A piece by Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi set the record for a piece of Asian contemporary art at auction on Saturday evening for Sotheby’s 40th anniversary sale in Hong Kong.
After 12 to 13 minutes of high-excitement bidding, Zeng’s painting The Last Supper sold for HK$180,440,000, or around US$23.3 million. The price was far above the original estimate of around US$10 million, and surpassed Zhang Xiaogang’s previous record of HK$79 million for the highest-priced piece of contemporary Chinese art sold at auction.
With this record-breaking sale, Chinese art prices continue to inch up toward those of top pieces by Western contemporary artists. Both the growing number of new Chinese collectors and a continued interest in art for investment purposes among China’s affluent are likely to lead to increasingly high records in auction seasons to come.
The piece was purchased by a phone bidder whose identity has not yet been revealed. Some auction world insiders are speculating that the buyer was Christie’s owner François Pinault, an enthusiastic collector of Chinese contemporary art.
Paintings by other Chinese contemporary artists also did extremely well. A triptych by Zao Wou-ki set the record as the highest price ever commanded by the artist, bringing in HK$85.2 million ($11 million). In addition, Liu Ye’s Sword fetched HK$42.6 million (US$5.5 million), Zhang Xiaogang’s Bloodline: Big Family No. 12 sold for HK$25.8 million (US $3.3 million), and Yue Minjun’s Between Men and Animal topped its high estimate with a sale for HK$9.8 million (US$1.2 million), demonstrating both the depth of the market and its promise for continued record-breaking prices.