Upcoming Hong Kong Auctions Set To Test Chinese Luxury Demand

Five-Day Christie’s Auction Series Expected To Raise Up To HK$2 billion (US$260 Million)

Zhang Xiaogang – “Bloodline: Big Family” (1999), estimate: HK$12 million-18 million (US$1.55 million-2.3 million)

Amid recent developments like a drop in property prices, lower economic growth rates and a crackdown on art importers in the mainland China, the upcoming spring auctions in Hong Kong will test whether Chinese demand for high-priced art, jewelry and wine remains strong. Along with sales of blue-chip Chinese contemporary paintings, prints and photographs, the auction series includes wine, traditional Chinese art, watches, jewelry antiques, and over the next week Christie’s expects to raise as much as HK$2 billion (US$260 million). As Francois Curiel, Christie’s president of Asian operations, told BusinessWeek of Chinese interest in the upcoming auctions, “From the number of hotel bookings and reservations for our dinners from Chinese it seems to be business as usual.”

This weekend will give observers the first chance to gauge the enthusiasm of local and mainland Chinese collectors with a wine-auction triple-threat, as Christie’s, Acker, Merrall & Condit and Zachy’s are all slated to hold large-scale wine sales. At Christie’s, the star of the show this weekend will be four imperials (six-liter bottles) of Petrus ranging from 2005-2008, which are expected to fetch anywhere from HK$500,000-700,000 (US$64,406-90,162). Still, Christie’s upcoming wine event will likely be dwarfed by New York-based wine auction house Acker Merrall & Condit, which will put more than 1,000 lots under the hammer, valued at HK$60 million (US$7.7 million), and Zachy’s — which expects to raise as much as HK$63.4 million. With Chinese demand for top-tier Burgundy standouts expected to remain strong, Zachy’s expects interest to be high for a six-liter methuselah of 1990 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti estimated to go for HK$700,000-$1.1 million.

Chinese interest in blue-chip Burgundy remains high

Not to be left out of the auction houses launching spring sales this weekend, Bonhams will hold its auction series starting on May 27, with its wine and cognac, snuff bottles, Chinese ceramics and contemporary Asian art lots expected to sell for upwards of HK$266 million (US$34 million).

With many mainland Chinese collectors turning to art, antiques and wine as relative “safe havens” with which to diversify their cash holdings into portable assets and insulate them from inflation, we should see strong buying of blue-chip contemporary and traditional art, rare watches and diamonds over the next several days. Regardless of overall economic data in China, the fundamental factors that have motivated most of China’s new collectors — who are, on the whole, far more pragmatic and portability-driven than many Western collectors — remain intact. As such, these spring auctions may just surprise even the most jaded of auction watcher.


Art & Design, Hard Luxury, Market Analysis, Retail