On the heels of several tremendously successful Chinese contemporary art auctions this season, Christie’s Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art sale in Hong Kong on Saturday saw the continuation of high demand for Chinese works, with several sale prices climbing high above their estimates.
The top lot of the auction was Zeng Fanzhi’s Hospital Triptych No. 3, which sold for US$14,675,904 in another sign that Chinese contemporary art prices continue to gain strength. Zeng has recently rocketed to a dominant position in the Chinese auction market, setting the record for the highest price paid for a piece of Chinese contemporary art at Sotheby’s in October.
While French-Chinese artists Zhu Deqin and Zao Wou-ki had prominent places on the top 10 list for sales—Zhu’s Untitled set the artist’s auction world record with a sale of about US$9 million, and four of Zao’s works made the list—top artists Yue Minjun and Liu Wei also commanded strong prices. Yue Minjun’s Le Dejeuner sur L’Herbe (The Luncheon on the Grass) sold substantially above its high estimate for US$1.5 million, topping its high estimate of US$1.16 million. Yue holds an auction record of $6 million, and is definitely one Chinese artist to watch for that number to climb at upcoming auctions. Meanwhile, Liu Wei’s works came in far above expected prices with his Swimming selling for US$2.6 million, far above the high estimate of US$1.9 million, as well as Untitled, which fetched US$658,541 after a high estimate of US$518,536.
As Jing Daily frequently reports, the reasons for these high prices are due to a combination of factors: a current scarcity of works being offered for sale at auction, an influx of new Chinese collectors thanks to rising incomes, and a growing interest in art as an investment piece among China’s wealthy.
This auction, as well as Christie’s earlier landmark Shanghai auction and Sotheby’s record-setting 40th anniversary auction, can serve as an indicator for success at upcoming December Asian art auctions. Ravenel’s December 1 Taipei auction will be the next major event in which Chinese contemporary art pieces will be available, with works by Yue and Cai Guo-Qiang expected to bring in high prices. Meanwhile, Sotheby’s joint-venture mainland auction in Beijing on the same date is selling pieces by Yue, Zeng, Li Shan, and more. This season’s success so far shows that the sales of these works are likely to contribute to the steady ascent of Chinese art prices as they gain ground on their Western counterparts.