Press Release

Women Artists Take Centre Stage in Sotheby’s Hong Kong Contemporary Art Sales This Fall

Hong Kong
Alongside Gerhard Richter’s Dynamic Abstraktes Bild  
Which Leads this Season’s Offerings
With an Estimate of HK$175-235m / US$22.3-29.9m

Single Owner Sale Also Shines a Spotlight
On the Journey of Chinese Contemporary Art
Left to Right: Gerhard Richter’s ‘Abstraktes Bild’, María Berrío’s ‘The Lovers 3’ and Bridget Riley’s ‘Delos’
What is unique about the Hong Kong sales is the dialogue between East and West. We aim to bring to Asia the artists known and beloved to the collector community here like Yayoi Kusama and Gerhard Richter, while also introducing important international artists that are less often seen in Hong Kong auctions, including the likes of Peter Doig, Bridget Riley and Lynn Drexler. I am excited to be staging the single-owner sale, ‘New Wave Beyond Yuanmingyan’, a truly historic time capsule, capturing the explosion of Chinese artistic creativity in the 1980s and 90s - the art that drew me to Asia in the early days of my career.
Alex Branczik, Chairman, Modern and Contemporary Art, Sotheby’s Asia
When we come to organise the cadence of our offerings, we open with works we know will create a real buzz. This season, perhaps fittingly for a region where women collectors are so active, our Hong Kong evening sale will open with a sequence of six works by some of the most exciting and thought-provoking female artists of our generation.
Max Moore, Head of Contemporary Art Sales, Sotheby’s Asia

This season in Hong Kong, female artists are set to take the market by storm, with the largest ever offering of works by women in a Contemporary art evening auction staged by Sotheby’s in Asia. Standout pieces by both established female names (dating from the 1950s) and relative newcomers to the Asian auction market - but who are nonetheless equal in demand - will account for almost 40% of the sale. They will be offered alongside works by their Eastern and Western male counterparts, all of which will be unveiled in a preview exhibition at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from October 2-7, before the live-streamed evening sale on October 7 [available to watch via].

Female artists have recently been making their presence felt ever more strongly at auction - in Asia and beyond. During the most recent ‘The Now’ sale in New York, for instance, women for the first time in history, outnumbered their male counterparts in a Sotheby’s Evening Auction. In a similar vein, Louise Bourgeois’ Spider IV became the most valuable sculpture ever sold in Asia during last season’s sales series in Hong Kong (HK$129.2m/US$16.5m), while new benchmarks were set for Louise Bonnet, Anna Weyant and Tania Marmolejo, to name but a few. The distinction was also evident at the Venice Biennale this year where women accounted for more than 90% of the exhibits. The upcoming Frieze London art fair will dedicate its Spotlight section to female artists, while in Hong Kong, an exhibition of works by women Abstract Expressionist artists will open at Art Intelligence Global’s exhibition space.

 Among the highlights of the forthcoming Contemporary evening sale is Yayoi Kusama’s iconic larger-than-life Pumpkin sculpture, a vivacious early work by Lynne Drexler in her Asian auction debut, and a 1983 striped painting by Bridget Riley from her famed “Egyptian Palette” series (and arguably the most important work by the artist ever to be offered on the continent) - the latter two of which have, until now, resided in prominent Asian collections. They take their place alongside the next generation of female artists, including Dana Schutz, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Louise Bonnet, Emily Mae Smith, Ella Kruglyanskaya, Shara Hughes (who recently held a retrospective at the Yuz Museum in Shanghai) and Lauren Quin, who will make her auction debut in Asia this season. Please find further information below.

At the same time, Sotheby’s will offer Gerhard Richter’s 1990 Abstraktes Bild from his celebrated series of the same name, and carrying the highest estimate ever placed on a work by the artist at auction in Asia (HK$175-235m / US$22.3-29.9m). Leading the Evening Sale offerings, this exquisite canvas is the culmination of Richter’s five-decade-long investigation into the possibilities of painting, which saw him adopt the squeegee to spread thick, colourful streaks of paint across his canvases. In this Abstraktes Bild, deep ravines of ruby red, blue and emerald green emerge through its bejeweled surface, revealing a kaleidoscope of colours from the multiple layers of paint that lie beneath. The sale of Richter’s canvas comes almost two years to the date since his Abstraktes Bild (649-2) achieved the highest price for any Western artwork sold at auction in Asia at the time, when it was acquired by The Pola Museum in Hakone, Japan (HK$214.6m / US$27.7m).* Please find further highlights below.

