 Spring Sales series kicked of with a three-day wine auction, achieving total sales of HK$177 million (US$23 million), far exceeding the high estimate with more than 2,600 lots sold. These results mark the third highest ever for a wine sales series in Asia, and the combination of an exceptional total and performance against estimates put Sotheby’s in pole position as the market leader in the region. The top lot was a Methuselah sized (six-liter) bottle of Romanée Conti 1999 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, which fetched HK$2.1 million (US$272,100), double its estimate.

Sotheby's emerges as the unrivaled market leader in modern and contemporary art, with HK$1.7 billion achieved across six auctions in the category, with a combined sell-through rate of 86 percent and fourteen new auctions records set.

Modern Art

In July, the auctions realized the second highest series total every achieved for the Modern Art, with multiple records set.

Over the course of 35 lots, the Modern Art evening auction outpaced expectations and broke multiple records, bringing in a total of HK$826.2 million (US$107 million), with a 97.1 percent sell-through rate by lot. Leading the first marquee evening sale this year was Sanyu’s Quatre nus, a masterwork from the artist’s creative peak. Bidding was heated with four bidders vying for the top lot, and after a ten minute battle went under the hammer for HK$258.3 million (US$33.3 million).

Chu Teh-chun’s only pentaptych, Les eléments confédérés, soared to a record-setting HK$114 million (US$14.7 million). It's the artist’s first work to cross HK$100 million mark.

Meanwhile, Zao Wou-Ki whipped up a storm in the saleroom with all seven lots sold for a combined total of HK$318.5 million (US$41 million) in the Modern ArtEvening Sale, led by the artist’s "Hurricane Period" masterpieces 20.03.60 and 19.11.59.

Eight auction records were set across the two sales, including artist records for Chu Teh-Chun, Guan Zilan, Pang Jiun, Chen Ting-Shih, Ho Kan, Hsiao Ming-Hsien, as well as Chu Teh-Chun calligraphy record and Sanyu oil painting on mirror record.

Contemporary Art

This season, Contemporary Art achieved the highest valued evening sale of the category at Sotheby's Asia.

The combined Contemporary Art Evening and Day sales tallied a HK$734 million (US$ 94.6 million) total sold. The standout of the two auctions was David Hockney's 30 Sunflowers, a rare masterpiece, which sold for HK$114.8 million (US$14.8 million). That's the second-highest sum ever paid for a Western work sold at auction in Asia, with all of the top three records held by Sotheby's.

The monumental painting by Liu Ye Leave Me in the Dark, one of only four such single-panel canvases featuring a figure created by the artist, went under the hammer at HK$45.3 million (US$5.9 million), achieving the second highest auction record for Liu Ye following the previous benchmark also set by Sotheby’s last October. The robust results for Asian contemporary art were further underscored by the fact that Japanese highlights at the evening sale were 100 percent sold.

All seven works by François-Xavier Lalanne and Claude Lalanne sold for a combined HK$32 million (US$4 million), led by François-Xavier Lalanne’s Gorille de Sûreté I, which achieved HK$18 million (US$2.37 million), more than three times its estimate and breaking the series record set previously at Sotheby’s Paris.

Artist auction records were set for Hao Liang, Firenze Lai and MR.

Southeast Asian Art

Southeast Asian Art sales saw standout performance of works by Vietnamese artists.

The extraordinary results of the two Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian auctions saw a combined sale total of HK$85 million (US$11 million), led by the top lot Adrien Jean Le Mayeur de Merpres's Balinese Women in the Garden, which went for HK$7.4 million (US$950,000). In the auction, three rare works by the artist were all sold.

It was very significant that works by Vietnamese artists were 90 percent sold across evening and day sales of Southeast Asian Art, with notable prices achieved often in multiples of pre-sale estimates and three artist records established, including Mai Trung Thu and Tran Van Ha, as well as Oil on Canvas record for Nguyen Nam Son.

