A Buyer’s Frenzy In Hong Kong: Highlights From ART HK10, Christie’s And Ravenel

Hong Kong Has Established Itself As Asia’s Arts, Wine, Jewelry Hub As New Chinese Collectors Make Strong Impact

Zeng Fanzhi's "Mask Series" (2000) sold for $2.5 million, 5 times what it was paid for in 2007, reflecting the appetite of new Chinese art collectors (Detail of Image: Christie's)

Zeng Fanzhi's "Mask Series" (2000) sold for $2.5 million, 5 times what it was paid for in 2007, reflecting the appetite of new Chinese art collectors (Detail of Image: Christie's)

Last week, Jing Daily covered the Hong Kong International Art Fair (ART HK10) and the Christie’s Spring Auctions in Hong Kong, both of which we expected to attract an impressive number of participants, artists, galleries and art collectors. Over the course of the weekend, anyone questioning whether the Chinese auction market’s red-hot recovery had any teeth had good reason to put those concerns to rest. Along with the Ravenel Spring Auction, which took place yesterday and took in a grand total of US$8,749,372, the figures that came out of the wide-ranging Christie’s Spring Auctions speak for themselves: – Chinese contemporary photography continuing to impress, with Hai Bo selling for double estimates, showing that Chinese collectors are becoming a force to be reckoned with in Chinese photography. – The “Finest and Rarest Wines” auction 94% sold by lot. (including the “Liquid Gold Collection” of Château d’Yquem, which sold for just over US$1.03 million — making it the most expensive wine lot ever sold by Christie’s globally.) – A large Zeng Fanzhi “Mask Series” piece sold for a whopping US$2.5 million, five times over its 2007 price, and contemporary pieces by artists like Yue Minjun and Zhang Xiaogang (who sold for over 3x high estimates) continued their upward momentum. – Several works by Zao Wou-Ki sold for a combined US$43 million. – The Mary and George Bloch Collection of rare Chinese snuff bottles sold 100% and achieved world record prices. – “String Quartet” by Chinese 20th Century artist Chen Yifei broke a world record, selling for HK$61.1 million/US$7.85 million. – A set of Andy Warhol “Mao” prints sold to a (likely mainland Chinese) phone bidder for almost US$1 million. Hong Kong’s auction market is clearly one of the most active and important in the world at the moment, and its internationalization has been surprisingly rapid and robust, even attracting a growing number of western collectors. From a range of sources on this weekend’s “buyer’s frenzy” in Hong Kong:

Zeng Painting Fetches $2.5 Million in H.K., 5 Times 2007 Price (Bloomberg)

A painting of a masked man by top Chinese contemporary artist Zeng Fanzhi that Emmy-award winner Lawrence Schiller and his wife bought three years ago for $500,000 fetched five times more at a packed Hong Kong art sale. Zeng’s depiction of a man with slicked, black hair and outsized hands sold for HK$19.7 million ($2.5 million), twice the presale top estimate, at Christie’s International’s evening sale of Asian art yesterday after a 2-minute tug-of-war among salesroom and phone bidders. The Schillers had bought the oil painting from an American private collector and hung it in the den of their Santa Barbara, California, home before the sale. “It was a great investment,” Kathy Schiller, Lawrence’s wife, said in an interview at the sale. “It’s also a great painting that we love and we’re sorry to have to sell it.” Competition for the 2-meter-long (6.5 feet) work, called “Mask Series,” was one of the highlights at Christie’s sold- out auction of 36 Chinese, South Korean and Japanese artworks that fetched a combined HK$303.4 million. Mainland Chinese and Taiwanese buyers placed the strongest bids for works by Chen Yifei, Zao Wou-ki, Zeng and Zhang Xiaogang, a sign Asia’s rich are buying important pieces by established artists to hedge against inflation and financial-market volatility.

