S otheby's live auctions returned to Singapore in August after a hiatus of fifteen years – a nod to the city as an art capital in the region and the auction house's commitment to an active presence throughout Asia. Modern & Contemporary Auction (28 August, Singapore) achieved an impressive SG$24.5 million (US$18 million), which compares favourably with the pre-sale projection of SG$18 million (US$13 million) and tops the highest total for any sale held by Sotheby's in the city. The weekend's auction was led by the rare work Tierfable (Animal fable) by Walter Spies, the fresh-to-the-market riverscape by Georgette Chen, and a painting by Willem Gerard Hofker held in the same private collection for more than 25 years.
“This weekend's sale shone a spotlight on the importance of Singapore as a vibrant hub for collectors, and we are thrilled to have received such fantastic support for our first auction in the city-state in fifteen years. There was a palpable energy and excitement in the busy saleroom, which was matched by fierce bidding from across the globe. The result surpassed our expectations and underlines the potential for Singapore and the Southeast Asia region as a whole.”
The top-selling lot Tierfable (Animal fable) by Spies realised a price of SG$4 million (US$2.9 million) which underscores how rare it is for any oil paintings by the artist to appear at auction. In the previous decades, only twenty examples have ever come to the market.
The weekend set new world auction records for Singaporean Modern Art pioneer Georgette Chen and Luxembourgish artist Michel Majerus. Chen’s Boats and shophouses, an oil on canvas from circa 1960, fetched SG$2 million (US$1.4 million) which is the highest price ever achieved at auction for one of the foremost artists of the Nanyang art movement. Sotheby’s also set a new record when o.T. (collaboration Nr. 8) by Majerus sold for SG$1.1 million (US$790,000).
Top 10 Auction Records
Alongside such artists as Lê Phổ, Hendra Gunawan, and Fernando Amorsolo, the sale also featured works by Chu Teh-Chun, and Rafa Macarrón. In all, 47 of the 50 lots offer were sold, achieving a sell-through rate of 94%. With international participation from twenty countries, more than half the bidders were coming from Southeast Asia; more than 60% of the lots attracted in-room bidding, and while participation online exceeded 70%. Singapore’s art landscape is thriving like never before, with the recent auction as proof that the city has become a centre not only for Southeast Asia, but also for modern and contemporary art around the world.