Separately, Sotheby’s Hong Kong will stage a special single-owner sale, comprising works from an esteemed private European collector who has been at the forefront of the development of Chinese Contemporary Art for decades. Many of these artists had participated in the avant-garde movements of the 1980s and 1990s - a period of extraordinary creativity, which reflected the transforming social, political, and cultural landscape in China at the time. Among the works in the collection are some of the earliest and most significant known examples of ‘Political Pop’ (Yu Youhan), Cynical Realism and Neo-Realism (Liu Xiaodong), and Conceptual Photography (Song Dong), as well as seminal pieces by founding members of the avant-garde groups, including The Stars** (Xing Xing). The majority of the works in this collection were acquired directly from the artists, and as such have never been offered on the market before. Please find the full catalogue here.

*Basquiat is now the most valuable Western artist to be sold at auction in Asia.

**The Stars Art Group was a foundational movement of the contemporary Chinese avant-garde active in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Mostly self-trained, the Stars championed individualism and freedom of expression both in their work and public activities.


Lynne Drexler, The Concert, 1959
Estimate: HK$2.4-4m / US$306k-510k

The Concert is a rare early work and one of Drexler’s largest paintings created before 1960.

● The relationship between music and colour is at the centre of much of Drexler’s work. From a young age, she felt a deep-felt love of music. During the late fifties, she would watch the opera - sketchbook in hand - often three times a week

● Drexler moved to New York in the late 1950s, and immediately began mixing with the city’s community of avant-garde artists. While living in Chelsea Hotel, she began studying art under the tutelage of first-generation Abstract Expressionists, Robert Motherwell and Hans Hoffman - the latter of whom’s theory that every colour had a specific rhythm clearly resonated with Dexler.

● It was not until the artist’s death in 1999 that the magnitude of her work was truly discovered. Today, Drexler is part of a generation of female artists being rightfully written into the artistic canon.

● Dexler’s work will be exhibited as part of the female Abstract Expressionist exhibition opening at Art Intelligence Global this fall.

Bridget Riley, Delos, 1983
Estimate: HK$15-25m / US$1.9-3.2m

Delos belongs to Riley’s “Egyptian Palette” series, which she produced after her travels to Egypt in 1979-80. Inspired by colourful, hieroglyphic decorations, Riley began to employ specific colour hues to capture the spirit of Egypt, ancient and modern, and reflect the landscape’s palette.

● The sale will mark just the second time a work by Riley has been offered at auction in Asia (the first was at Sotheby’s HK in 2020)

María Berrío, The Lovers 3, 2015
Estimate: HK$2.5-4.5m / US$319k-575k

● Using torn fragments of ornately patterned Japanese paper, paint, sequins and other materials, Berrío creates intricate collages that evoke dreams, myths and fairy tales.

● In The Lovers 3, a woman with a contemplative expression embraces a giant butterfly in a kiss - a symbolic gesture of the loving connection which can often be found between two completely different beings.

● Berrio’s “The Lovers” series was first exhibited at Praxis Gallery in 2015, the same year in which it was created.

●Berrío’s auction record was set at Sotheby’s New York in March 2022 (US$1.6m).

Emily Mae Smith, The Riddle, 2017
Estimate: HK$1.8-2.5m / US$230k-319k

● Smith’s paintings always start with a riddle - clues and questions that pay reference to everything from the history of painting to the numerous symbols that have become gender-coded throughout.

The Riddle, riffs on Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’ famous work Oedipus and the Sphinx from 1808. However in Smith's work, Oedipus has been replaced by her recurring “broom” figure, which rematerialises in many of her paintings. For Smith, the “broom” carries multiple references: the painter’s brush, the phallus and domestic labour. It was inspired by the bewitched broomsticks in the Disney animation Fantastia (1940), and is often deployed to communicate her experience of being female, or of being a female artist.


ESTIMATE: HK$75-98M / US$9.6-12.5M

Country-rock (wink-mirror) is distinctly Doig: nostalgic without being specifically reminiscent, entrenched in fabled Canadian roots, and characterised by his trademark otherworldliness.