"Bridge" by Hai Bo (2000) sold for $30,738, three times over its high estimate (Click for full image)

"Bridge" by Hai Bo (2000) sold for $30,738, three times over its high estimate (Click for full image)

Christie’s Asian Contemporary and 20th Century Art Sales Total $67.2 Million (Art Daily)

The Christie’s Hong Kong completed its Day and Evening Sales of Asian Contemporary Art and Chinese 20th Century Art on May 30th, 2010. Together with the ground-breaking 100% sell-through Evening Sale that totalled HK$303 million/US$39 million, the combined total of the Day and Evening Sales recorded a total of HK$523.4 million / US$67.2 million, an increase of 85% from Spring 2009 that nearly doubled our nearest international competitor. Eric Chang, Christie’s International Director of Asia Contemporary Art and Chinese 20th Century Art, commented, “The momentum of the 100% sell-through Evening Sale the night before carried us into the highly successful Day Sales that began in the early afternoon and lasted late into the night. Together with the Evening Sale total of HK$303 million/US$39 million, the combined total of HK$523.4 million / US$67.2 million marks a 85% over our Spring 2009 results and doubling that of our nearest international competitor. The Chinese 20th Century sale star lot was Chen Yifei’s String Quartet in the Evening Sale, which broke a new auction record at HK$61.1 million/US$7.85 million. Works by Chinese artist Zao Wou-ki also dominated the top lots in both the Day and Evening Sales. The successful sale of all seventeen works offered, which spanned his half-century career, demonstrates that this celebrated master stands as one of the most highly sought-after artist today. The Collection of Chinese Contemporary Art of Lawrence and Kathy Schiller of Southern California, led by Zeng Fanzhi’s Mask Series which nearly doubled its high estimate to sell for HK$ 19.7 million/ US$ 2.5 million, totalled HK$31.7 million/ US$4.06 million. A portion of the proceeds has been donated to benefit the Animals Asia Foundation.

Sanyu, Chu Teh-Chun, Fang Lijun And Zeng Fanzhi Rule At Ravenel Spring Auction (Ravenel)

Results: Top Lot at Ravenel Spring Auction in Hong Kong (May 31) was Chrysanthemums with Green Leaves (1929) selling for US$1.8 million, and fellow 20th century artist Zao Wou-Ki’s “Ville Chinoise (Chinese Village)” (1955) bringing in US$462,131. In the contemporary Chinese art segment, Fang Lijun’s “2001.7.31” (2001) sold for US$400,513 (over high estimate of US$367,500) and Zeng Fanzhi’s “Landscape” (2006) took in US$369,705, also over high estimates. Other pieces by blue-chip Chinese contemporary artists like Zhou Chunya were met with enthusiastic bidding.

"Smiles Make the World Go Round" by Yue Minjun (2008) sold for $24,267, well over its $10,354 high estimate

"Smiles Make the World Go Round" by Yue Minjun (2008) sold for $24,267, well over its $10,354 high estimate

Miniature Chinese Art Makes World Record Prices at Bonhams (Art Daily)

Bonhams Hong Kong today celebrated the first-ever “Golden Gavel Auction” in its history, when part of the world’s finest collection of important Chinese snuff bottles, the Mary and George Bloch Collection, sold 100% and achieved world record prices. Against presale estimates of HK$20,000,000 (£1.8m), the sale total was HK$66,146,800 (£5.8m), with every one of the 140 rare bottles successfully sold. This figure was double the previous sale total for a single-owner snuff bottle auction held in New York on 19 March 2008. Auctioneer Colin Sheaf, Chairman of Bonhams Asia, commented: “This is the finest auction of Chinese art which Bonhams has held in Asia, and the record prices proved that the market for Chinese art remains very strong for the most important pieces”. Many of the finest bottles at Bonhams were bid for and bought by active collectors from Mainland China, the first time that such strong demand from Chinese buyers has been seen anywhere in the world for Imperial Chinese snuff bottles. Bonhams’ Head of Chinese Ceramic and Works of Art in Hong Kong Julian King who prepared the auction, said: “Today saw a new buying power in the world market for Imperial Chinese art. This marked an important change in the whole structure of prices for the finest pieces at Bonhams.”

