Sotheby’s Leads Contemporary Art in Asia’s Most Phenomenal Year Thus Far

Sotheby’s Leads Contemporary Art in Asia’s Most Phenomenal Year Thus Far

Sotheby’s capped yet another extraordinary year in 2019, outpacing all competitors and continuing our absolute leading market share for Contemporary Art in Asia throughout all categories and price levels.
Sotheby’s capped yet another extraordinary year in 2019, outpacing all competitors and continuing our absolute leading market share for Contemporary Art in Asia throughout all categories and price levels.

A s the auction year in Asia comes to a close, Sotheby’s emerges yet again as the absolute market leader for Contemporary Art, clinching 54.3% market share vis-à-vis our two nearest competitors. Aggregate sales reached HK$1.63 billion (US$208 million) sold, doubling total estimates and marking a new high for contemporary art in Asia, while extraordinary metrics were maintained, including a stellar sell-through rate of 92%. Sensational records were achieved for key Asian and Western Contemporary artists, including Yoshitomo Nara, Yayoi Kusama, KAWS, Julie Mehretu, and Liu Ye, amongst others. Click here to view the full market report.

Yayoi Kusama, Interminable Net #4, 1959. Sold for HK$62.4 million / US$8 million. New World Auction Record for Kusama. New Record for a Work by a Female Artist Sold at Auction in Asia.

Extraordinary Growth

The latest results show a continued upward trend of significant growth, as Sotheby’s contemporary art sales in Hong Kong have climbed year upon year, bringing in HK$1.63 billion in 2019. This year's total more than doubled from three years earlier, and reflect a 26.6% compound annual growth rate from 2016.

Extraordinary Leadership

As with previous years, Sotheby’s continues to lead market share. In Asian contemporary art sales, Sotheby’s achieved HK$924 million (US$118 million) this year, higher than those of our nearest competitors. Western contemporary art in Asia showed even more impressive results at HK$701 million (US$90 million) this year, which was more than three times those of our competitors.

Extraordinary Metrics

Sotheby’s maintains excellent performance metrics, demonstrating the quality of our offerings and the success of our estimating strategy. We outpace our competitors with the 217% aggregate against the low estimate and 66% of lots sold above the high estimate. Furthermore, other auction houses trailed Sotheby's HK$4.07 million (US$522,000) average per lot value.

Julie Mehretu, Black Ground (Deep Light), 2006. Sold for HK$44.2 million / US$5.6 million. New Auction Record for the Artist in her Auction Debut in Asia. Bought and Directly Underbid by Asian Private Collectors.

In Focus: Western Contemporary Art

Sotheby's leads in Western contemporary art sales in Asia in 2019, with a 63.3% market share. Totaling HK$701 million (US$90 million) sold this year in this category, we have topped the record high for Asia. Sell through rate in the category is 94%, more than doubling total estimates.

John Currin, The Penitent (detail), 2004. From the Collection of Marc Jacobs. Sold for HK$17.6 million / US$2.24 million. More than Doubling its Low Estimate.

Sotheby's has been a game-changer for Western contemporary art in Asia, realizing compound annual growth of 76.4% to 2019 from 2016. In the evening sales, 77% of works in this category sold at above high estimates. Works from the Collection of Marc Jacobs boasted a 100% sell-through rate, achieving 178% against the low estimates.

Liu Ye, Smoke, 2001–02. Sold for HK$52.2 million / US$6.65 million. New Auction Record for the Artist. More than Doubling its Low Estimate.

In Focus: Chinese Contemporary Art

Sotheby's is also the leader in Chinese contemporary art sales, achieving HK$338 million (US$43.2 million) in sales in 2019, which accounts for close to 50% market share in Asia. In aggregate, works in this category are sold at about 189% against low estimates, a proportion that is highest among our nearest competitors.

Sales in 2019 have an 88% sell-through rate, and 60% of lots sold have exceeded the high estimates.

Moutarderie Nationale: A Premium Legacy

Featuring the distinguished Gillion Crowet Collection, the single-owner auction of blue-chip Chinese contemporary art was 97% sold, in total selling at 188% against low estimates, and 79% of lots sold above their high estimates.

Triumphant Curated Auctions

Sotheby’s ambarked on its third white-glove collaboration with NIGO® in the curated auction of the collection NIGOLDENEYE Vol. 1, which was 100% sold at a total of HK$220 million (US$28 million) achieving seven times its total estimate.

Setting New Records

Yoshitomo Nara. This year, new world records were set by Yoshitomo Nara’s Knife Behind Back (2000), which fetched HK$196 million (US$25 million) and set new benchmark highs for artist at almost five times the previous auction record. The lot was eventually won after 10 minutes of fierce bidding with seven underbidders from not only Asia but also other global regions. For sales of works by the artist, Sotheby's takes 57% market share in Asia, with a total of HK$371 million (US$47.5 million) in 2019. In aggregate, results for Nara stood at 313% against low estimates, compared with our closest competitor's equivalent figure of 142%.

KAWS. Another impressive highlight of 2019 came during the spring when THE KAWS ALBUM (2005) sold for HK$116 million (US$14.8 million), shattering KAWS' auction record, coming in at 19.3 times the low estimate, and exceeding the previous record set in 2018 by more than five times. The work was won also after fierce battle by seven international underbidders.

Yayoi Kusama. Sotheby’s globally holds seven out of top ten auction records for Yayoi Kusama, and Sotheby's Hong Kong along boasts seven out of ten Kusama pumpkin records. Our sales of the artist's works came in at HK$424 million (US$54.4 million) in 2018-2019, which accounts for close to 59% of market share in Asia, earning 201% against low estimates. This compares favorably to our closest competitors that report sales of 128% against low estimates.

Best Day Sale Platform in Asia

Sotheby's is proud to be the strongest day sale platform in Asia. Our 2019 autumn auction series day sales achieved HK$147 million (US$18.9 million) sold, which hits a record high for any auction house in Asia. With aggregate results in the year of 207% against low estimates, Sotheby's is the best performer among competitors. We also hold a 51.4% market share in 2019 for contemporary art day sales in Asia. Contemporary art day sale sell-through rate at Sotheby's in 2019 was a stellar 91%, and the year's results reflected a 31.9% compound annual growth rate in the two-year period from 2017.

Increasing Global Participation

Sotheby's auctions have seen intense global bidding from 52 countries this year, with a 50% rise in international participation from outside Asia year to date.

Younger collector demographic, greater engagement and innovation are just some of the reasons Sotheby's Asia remains a dominant force in worldwide sales. Collectors age 45 or younger make up 40% of total buyers in Asia. For the NIGOLDENEYE® sale, about half of the bidders were under age 40. Sotheby’s has a growing social media audience of over 2 million across all platforms.

Contemporary Art Auction Results

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