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A strong start to the new season in New York and Hong Kong

[26 Sep 2017]

Hundreds of top-bracket artworks are up for sale in New York during this last week of September, and the sales catalogues already suggest some of the major trends for the coming year. Meanwhile Hong Kong is testing a number of “new” signatures.

Christie’s is hosting its first Post-War & Contemporary Art sale of the new season on September 28 in New York. Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol are both absent, but the catalogue does contain a complex installation by the American artist Jason RHOADES (1965-2006) completed shortly before his untimely death in 2006 at the age of 41. Relatively unknown outside of the United States, Rhoades nevertheless left behind a remarkable body of work, some of which has been exhibited in prestigious institutions like the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the MoMA in New York and the Tate Gallery in London. His work is also the subject of a major retrospective at the Brant Foundation Art Study Center in Connecticut this fall, providing an excellent opportunity for Christie’s to offer his imposing Sweet Chocolate Nation at a record price within an estimated range of $500,000 – $700,000. Indeed, Jason Rhoades’ work is the most expensive in Christie’s catalogue, alongside works by Kenneth Noland, Hannah Wilke, Louise Nevelson, Wayne Thiebaud, Yayoi Kusama, Joe Bradley, Ad Reinhardt, Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, Jean Dubuffet, Alexander Calder and Gerhard Richter. And the list of renowned Post-War and Contemporary Art signatures continues with more than 300 lots in a catalogue that contains a cleverly-balanced and diverse range of artists and a price range designed to appeal to wealthy and more modest collectors. At the bottom end, drawings by David Rabinowitch and Harry Bertoia will be offered starting at around $1,500.

Sotheby’s is riding market trends with just as much panache as its competitor. The catalogue for its Contemporary Curated sale on September 27 in New York contains similar headline signatures… Alexander CALDER, Franz KLINE, Willem DE KOONING, Jean DUBUFFET, Yayoi KUSAMA, Louise NEVELSON, plus Andy WARHOL. Again, we find a wide range of works and artists that promises to attract a large gathering of potential buyers. The 212 lots offered by Sotheby’s reflect nearly all the major trends in Post-War and Contemporary creation: Minimalism, Conceptualism, Pop Art, Op Art, Abstract Expressionism, European Abstract, New Realism, late Surrealism, Street Art and Appropriationism. A perfect cocktail to appeal to a maximum number of collectors… and it even includes free-spirit ‘no-movement’ artists like Ai Weiwei and Maurizio Cattelan, plus artists enjoying hot market demand like Helen FRANKENTHALER (+669% since 2000) and others whose markets are ‘under construction’, like the captivating Liza LOU. And then – to take maximum advantage from the presence of so many collectors – Sotheby’s has organised a separate Photography sale for the following day (September 28) that includes works by headline artists Cindy Sherman, Thomas Struth, Nan Goldin and Hiroshi Sugimoto.

But the two auction majors haven’t focused all of their ‘new season’ energy on New York. On the other side of the Pacific, they have both produced catalogues tailor-made for Asian buyers… Christie’s for its Shanghai sale and Sotheby’s for its Hong Kong sale. Chinese, Japanese and Indonesian artists dominate the lots on offer at these sales and always guarantee a degree of success. Nowadays, both Zao Wou Ki and Chu Teh-Chun are musts at any Hong Kong sale and Sotheby’s is offering two paintings by Zao and three by Chu on September 30, including a superb Zao canvas likely to reach $9 million. In addition, Sotheby’s is cleverly anticipating the upcoming news concerning the Japanese artist Tsuguharu FOUJITA: three of his paintings will be offered on September 30, all likely to elicit strong bidding given the artist’s recent new record ($5 million for Nu au Chat in April 2016 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong) and, above all, the planned Fougita exhibitions in 2018 to honour the 50th anniversary of his death. The catalogue also contains works by a small number of Western artists. Jesus Rafael Soto, Gerhardt Richter, Antony Gormley and Damien Hirst may be common signatures at Western sales, they are definitely not common in Asia. The sale will therefore provide interesting information about the strength of demand in this area, since it represents the Hong Kong auction debut for all four of them!


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