Chinese Collectors Smash Estimates At Sotheby’s Contemporary Asian Art Auction In Hong Kong

Zhang Xiaogang Painting Sells For Nearly $7 Million, Over $3 Million High Estimate, As Auction Pulls In Total Of $27 Million

This rare painting by Zhang Xiaogang sold for nearly US$7 million in Hong Kong

This rare painting by Zhang Xiaogang sold for nearly US$7 million in Hong Kong

After strong showings at this year’s spring auctions in Hong Kong, we expected new Chinese collectors to dominate at Sotheby’s Contemporary Asian Art auction today in Hong Kong as they have at other recent wine, jewelry and jade sales. Apparently these collectors were in a buying mood today, as they pushed prices for top blue-chip contemporary artists — including Zhang Xiaogang, Fang Lijun and Liu Yue — beyond already high expectations, bringing the auction’s grand total to HK$210 Million (US$27 Million), comfortably above pre-sale estimates of HK$150 million (US$19 Million).

Much as they have in other auctions over the past 18 months, collectors mainly from the Chinese Mainland showed a strong preference for works by increasingly scarce Chinese artists like Zhang Xiaogang, whose rarely seen early painting “Chapter of a New Century – Birth of the People’s Republic of China II” (1992) sold, apparently, to a museum under development in Shanghai for HK$52.2 million (US$6.7 million), well above its pre-sale estimate of HK$21 – 23 million (US$2.7 – $3 million). Observers were eagerly watching the sale of this lot, as it was added to the auction at the last minute. Other lots by artists popular with Chinese collectors undoubtedly sent jaws dropping in Hong Kong, such as Zeng Fanzhi’s “Mask Series No. 5,” which sold for HK$16.9 million (US$2.2 million) — nearly double its low estimate of HK$9 million — and Fang Lijun’s “Untitled,” which sold for HK$11.3 million (US$1.5 million), almost four times its pre-sale high estimate.

Other lots that proved popular with bidders included Sui Jianguo’s “Legacy Mantle” (selling for HK$1.1 million, over a high estimate of HK$500,000), Cai Guo-Qiang’s “Man, Eagle and Eye in the Sky: People” (HK$11.8 million, over estimates of HK$7 – 9 million), and Liu Ye’s “Untitled” (HK$10.7 million, over estimates of HK$6-8 million). Chinese bidders have been instrumental in the ascendance of artists like Liu and Zeng Fanzhi, particularly in the last year.

The enthusiasm and willingness to buy that was seen today in Hong Kong validates many of ArtTactic’s recent findings on confidence levels in the Chinese contemporary art market. As Jing Daily noted last month, much of the dramatic rise in the confidence indicator among Chinese collectors — which went from 15.9 in February 2009 to 73 in September 2010 — can be attributed to the substantial improvement in the Hong Kong and mainland China auction markets. Following the impressive showing of Chinese artists at today’s Contemporary Asian Art auction, it wouldn’t be surprising if next spring’s survey shows an even greater improvement in these numbers.

Other highlights of today’s auction:

Liu Ye‘s “RGB-Blue” sold for HK$1.1 million (US$142,000), over pre-sale estimates of HK$250,000—350,000

– “Untitled” by Liu Wei sold for HK$187,500 (US$24,168), over estimates of HK$55,000—80,000

Wang Guangyi‘s “Great Criticism Series: Casio” went for HK$275,000 (US$35,446), well over pre-sale estimates of HK$120,000—180,000

Yu Youhan's "Waving Mao" sold for nearly 7 times its pre-sale estimate

Yu Youhan's "Waving Mao" sold for nearly 7 times its pre-sale estimate

In addition to today’s Contemporary Asian Art auction, bidders had their paddles at the ready at the “Property from an Important European Collection” single-owner sale, also in Hong Kong. Lots by artists such as Ding Yi, Zhang Xiaogang, Yue Minjun and Fang Lijun proved popular at this auction as well, with Ding’s “Appearance of Crosses – 6” selling for HK$8.4 million (US$1.08 million), far beyond its pre-sale estimates of HK$1,500,000—2,500,000. Other highlights from the “European Collector” auction:

Yu Youhan‘s “The Waving Mao” sold for a staggering HK$6.6 million (US$851,000), nearly seven times more than its high estimate of HK$900,000

Zhang Huan‘s “Family Tree: Set of 9” topped estimates, selling for HK$1.1 million (US$142,000), indicating growing interest in contemporary photography among Chinese collectors

– “Put Down Your Whip” by Li Songsong beat its high estimate, going for HK$3.1 million (US$400,000)


Art & Auction, Culture