t was a phenomenal year for Sotheby’s Hong Kong – in particular, for modern art. The numbers speak for themselves with modern art sales in Asia reaching HK$1.55 billion (US$196.8 million) sold, the second highest total in Sotheby’s history and far outperforming equivalent sales of our nearest competitors. The exception sell-through rates of 91% in the spring and 82% in the autumn bring the overall total to 86% in 2019. New record highs were achieved for artists, including Sanyu, Wu Guanzhong and Zhou Wou-Ki, with five works sold exceeding HK$100 million (US$12.7 million). Click here to view the full market report.
“Christie’s Hong Kong evening auction of 20th-century and contemporary art on November 23 didn’t quite have the swagger of Sotheby’s equivalent sale [in October]…”
Five Works Exceeded HK$100 million (US$12.7 million)
“Sanyu’s final masterpiece 'Nu' dazzled collectors from around the world, and we were thrilled to see it achieve a new benchmark price for the artist. We saw strong competition for iconic works by modern masters from Zao Wou-Ki, Lin Fengmian and Guan Liang to Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita, which is a further vindication of the market’s support and recognition for this category.”
Sanyu: Legendary Results
During the autumn auction series, Sanyu’s masterpiece Nu shattered records when it soared to an unprecedented HK$198 million (US$25.2 million). Sotheby’s holds four of the top ten auction records for Sanyu, and seven of the artist’s works have been 100% sold, together reaching a combined total of HK$295 million (US$37.6 million).
Sotheby’s is the ultimate market leader in sales of Zao Wou-Ki paintings, seeing vigorous demand for museum-class masterpieces. This year, three paintings surpassed HK$100 million (US$12.7 million), including Untitled (1958) which sold for HK$116 million (US$14.7 million), 21.04.59 which sold for HK$104.6 million (US$13.3 million), and 15.02.65 which sold for HK$102.3 million (US$13 million). Twenty-two of the artist’s works sold by Sotheby’s have achieved a combined total of HK$611.7 million (US$78 million).
In the centenary year of Wu Guanzhong, Sotheby’s clinched 46% of market share in global sales total of the artist’s oil paintings, far surpassing our nearest competitors. Eight works by the artist was 100% sold at a combined total of HK$246.4 million (US$31.4 million). Highlights include Lotus Flowers (I) which sold for HK$130.8 million (US$16.7 million) at more than 8.5 times the estimate, and Longevity and Harvest which sold for HK$27.8 million (US$3.5 million) at nearly four times the estimate.
Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita
Sotheby’s Hong Kong also realized stellar results for Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita, achieving three of the top four highest prices for the artist in 2019. Reaching a combined total of HK$67.7 million (US$8.63 million), 36 of Foujita’s works were 100% sold, and Sotheby’s holds half of the top ten auction records for the artist.
Sotheby’s continues to set new benchmarks highs for other artists, setting thirteen new artist records in 2019 alone. Lalan’s La Lune Est Voilée achieved 4.5 times the estimate at HK$6.78 million (US$863,000), Li Huayi’s In the Spirit of the Big Dipper sold above the high estimate realizing HK$5.94 million (US$757,000), and Chuang Che’s Untitled sold for HK$1.38 million (US$175,000) at more than twice the estimate. Other new world records include works by Sophie Chang, Robert Pan, Liu Guofu, Zhuang Huayue, Ho Kan, Orazio Bacci, Chloe Ho, and Nino Lo Duca.
During Sotheby’s October auction, Pang Jiun’s The Dream About Bin-hong Huang No. 3 sold for HK$6.42 million (US$820,000) coming in at more than three times the estimate. This exceeded the record for the artist set earlier in March for A Thousand Sails on the Spring Tide which achieved HK$6.18 million (US$790,000). The auction record was broken twice by Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2019.
“New world records were successively set for Asian artists at auctions in Hong Kong last weekend, confirming the city’s rising status as a global art market.”
Western Modern Art
The Asian market trendsetter for Western modern art, Sotheby’s Hong Kong auctions in the category have a proven track record of success with 100% sold in evening sales. This year saw the auction debut in Asia of Wassily Kandinsky, with Annäherung sold for HK$2 million (US$255,000). Sotheby’s also set new artist auction records in Asia for Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Bernard Buffet, and Georges Mathieu. Renoir’s Jeune Fille Se Peignant (La Coiffure) sold for HK$20.6 million (US$2.62 million) above its high estimate, Buffet’s Clown realized HK$7.38 million (US$940,000), and Mathieu’s La Passion Retrouvée reached HK$3.75 million (US$477,737).
Defining Modern Asian Masters
In the past year, Sotheby’s Hong Kong went above and beyond with special curated sales, which generated robust demand. Hong Kong Gallery’s selling exhibitions have also been a smashing success, including Lalan: Endless Dance, a panoramic view of Lalan’s creative journey, and Hsiao Chin – Infinite Universe, the artist’s largest solo exhibition in Hong Kong.
Sotheby's auctions have seen intense global bidding from 25 countries this year, with a 90% of buyers from Asia. Sotheby's Asia remains a dominant force in worldwide sales and has a growing social media audience of over 2 million across all platforms.