● Painted in London at a key-turning point in his career, the work depicts a much-loved landmark near Toronto: the rainbow tunnel which mysteriously first appeared above an underpass alongside the city’s Don Valley Parkway in 1972 when Doig was living in Canada. Here, the tunnel is seen from the passenger seat of a car, and the work’s title was named after the soundtrack to this journey.

● Doig painted this view three times between 1988-2000; one of these canvases resides in the collection of the PinchukArtCentre in Kiev and the other in a prestigious European collection.

● This is the first time Sotheby’s HK has offered a work by Doig at auction.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Emblem, 1984
Estimate: HK$28-35m / US$3.6-4.5m

Emblem brings together many of Basquiat’s iconic traits: his signature human head, scribble-like markings, enigmatic symbols and iconic typography, which hark back to his years as a “street poet” in the late 1970s, NY. It is through these motifs that Basquiat makes reference to his cultural identity and to the Western art historical canon.

● In Emblem, the composition is centred upon the words “SCALO MERCI”, translating to “Freight Yard” in Italian - perhaps a reference to Basquiat’s time spent in Italy, staging exhibitions in Modena in 1981 and 1982 respectively.

Emblem was created in 1964 after a run of exciting successes for Basquiat: he had the support of industry powerhouses such as Mary Boone & Andy Warhol, and had already staged four major solo exhibitions across the US, Europe and Japan. He had also become the youngest artist to ever be included in the Whitney Biennial at just 24.

Salman Toor, Man with Tote Bag and Laptop, 2018
Estimate: HK$2-2.8m / US$255 -357k

● Constructed from memory and fantasy, Man with Tote Bag and Laptop hints at the changing ideas about race, immigration, and foreignness in an anxious, post 9/11 world in which ethnic and religious identity supersedes a culturally diverse one.

Man with Tote Bag and Laptop was exhibited in Toor’s solo exhibition “Time After Time” at Aicon Contemporary NY in 2018.

● This year, Toor staged a solo exhibition at M Woods in Bejing, his debut solo museum show in China. In 2023, he will open a solo exhibition at the Rose Arts Museum in Boston.

Kazuo Shiraga, Dattan – Shuni-e no gyo, 1973
Estimate: HK$8-15m / US$1-1.9m

Dattan – Shuni-e no gyo is an exquisite example of Shiraga’s dynamic action-based paintings, which he created in 1973 while training to become a Buddhist monk. Dedicated to creating something entirely new, the artist turned away from the conventional practice of painting with a brush, instead fastening himself to a rope to use his feet to spread thick, visceral layers of paint - fully immersing himself within the canvas.

● Influenced by his Buddhist teaching, Dattan bears reference to religious, metaphorical and literal catharsis. Its title also comes from a traditional Buddhist ritual, which would see monks run through the temple corridor - a big torchlight in hand.

● Significantly, this is the earliest recorded work titled Dattan, depicting a motif the artist returned to repeatedly until 1988.

● Further testament to its significance, the work was exhibited as part of the 2015 Gutai exhibition at the de Sarthe Gallery in HK and was chosen to illustrate the cover of its accompanying catalogue.

●A second work by the artist will also be offered, BB85, with an estimate of HK$8-15m / US$1-1.9m. It was created in 1961 on the cusp of Shiraga’s groundbreaking inaugural solo exhibition at Galerie Stadler in Paris the following year.


Matthew Wong, The Smoke, 2017
Estimate: 7.5m-9.5m / US$960k-1.2m

Shara Hughes, Stairway to Heaven, 2018
Estimate: HK$3.5m-5.5m / US$446k-705k

Dana Schutz, Speech, 2009
Estimate: HK$4m-5.5m / US$510k-705k



Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkin, 2000
Estimate: HK$16-22m / US$2-2.8m

Shara Hughes, Eye of the Swell, 2016.
Estimate: HK$2.8-4m / US$357k – 510k

Yoshitomo Nara, The Puff Marshie Mini, 2006 (3/4)
Estimate: HK$2.4-4m / US$306k – 510k

Anna Weyant, Untitled (Flowers), 2020
Estimate: HK$1.2-1.6m / US$153k – 204k

Hall 1, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, 1 Expo Drive, Wan Chai

For public registration, please RSVP here
2 – 9 Oct 2022
10am – 6pm

6 OCT 2022 (10am HKT)

6 OCT 2022 (1:30pm HKT)

7 OCT 2022 (8:45pm HKT)

*The Williamson Pink Star will be sold on the same day at 8:30pm


Hong Kong



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