Upcoming Hong Kong sales

[24 May 2016]


After New York, the art market majors are preparing their prestige sales in Hong Hong, one of the world’s most dynamic art marketplaces. Between 28 and 31 May 2016, Poly Auction, Bonhams, China Guardian, Sotheby’s and Christie’s will be dispersing hundreds of Asian artworks in the city.

Like New York, Hong Kong has two major sales seasons per year (spring and autumn). During last year’s Hong Kong autumn sales, Sotheby’s hosted eight sales (4-6 October 2015) of traditional and Contemporary Asian art, generating $162 million. In April of this year, the American company hosted six sessions between 3 and 5 April 2016, including the highly successful Brushwork. From Asia to The World (100% of lots sold) generating new auction records for Tsuguharu FOUJITA, WANG Huaiqing, Liu Wei and WU Dayu. In the upcoming sales, Christie’s stands out with a particularly dense offer that will be dispersed over seven sessions of Asian Fine Art between 28 and 31 May as it celebrates its 30th year of activity in Asia.

Christie’s is kicking off on the evening of 28 May with Asian 20th Century & Contemporary Art and the following day is offering Asian Contemporary Art, Asian 20th Century Art and Chinese Contemporary Ink in three marathon sales. On 30 May Christie’s is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its presence in Asia with a mixed-category sale (art and non-art) entitled 30 years : The Sale offering 30 lots that perfectly reflect Asian taste. The sale includes luxury watches, sapphire and emerald jewelry, bottles of Romanée-Conti, alongside works by some of the top artists on the Hong Kong market: Qi Baishi, Chu Teh-Chun, Zhang Daqian, Yayoi Kusama and Li Keran. The star lot of the sale is a large oil painting by the Japanese artist Kazuo SHIRAGA (1924-2008) completed in 1960. Its estimate has not been revealed, but in view of the work’s quality and energy, it should sell within the artist’s top five best results. Recall that Kazuo Shiraga is one of Japan’s three best-selling artists at the moment (with Yoshitomo Nara and Yayoi Kusama) and his work has been generating surprisingly strong results over the last two years.

International Asian Art

Some Asian art enjoys truly international demand. Here are some of the star lots from the upcoming sales that may (or may not…) get the hammer going, depending on the mood of bidders. On 28 May Christie’s is offering Yoshitomo NARA’s Banging the Drum (oil-on-wood) created nearly ten years ago. Since then Nara’s prices have rocketed and his price index is up + 267% since 2007. Moreover, the work in question has already been to auction: in October 2014 it fetched $770,000 (incl. fees) in London. That’s not long ago. But Christie’s is expecting to add at least $200,000 to its value. However, Nara’s price index has in fact climbed +60% over the last two years, so Christie’s 25% price increase looks very reasonable.
The work might even cross the million (USD) threshold along with 26 other works in the same sale. Among these, six lots could cross the five million threshold, three of which are signed by ZAO Wou-Ki, the undisputed star of these Hong Kong sales. Other Franco-Chinese artists in the sale are CHU Teh-Chun with a canvas, No.312 (1969), estimated between 5 and 6 million (USD) near the top of his market price range and TANG Haiwen whose 70cm colour-drawing is tagged at $100,000 – 200,000, a potential new record for a watercolor in this dimension by the artist.

Other works, no less high-end, are more coveted by Asian buyers than Western collectors. Christie’s is hoping for an excellent result for a painting by WANG Huaiqing whose Feet 2 fetched a record price of $7 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong on 3 April 2016. Gold Stone may well set a new record for the artist. Another star of the Asian market, XU Beihong, has ten drawings in the sales valued from $20,000 to more than $4 million, depending on importance. Lastly, we note a large number of ZHANG Daqian drawings throughout the sales: 3 at Poly Auction on 28 May, 4 each at Bonhams and China Guardian the next day and 8 at Sotheby’s on 30 May. And Christie’s is offering no less than 41 Daqian drawings in its sales through to 31 May.
In sum, the density of the works on offer next week reflects the dynamism of the Hong Kong art market. Recall that Hong Kong is the only crisis-resistant Chinese marketplace… and probably the only Chinese marketplace currently posting growth.