Hong Kong’s Top results

[06 Apr 2018]

Today’s Friday Top looks at the best art auction results hammered in Hong Kong since January 2017, including the recent sales in March. The results confirms trends observed in recent years: in short… prices are soaring for the major Chinese signatures of the 20th and 21st centuries.

With a price of over $13 million at the bottom… and double that at the top, this week’s TOP ranking clearly posits Hong Kong as a high-end market whose top-selling signatures are first and foremost the major Chinese artists of the 20th century. Hong Kong is today one of the most attractive marketplaces for all collectors of Asian art. Its attractiveness is based on a variety of factors including the quality of the Chinese works offered, the expansion of its supply-base to include works by Japanese, Korean and Southeast Asian artists and the opening of the market to the big names in Western art. Hong Kong is essentially Asia’s most international art marketplace. The big galleries (Gagosian, Perrotin, Zwirner, Hauser & Wirth, etc.) and the Western auction houses spend vast sums there to attract Chinese billionaires: Phillips is pursuing its expansion in Hong Kong, Sotheby’s organises marathon sales weeks and Christie’s claims that 9% of its total Fine Art turnover comes from Hong Kong. But this TOP has no Western signatures… the best prices in Hong Kong all reward Chinese art.

Rank Artist Hammer Price ($) Artwork Sale
1 FU Baoshi (1904-1965) 26 259 722 The song of the Pipa player 28/11/2017 Christie’s Hong Kong
2 ZAO Wou-Ki (1921-2013) 25 944 956 29/01/64 25/11/2017 Christie’s Hong Kong
3 ZAO Wou-Ki (1921-2013) 23 303 472 Et la terre était sans forme 29/03/2018 Poly Auction Hong Kong
4 CUI Ruzhuo (1944) 22 661 310 Sound of lotus
03/10/2017 Poly Auction Hong Kong
5 ZAO Wou-Ki (1921-2013) 19 611 938 29/09/64 27/05/2017 Christie’s Hong Kong
6 QIAN Weicheng (1720-1772) 18 704 491 River Qingxi in Mists… 03/04/2018 Sotheby’s Hong Kong
7 CUI Ruzhuo (1944) 18 223 920 Rain in the Autumn 03/04/2017 Poly Auction Hong Kong
8 LI Keran (1907-1989) 15 639 243 Magnificent Mountains with Gushy Cascades 02/10/2017 Sotheby’s Hong Kong
9 ZENG Fanzhi (1964) 13 516 074 Mask Series 1996 No. 6
03/04/2017 Poly Auction Hong Kong
10 ZHU Yuanzhi (1906-1963) 13 478 906 Wheels: Industrial New York 30/09/2017 Sotheby’s Hong Kong
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Chinese art…

The best Hong Kong auction result over the last 14 months was hammered by Christie’s for Fu Baoshi’s The Song of the Pipa Player (1945) at $26.2 million in November 2017. Although short of Fu Baoshi’s auction record, it still represented the world’s 40th best Fine Art result in 2017.

However, overall, Beijing is still the leading marketplace for the major Chinese artists. In 2011 Beijing Hanhai Art Auction sold a work by Fu Baoshi for $36.2 million. It’s the same story concerning lots of other highly-rated artists for whom demand is exclusively Chinese. China’s internal market is strong enough to generate million-dollar results for the best works by Li Keran and Qian Weicheng, both listed in this TOP. In fact, the market stats for these three artists – Fu Baoshi, Li Keran and Qian Weicheng – show that 12 to 19% of their auction turnover is generated in Hong Kong, compared with 80 to 88% in mainland China.

One Contemporary artist, Cui Ruzhuo, has two positions in this ranking: the first at over $22.6 million and the second at $18.2 million. Cui Ruzhuo’s works attract extraordinary demand from Chinese buyers who are willing to pay very high prices despite his absence from the ‘international scene’. His remarkable performance is generated half in Hong Kong and half in mainland China. In Hong Kong, the Chinese auction house Poly Auction hammers the best results for this ambitious artist who paints serene landscapes inspired by the great Chinese classical masters. Having signed the world’s 20th best Fine Art result in 2007 with a drawing that fetched $36.5 million in Beijing – Cui Ruzhuo is living proof of the immense value that Chinese art buyers attribute to their history and their tradition.

ZHU Yuanzhi’s (Yun Gee) success is also largely driven by Hong Kong which generates nearly 86% of his auction turnover (vs. 10% in Taiwan). ZHU Yuanzhi (Yun Gee) was one of several excellent Chinese artists who came to work in Paris, like San Yu and Zao Wou-Ki. For many years his work remained relatively discrete on the art market. However, last year, his market enjoyed a truly spectacular upgrade when a canvas titled Wheels: Industrial New York added no less than $12 million to his previous auction record, fetching $13.4 million! This sudden explosion of his market prices has undoubtedly been facilitated by the rapid price inflation that has affected another artist whose work represents one of the most remarkable fusions between Asian and Western art: Zao Wou Ki.

The most international artist…

Prices are still rising for paintings by ZAO Wou-Ki. In 2017, his auction record was reset twice with two oil paintings from 1964, both sold at Christie’s in Hong Kong. The first, 29/09/64, fetched $19.6 million on 27 May and the second, 29/01/64, reached $25.9 million six months later. Created in Europe, ZAO Wou-Ki’s best abstract works are joining Asian collections at a rapid pace. Today 84% of his auction turnover is hammered in Asia (64% in Hong Kong, 11% in Taiwan and 9% in mainland China) compared with just under 12% in France. Strong demand has raised his price index by + 948% since 2000. Over recent years, the globalisation of demand coupled with the emergence and structuring of Hong Kong’s art market have made ZAO’s market increasingly efficient.