“Finding ourselves up against unprecedented challenges, we quickly adapted and evolved to connect with our clients and serve them in ever more effective ways – with enhanced e-catalogues, videos, live-streaming and social media, transcending global and physical boundaries.”
Nicolas Chow, Chairman of Sotheby’s Asia

Fine Chinese Paintings

Wu Guanzhong takes the top spot at the Fine Chinese Paintings sale.

The Fine Chinese Paintings auction achieved total sales of HK$244 million (US$31.5 million). High points of the auction were the impressive selection of Wu Guanzhong's works, executed at the peak of his artistic career, which were 100 percent sold. The sale was led by the monumental landscape painting Heavenly Lake in Mount Changbai which sold for an above-estimate HK$24 million (US$3.1 million). A new artist auction record set for Ju Lian’s The Legends of Flowers, which achieved HK$7.4 million (US$951,600).

Fine Classical Chinese Paintings

Dong Qichang rises to the top spot at the Fine Classical Chinese Paintings sale.

In a sale of HK$76 million (US$9.8 million), two calligraphy works each surpassed the HK$10 million mark. Dong Qichang’s Stele Inscription in Running Script more than doubled its estimate to sell for HK$20.6 million (US$2.7 million), while Zhang Yu’s Letter to Bo Qing fetched HK$12.2 million (US$1.6 million).

Magnificent Jewels

Two exceptionally rare fancy vivid color diamond led the Magnificent Jewels sale.

The Magnificent Jewels auction brought in an impressive HK$438 million (US$56.5 million), lifted by the sale of a 5.04 Carat Fancy Vivid Blue Diamond Ring, Type IIb, which achieved HK$82 million (US$10.6 million), and a 4.49 Carat Fancy Vivid Pink Diamond, Internally Flawless, which sold for HK$63 million (US$8.1 million). An "Imperial Green" jadeite bead necklace saw spirited competition between five determined phone bidders, ultimately soaring to a stunning price of HK$80.7 million (US$10.4 million). Other eye-opening pieces include Princess Margaret’s 21st birthday bracelet, which attracted fierce competition from phone and online bidders, and when the gavel fell, the piece sold for HK$1.6 million (US$209,674), far above the high estimate.

Chinese Works of Art

Outstanding results demonstrated the sustained market appetite for top quality Chinese works of art.

The combined total of the auctions of Chinese Works of Art brought in a stellar HK$470 million (US$60 million), demonstrating the ongoing strong demand for top quality works. A Magnificent and Highly Important Yangcai Reticulated Vase from the Qianlong period went under the hammer for HK$70 million (US$9 million).

Ten pieces of Huanghuali furniture from an important collection wowed participants, commanding sale prices that came to a total of HK$167 million (US$21.5 million), with every one of the ten lots selling above their respective high estimates. Among the highlights was a Rare Huanghuali Recessed-Leg Long Table, Qiaotouan Ming Dynasty, 17th Century, which sold at HK$60 million (US$7.8 million), ten times its high estimate.

Important Watches

Setting a new auction record for an automatic Rolex Daytona.

The Important Watches auction tallied a sale total of HK$117 million (US$15 million). The headliner of the sale was a Rolex Platinum Zenith Daytona with Hardstone Lapis Lazuli Dial. After a seven-minute bidding battle among phone and online bidders, this never-before-seen watch was sold at an astonishing sum of HK$25.4 million (US$3.3 million), which is five times higher than its projected estimate. This sets a new auction record for an automatic Rolex Daytona, three times the previous record set also by Sotheby’s Hong Kong in October 2018.

The winning watch from Ressence Watch Design Charity Competition, Type 1 Slim “Ayrton & Finley”, achieved HK$375,000 (US$48,386). Proceeds of the sale will benefit the Covid-19 Research Programme of The KU Leuven and UZ Leuven Universities.

Auction Results Hong Kong Spring Auctions

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