Contemporary artists from west to east

[16 Mar 2012]


For this week’s alternate Friday TOP article, Artprice has compiled a ranking of the top ten results in 2011 for Contemporary Western artists in Asian auction rooms.

Although Asian demand for Contemporary art is growing at a phenomenal pace (+36% in 2011 vs. 2010), the main beneficiaries of this demand are Asian artists. In an overall ranking of Asian auction results for the year 2011, the first Western artist was in 530th position. As the big-name galleries of New York, London and Paris are eagerly establishing outlets in Asia to promote their artists, Artprice takes a look at the 10 best auction results in Asia generated by Western Contemporary artists.

Top 10 : top ten results in 2011 for Contemporary Western artists in Asian auction rooms

Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Marc QUINN $202400 Strawberry Morning (2010) 29/06/2011 (Seoul Auction Center)
2 Sarah MORRIS $74800 Chaser[Origami] (2008) 16/03/2011 (K-Auction SEOUL)
3 Julian OPIE $70675 Ruth walking in Jeans (2008) 28/05/2011 (United Asian Auctioneers HK)
4 Ralph FLECK $45760 Stadion 15 (2010) 16/03/2011 (K-Auction SEOUL)
5 Richard WINKLER $37521 Bathers in the Forest (2006) 20/03/2011 (Masterpiece Fine Art Auction SINGAPORE)
6 Richard WINKLER $29624 Two Woman by the Beach (2008) 07/08/2011 (Masterpiece Fine Art Auction SINGAPORE)
7 Richard WINKLER $26400 Two Women by the Beach (2008) 20/11/2011 (Masterpiece Auction House JAKARTA)
8 Robert LONGO $22785 “Study of Eric” (1981-1993) 17/09/2011 (Shinwa Art Auction TOKYO)
9 Filippo SCIASCIA $16500 Indoasia, Bali (Kadek) (2010) 23/01/2011 (Masterpiece Auction House JAKARTA)
10 Richard WINKLER $15396 Morning in Bali (2011) 27/11/2011 (Christie’s HK)

The UK, which long dominated the Asian art market via its communities in Hong Kong and Singapore, now dominates sales of Western Contemporary art at Asian auctions. Marc QUINN’s Strawberry Morning (2010) tops our ranking after fetching $202,400 (Seoul Auction Center, 29June 2011). The artist, known for his monumental sculptures of English supermodel Kate Moss (which have generated his best four auction results to date), has sold only three works in Asia, but two of his works fetched over $110,000. In fact 2011 was a good year for the artist who generated 16 results above the $100,000 line (45% of his works sold), his first 7-figure result: Myth Venus (2006) and whose work was shown in a large number of solo exhibitions from Beirut (Mark Quinn 33 ° 53’13 “N 35 ° 30’47” E) to London (Blizzard of Desire) via Norway (Marc Quinn: All of Nature Flows Through Us ).

The artist Sarah MORRIS addresses urban environment issues through painting and video, creating new geometrical patterns maps. On 16 March 2011 in Seoul, her Chaser[Origami] (2008) from the Origami series (that was exhibited at the White Cube in 2008) fetched $74,800. The works from this series are popular (4 of her 19 results above $50,000 are from this series). The Seoul result was in fact the best result for a work from this series (and best result since 2008 for the artist), generating $20,000 more than a similar work Swan (origami) which sold in London seven months earlier.

Julian OPIE, the second most sought-after Western artist in Asia (behind Marc Quinn and his record of $202,400) with an Asian sales revenue of more than USD 140,000 in 2011 (representing 9% of his global auction revenue), generated his fourth best result of the year with Ruth walking in Jeans (2008) which fetched $70,675. The English artist has been well known in Asia since the famous Kukje Gallery started representing him in 2009, and the gallery recently devoted its entire stand at the 2011 KIAF to his work. The work Ruth walking in Jeans generated the second best result for a multimedia work by the artist and sold in Hong Kong for twice the average price similar works fetch Europe (e.g. Ann, dancing. 1. which sold for $34,823 six months earlier in London).

In 2010, the 313 Art Project Gallery presented the German artist Ralph FLECK. Eight days after the close of this exhibition, his Rastro 21? (MADRID) (2005) fetched the artist’s best auction result of $22,800. A few months later, his Stadion 15 (2010) – originally purchased at the exhibition – set a new record for the artist and the fourth best result of this ranking, at $45,760. Fleck, whose work was first exhibited in 1977, had not exceeded $14,000 at auction before December 2010; but since then, demand for his work looks strong with 13 lots all finding buyers in 2011, of which 11 at above their low estimate.

The American artist Robert LONGO did not wait for recognition in the East to establish himself as one of the most important artists of his generation in the West (his works are found in the collections of the Tate Gallery, the Moma, the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Guggenheim in New York). Known for his drawings, he also spent a brief period behind the camera making the sci-fi film Johnny Mnemonic with Keenu Reeves. His Study of Eric which sold in Tokyo in September 2011, generated the 7th best auction result for a Contemporary Western artist in Asia and the best result in Japan for a Western artist. However, like the artist’s price index, the work has in fact dropped in value since 2006 when a slightly larger version fetched $12,215 more. In effect Longo’s four best auction results were obtained between 2007 and 2008.

Before 2007, the Italian artist Filippo SCIASCIA had just two auction results to his name (each of around $500 in Italy in 2000 and 2004). In 2007, his painting Dragon Lady (the first auction since 2004) fetched $3,555 in Singapore. At that time Filippo Sciascia had been living in Asia for nearly 10 years (after moving to Bali in 1998). His only auction result in 2011 (versus 8 lots offered in 2010) was for a work entitled Indoasia, Bali (Kadek) that fetched $16,500 in Jakarta in January. It is therefore with works displaying distinctly Asian accents that the Italian artist has conquered Asian markets.

Another artist based in Bali, the Swede Richard WINKLER, takes all of the remaining four positions in this ranking. Based in Asia since 1997, his market is entirely Asian. In 2011, he signed a new record with Bathers in the Forest (2006) which fetched $37,521 at Masterpiece Fine Art Auction in Singapore. The work that closes the ranking in tenth place, Morning in Bali (2011) was acquired for $15,396 in Hong Kong in November 2011. This is three times more than a similar painting representing a sunrise on the island of Bali (Sunrise in Bali) which fetched $6,540 in Hong Kong in 2006.

The big surprise of this ranking is that none of these results for Western contemporary artists were generated on mainland China. They all came from Jakarta, Tokyo, Singapore, Seoul or Hong Kong. Collectors in Beijing or Shanghai do not yet seem to be passionate about European and American artists who dominate the art market in the West. Furthermore, we find that, with the exception of the work by Robert Longo, the works in this ranking were all created in the last five years, showing the responsiveness of the Asian market to emerging talent in both the East and the West.