Asia Art Star Zao’s Works Fetch $43 Million in Bidding Frenzy (Bloomberg)

The abstract paintings by China-born, Paris-based Zao (1921-) sparked a frenzy of bidding each time they came on the block, often pushing prices to several times estimates at Christie’s International’s auction of modern and contemporary Asian art. Zao’s works fetched a combined HK$332.3 million ($43 million) during the marathon two-day sale of about 1,000 lots, part of a larger six-day series comprising 2,000 lots. “Zao is a blue-chip artist,” said Kate Malin, Christie’s Hong Kong-based spokeswoman. “His works sell so well.” Paintings by other Chinese masters such as Lin Fengmian (1900-1991) and Chu Teh-chun (1920-) also beat estimates. Still, there was less evidence of a rebound in Chinese contemporary-art prices such as that seen at Sotheby’s April auction, said dealers. Paintings by top artists such as Zhang Xiaogang, Xu Bing, Zeng Fanzhi and Yue Mingjun rarely sold for more than HK$3 million. At the peak of contemporary-art prices in May 2008, Zeng’s oil painting of Red Guards fetched HK$75.4 million, while large-scale works averaged HK$5 million or more. “Contemporary Asian art prices are slowly coming back,” said Eli Zagury, a London-based curator. “Wang Guangyi’s works are rising again. Buyers are more selective and are only choosing the top works by the best artists.”

Two women reshape Hong Kong’s art scene (Financial Times)

Hong Kong’s ascent into the premier league of art centres is gathering pace with rumours that the buyer of the record-breaking $106.5m Picasso “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” (1932) hails from the Chinese metropolis. Auction house sales there have also smashed records: Sotheby’s sold almost HK$2bn (£179m) of paintings and antiques at its six-day auction in April. The buoyant commercial gallery scene has been bolstered by dealer Larry Gagosian’s decision to open a permanent space in the city. But outside these powerhouses, a duo of Chinese women is shaping Hong Kong’s art scene through innovative, artist-led initiatives that dovetail with the region’s mega-bucks art ventures. Elaine Ng is 36, Claire Hsu is 33. Ng is editor and publisher of Art Asia Pacific, the influential journal dedicated to contemporary art from the Asia Pacific region. Hsu co-founded Asia Art Archive (AAA) in 2000, a public contemporary art resource comprising a library and archive collection of over 22,000 items.

Stars Shine East to West in Hong Kong (New York Times)

Given the growth in the Asian market, it was expected that the Hong Kong International Art Fair would get bigger and flashier as it entered its third year. (It had 155 participating galleries from around the world, and drew more than 46,000 visitors, compared with more than 27,000 last year.) As a pleasant surprise, it also became more fun. The best elements at the fair, which ended Sunday, happened on the sidelines — away from the wheeling and dealing — in talks, tours and performances that elevated the event from being a mere trade show to something more inclusive and interesting. “There were many interesting young galleries,” said Hans-Ulrich Obrist of Serpentine Gallery, after viewing that section. Mr. Obrist, who was ranked No. 1 in Art Review’s 2009 listing of the 100 most influential people in the art world, said he saw changes to Hong Kong’s art scene, compared with his first trip here in 1996. “At that time, the art scene was very small, and now it has critical mass,” he said, adding that China was not the only focus. “Japan has long has an important art scene, as do Korea and Indonesia. India is interesting, and I saw a few new Indian galleries at this fair. Thailand and Vietnam are emerging.” Photography, in particular, stood out at the fair this year. It dominated the exhibit of recent acquisitions by Deutsche Bank, the fair’s sponsor and the owner of what it says is the largest corporate art collection in the world.

Art HK showcases world’s best works (Global Times)

“What is so interesting about ART HK is that it brings top galleries from all over the world into Hong Kong to give collectors, particularly new collectors, a chance to get exposure to works from international galleries,” commented Richard Chang, a collector based in Beijing and New York. “At the same time, it also gives local galleries that normally would not have a chance to show at other art fairs in Europe or in the United States a chance to show a lot of global talent.” Fair Director Magnus Renfrew explained that the inclusion of a diverse range of works is also what sets Art HK apart. “In the West, many of art fairs have been focused on the Western galleries and the work primarily from a Western cultural background. We felt that it was very necessary to try to create an art fair that reflects the new world order and reflects the diversity of the work been produced today, ” Renfrew said. “Although Contemporary art in Hong Kong is not as diversified as that of Beijing, the city has a dominant position in the art market in Asia Pacific,” said Li Danqing, sales manager at Long March Space. “The fact that the city is geographically positioned at the heart of Asia and it has no restrictions including taxes on the import or export of art, combined with its long history of art collection and the advantage of language are the reasons why Hong Kong has emerged as Asia’s primary destination for art.”

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