What You Need to Know from the Hong Kong Spring Sales 2023

What You Need to Know from the Hong Kong Spring Sales 2023

The eight key trends and insights to take away from the week
The eight key trends and insights to take away from the week

W elcoming the start of celebrating Sotheby's 50th anniversary in Asia, and the return of our spring marquee auctions to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre after four years, the Hong Kong Spring Sales 2023 saw new enthusiasm and energy witnessed in the exhibition hall and saleroom. The city’s coronavirus restrictions were lifted just a month ago, bringing a return of overseas visitors, collectors, and friends. A series of evening sales on 5 April celebrated the landmark milestone of Sotheby’s 50th anniversary in Asia. In addition, two selling exhibitions was mounted in conjunction to the auctions, including a curation of works by Marc Chagall spanning five decades of artistic practice. With three more online auctions to close before we officially wrap up the season, the week-long sale series has so far achieved a combined total of HK$3.7 billion (US$472 million) across nearly 20 live auctions, which took place from 1 through 8 April and saw global bidding from nearly 60 countries including strong participation from Greater China, the US and Singapore. 

Breaking down the numbers and moments of the week, here are eight key insights from the Hong Kong Spring Sales 2023.

Two new auction records for whisky gives confidence to the growing market for rare and coveted spirits.

On 1 April, Whisky & Moutai | The World’s Oldest Scotch opened Sotheby’s week-long Hong Kong Spring Sales, headlined by The Macallan The Reach 81 Year Old single malt – the oldest whisky ever to come to auction, marking only the second time such a bottle has been offered at Sotheby’s. Unveiled in February 2022, it was distilled in 1940 before The Macallan was compelled to close its doors for the first time in its history. The extraordinary bottle set a new auction record, fetching HK$4.75 million (US$605,100), more than four times its low estimate, surpassing the previous record of US$325,740 set at Sotheby’s London last autumn. Led by 80 lots of The Macallan, of which 76 sold for a total of HK$9.7 million (US$1.2 million), the sale realised a total of HK$23.5 million (US$3 million), achieving the highest ever total for a Whisky & Spirits auction in Hong Kong, exceeding the previous best total by more than HK$10 million (US$1.3 million). Meanwhile a Yamazaki 50 Year Old 2005 First Release, the crown jewel of rare Japanese whisky, raked in HK$4.8m (US$614,784) on 5 April in a special Luxury Evening Sale, eclipsing the preview auction record set in 2019 for a bottle of Yamazaki 50 Year Old.

Chinese Works of Art exceeds one billion dollars, while Chinese Art achieves a combined total of HK$1.64 billion (US$208.5 million), the most valuable series in the category in nine years.

The results across Chinese Works of Art, Modern Chinese Paintings and Classical Chinese Paintings, this spring are indicative of a buoyant market for Chinese art. Coming on top as the most valuable sale series for the category in nine years, Chinese art raked in a combined HK$1.64 billion (US$208.5 million), bolstered by several star lots including Zhang Daqian’s Pink Lotuses on Gold Screen. Chinese Works of Art alone broke the billion-dollar-mark, achieving the highest total for the category in nine years. One of the most important pieces of Yongle blue-and-white porcelain in existence, the T.Y. Chao Blue and White Ewer decorated with a five-clawed dragon sold for HK$107.5 million (US$13.7 million). Also possessing exceptional provenance, the Dr Alice Cheng Falangcai Bowl realised HK$198.22 million (US$25.25 million). In Fine Classical Chinese Paintings on 6 April, all 21 lots of fan leaf paintings from The Yee-Ming Kuo Collection sold well in excess of their high estimates. Among the top lots, Poems in Running Script by Huang Daozhou and Calligraphy in cursive script by Zhang Bi both surpassed its low estimate nearly 17 times reaching HK$1.02 million (US$ 129,438) and HK$825,500 (US$ 105,169), respectively.

Sotheby’s continues to lead the market for Zhang Daqian, now holding his top three prices at auction.

Last week, Modern Chinese Paintings achieved HK$524 million (US$66.8 million), the highest total in six years at Sotheby's Hong Kong. The auction debut of an extremely rare splash-coloured masterpiece by Zhang Daqian on 5 April further cemented Sotheby’s leading position in the market for the artist when it sold for HK$251.65 million (US$32 million), becoming the third highest price for the artist at auction. Painted in 1973 – the very same year Sotheby’s Hong Kong established its permanent presence in the region – Pink Lotuses on Gold Screen brings together myriad styles and approaches that embody a lifetime of Zhang’s artistic practice, encapsulating the artist’s significant contributions to modern art. The current top record was established by Sotheby’s last April in Hong Kong for Landscape after Wang Ximeng which fetched HK$370 million (US$47 million).

