Contemporary Chinese Art Looms Large in Sotheby's London Lineup

    For the auction house's upcoming June 26 and 27 London sales, several big-ticket and emerging Chinese artists are expected to attract both international and Chinese buyers.
    Jing Daily
    Jing DailyAuthor
      Published   in Lifestyle

    Major Zhang Xiaogang Work Spotlighted In Evening Sale; Zeng Fanzhi, Yue Minjun, And Others In Day Sale#

    Zhang Xiaogang's Boy (Bloodline Series) is estimated to bring between £350,000 and £450,000 at Sotheby's evening auction on June 26, 2013. (Sotheby's)

    As collector confidence in Chinese contemporary art continues to increase, works by big-ticket and emerging Chinese artists will be included in Sotheby's upcoming June 26 and 27 auctions in London. The prominence of Chinese art at a London sale underscores the sustained value of Chinese art among global bidders, and points to Sotheby's interest in attracting Chinese buyers to its sales outside Hong Kong.

    Chinese pieces feature prominently in both the main June 26 evening sale and June 27 day auction. Zhang Xiaogang's canvas Boy (Bloodline Series) will join significant works by David Hockney, Bridget Riley, Francis Bacon, and Andreas Gursky in the evening sale, where it’s estimated to bring between £350,000 and £450,000. Zhang Xiaogang pieces often attract both Chinese and international buyers in Hong Kong, where one of his works commanded a record-breaking $10 million at Sotheby's in 2011. His work serves as only one example of many Chinese art pieces and antiquities that have a consistent presence and do well with collectors in London auctions.

    The June 27 daytime sale includes works by Zeng Fanzhi, Shi Xinning, Yue Minjun, Zhang Huan, and Zhou Tiehai, with presale estimates reaching £120,000.

    According to a June 2013 report by ArtTactic, the Chinese art market saw a 31 percent increase in auction sales this spring, and is predicted to "enter a new positive market cycle, which is supported by the recent rounds of Spring sales in Hong Kong and mainland China." When the market slowed last year, works became scarce, but demand has remained strong. This spring, the big four auction houses (Sotheby's Hong Kong, Christie's Hong Kong, Guardian Beijing, and Poly Beijing), brought in a combined $1.6 billion, topping last season's $1.2 billion.

    Chinese collectors' demand is rising for non-Chinese art as well, such as Francis Bacon's Three Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne, one of the top pieces of the upcoming Sotheby's evening sale. (Sotheby's)

    This success among the auction houses in China may have spurred Sotheby's move to sell Chinese pieces in London. Christie's Hong Kong did particularly well in the spring sales, coming within a hair of its high estimate of $22,866,350 with a total take of $22,628,450. Christie's also sold the highest-priced lot of the season, Zeng Fanzhi's Society, which went for $3.38 million. In all, 14 of the artist's works were sold, generating $10 million, accounting for 13 percent of the overall Chinese contemporary art sales for the season, and creating high expectations for the work now coming on the block in London.

    The prominence of Chinese artists at the upcoming sale reflects London's position as a growing global hub for Chinese contemporary art, as European collectors continue to gain interest and wealthy Chinese buyers travel abroad in ever-increasing numbers. It’s a trend that will be augmented in coming years by the continued mobility of China's wealthy, and the construction of the recently announced new Chinese financial district at London's Royal Albert Dock.

    Yue Minjun's Untitled (From the Hats Series) is estimated to sell for between £80,000 and £120,000 and Sotheby's day auction on June 27, 2013. (Sotheby's)

    London is certainly not the only place where high prices are being commanded for Chinese works outside Hong Kong, however, as Zeng Fanzhi recently brought in $5 million for The Tiger at Christie's 11th-hour charity auction held by actor Leonardo DiCaprio in New York. The growing number of Chinese artists represented by major international galleries--Zeng Fanzhi by Gagosian, Zhang Xiaogang by Pace, and Huang Yong Ping by Barbara Gladstone, to name a few--has paved the way for top global collectors to add these artists to their collections. The demand from both Chinese and international collectors is likely to drive up Chinese contemporary prices in coming years, especially as Chinese buyers are increasingly willing to travel the world to place high bids on the pieces they want, or, even more effectively, use their phones to do so.

    Discover more
    Daily BriefAnalysis, news, and insights delivered to your inbox.