Sotheby’s is the only international auction house with a specialist department dedicated to modern art. The Modern Art | Asia Department presents expertly curated sales of oil paintings, sculptures, watercolours, drawings, prints and photographs, bringing collectors the finest works of art by leading modern Asian artists.
The genre encompasses the first and second generations of Chinese artists who engaged in both modern Western art together with the modernist movement in Chinese art. These artists include Lin Fengmian, Wu Dayu, Sanyu, Wu Guanzhong, Zao Wou-Ki and Chu Teh-Chun, and Realist artists such as Xu Beihong, Chen Yifei, Wang Yidong and Ai Xuan.
In response to the remarkable expansion of the Asian art market sales in this category, in the autumn of 2008, Sotheby’s launched a dedicated auction for modern art in Hong Kong and since then have seen sale results grow exponentially. The Hong Kong Autumn Sales 2017 saw the fourth consecutive ‘white glove’ themed section curated by the department with ‘Movimento Punto: A Post-War Legacy’. In the same sales period, ‘Foujita: Image of Elegance’ also drew an enthusiastic response from collectors. These successful results stand as testament to Sotheby’s commitment to curating sales which offer exciting collecting opportunities for buyers of Modern Art.
In Autumn 2018, Zao Wou-Ki’s Juin-Octobre 1985 was sold for HK$510 million / US$65 million, setting 3 auction records: World Auction Record for Zao Wou-Ki, World Auction Record for any Oil Painting by an Asian artist, and the Most Valuable Painting Sold by any Auction House in Hong Kong. Sotheby’s performance in the 2020 auction series once again cements Sotheby’s leadership in modern art. In 2020, seven works fetched over HK$100 million / US$12.9 million, among them are masterpieces by Sanyu, Zao Wou-Ki, Wu Guanzhong and Chu Teh-Chun. At the Modern Art Evening Sale in Spring 2020, Sanyu’s Quatre nus achieved HK$258 million / US$33.3 million, the 2nd highest auction record for the artist. Currently, the house holds 3 out of top 5 World Auction Records for Sanyu. Chu Teh-Chun’s singular pentaptych Les éléments confédérés, sold for HK$114 million / US$14.6 million, is the first work of the painter to cross the HK$100 million mark, setting a new benchmark for Chu Teh-Chun.