New artist records for Young Contemporary artists demonstrates the category continues to gain solid traction.


Defined in the inaugural edition of Sotheby’s Insight Report as works by artists under the age of 45, the demand for Young Contemporary art is showing no signs of slowing down. The report indicated that works by Young Contemporaries is the fastest growing category of art sold for more than US$1 million, while the total value of works increased from US$36.9 million in 2018 to US$194 million in 2022 – a growth of 425.6 percent. Across the Contemporary Evening Sale on 5 April, five artist records were set for Young Contemporaries. Among them, three exceeded the US$1 million mark: Matthew Wong with River at Dusk, which fetched a stellar HK$52.3 million (US$6.66 million); Hao Liang, whose three-panel work Theology and Evolution sold for HK$24.65 million (US$3.14 million); and Loie Hollowell with Standing in Red that reached HK$17.99 million (US$2.29 million).

centre: Loie Hollowell, Standing in Red . Lot Sold for 17,995,000 HKD

The new benchmark set by Joan Miró’s Sans titre signals that the demand for Western modern art in Asia remains strong.

Among several Western modern works of art by blue-chip names including Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall, a 1947 painting by Joan Miró, which saw more than 40 bids placed and raked in HK$50.57 million (US$6.44 million) demonstrates that the demand in Asia continues to stay strong. Sans titre achieved a new benchmark of a record for a work by the artist in Asia, well exceeding the HK$14.89 million record set by Sotheby’s in Hong Kong last autumn with Personnage dans la nuit. In the same evening, Picasso’s Femme dans un fauteuil achieved HK$93 million (US$11.86 million) – making it the top lot of the sale – while Homme portant un enfant sold for HK$30.7 million (US$3.9 million).


The outstanding performance of Cartier Tutti Frutti and Panthère lots attest to the longstanding value of signed jewellery.

Signed jewellery pieces are often seen as more valuable, demanding higher prices as the signature of the maker or jewellery house engraved on the underside of the jewel (or inside if it is a ring) can transform its value and add to desirability. As we saw in Magnificent Jewels I, signed jewellery holds longstanding value and attracts demand. Two lots featuring Cartier’s iconic Panthère – a brooch and a pendent necklace, both signed by the jewellery house – sold in excess of high estimates. This was further evidenced by the sale of two Cartier Tutti Frutti lots in the special Luxury Evening Sale on 5 April which saw a bracelet watch fetch HK$11.95 million (US$1.52 million), while a demi-parure, featuring a 50-carat hexagonal emerald, sold for HK$25.86 million (US$3.29 million). Loved for its use of gemstones carved in the Mughal-style bringing bold hues and textures to the statement pieces, Tutti Frutti remains one of Cartier’s most sought-after collections. That it is signed and accompanied by a gemmological report, letters and a copy of a design sketch from Cartier only further enhanced its value.

Blue-chip contemporary Japanese artists remain coveted in a steady market led by Yayoi Kusama and Yoshitomo Nara.

Prolific artists such as Yayoi Kusama and Yoshitomo Nara, whose works have come to define contemporary Japanese art and popular culture, continue to remain highly sought after, as seen in the auction debut of Nara’s In the Milky Lake which fetched HK$100.56 million (US$12.81 million). Kusama’s Pumpkin (L), the largest version of her bronze pumpkins from this series and the first of this scale to go under the hammer, sold for HK$62.64 million (US$7.98 million) and set a new auction record for a sculpture by the artist. Works by Kusama also saw delightful results in Contemporary Day Auction, including two early pieces, A Gill from 1955, which soared past high estimates to reach HK$4.83 million (US$614,832), and “D” Flower from 1953, which rose above estimates to HK$1.08 million (US$137,528). Painted in 1989, Bird more than doubled its high estimate to bring in HK$17.39 million (US$2.21 million).


A Ferrari F1-2000 and Sotheby’s Buy Now offered new collecting experiences.

Recognised for having exceptional taste and expertise, while always remaining at the cusp of innovation, two new categories were introduced this week. Sotheby’s Buy Now welcomed visitors at HKCEC with a selling exhibition to introduce this new online collecting experience, which will launch in Mainland China this year. In addition to handbags, jewels and watches, a specially curated Claude Lalanne collection was offered through the instant purchase platform. Meanwhile, a highly significant, ex-Michael Schumacher 2000 Ferrari F1-2000 sold through a Sotheby’s Sealed auction by RM Sotheby’s was the centrepiece of luxury during the previews.

Hong Kong Spring Auctions 50 Years New in Asia

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