Everything's rosy, judgingby the Christie's index

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2012, 12:00am


The Chinese economy may be cooling down, America's remains weak and Europe's is largely in crisis, but Christie's Hong Kong has shown yet again that it is insulated from the economic gloom gripping the globe.

Three sales of Asian 20th century and contemporary art at the weekend brought in HK$630 million, with 60 per cent of the lots selling for more than the top estimate. A world auction record was set for Indonesian modern master Affandi, whose At the Cockfight sold for HK$5.5 million - nearly four times its estimate.

The auction house's chief executive puts this success down to the world's growing taste for art.

Steven Murphy, chief executive of Christie's International, said despite the tough times, the number of people wanting to buy and experience art was increasing. He said 25-30 per cent of this season's buyers were new participants, from outside China.

The international appetite for art was reflected in Christie's biggest sale of post-war contemporary works in New York this month, where a Mark Rothko oil painting - Orange, Red, Yellow, from 1961 - set a record for the category of US$87 million.

Murphy said most of the new buyers were genuine collectors as opposed to speculators. 'I do not believe that people are moving into art as an asset class,' he said. 'If you are going to buy a Zeng Fanzhi or Zao Wou-ki painting, you need to love it,' he said. 'And enough people love it to create the energy around buying it.'

The new breed of collectors - mostly in their mid-40s and from Asia, Europe and the US - were increasingly buying impressionist, Chinese contemporary, Dutch masters and photography. Chinese modern masters such as Zao and Sanyu remained collectors' favourites, while in Chinese contemporary art 'the great works will fly', he said.

Bonhams auction house, which held its first contemporary art sale in Hong Kong at the weekend, also recorded strong sales, raking in HK$90.6 million.

Christie's spring auctions at the Convention and Exhibition Centre continue today with fine Chinese modern paintings, jewellery, and paintings by Cui Ruzhuo.