Now that Hong Kong has emerged as a top global art center, small and large auction houses alike are scrambling to expand their presence in the region in hopes of profiting off a widening Chinese collector base. On the smaller end of the spectrum, British auction house Bonhams is solidifying its Hong Kong art market presence in with its Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art auction slated for May 17.
With lots in the four-, five-, and six-figure price ranges, the house’s second dedicated auction in this field targets new collectors with the knowledge that many of China’s newly wealthy are buying art for the first time. As works remain scarce, pragmatic buyers are eyeing the investment potential of each piece. The top lot of the show is Chinese artist Liu Ye’s Red, Yellow, Blue triptych, which is estimated to sell for between US$640,000 and $770,000. Other Chinese contemporary highlights include Su Xinping’s Portrait No. 1 and Li Chen’s Pure Land, which are both expected to sell in the five-figure range.
The auction will also offer inexpensive lithograph prints by the market’s top blue-chip Chinese artists such as Zhang Xiaogang and Yue Minjun. It features three prints by Yue and three by Zhang, who just saw an auction record at Sotheby’s in April. Zhang’s collection of prints My Dear Friends is expected to sell for $17,000 to $21,000, while two additional works fall in the five-figure range.
Bonhams has been making a major push into the Hong Kong auction market in recent years. After launching its new Hong Kong modern and contemporary art department a year ago, the company created its new Hong Kong Gallery to serve as a permanent showroom and hold auctions.
In order to capitalize on Hong Kong’s art-center status, the auction’s date strategically coincides with top global art show Art Basel Hong Kong.