Sotheby's files suit over unpaid HK$6.8m bid

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 August, 2008, 12:00am

Sotheby's is suing a Beijing resident, saying he bid on a painting by one of China's best-known realist painters - and then refused to pay the HK$6.8 million price.

The auction house filed the writ against Tang Ju this week claiming he successfully bid on Luo Zhongli's End of Year at an auction in April.

'Despite repeated requests and demands, the defendant still fails to pay the purchase price,' said the claim filed in the High Court.

Mr Tang also owes interest of more than HK$359,000 for the unpaid debt - a bill that was rising by almost HK$5,000 each day - the claim said.

Mr Tang never took possession of the 1981 painting, but all buyers signed a contract requiring them to cover winning bids after the auction ended, the claim said. Buyers had to collect their purchases within five days.

This is not the first time Sotheby's has filed a claim to enforce an unpaid bid. Last year it sued a Hongkonger who failed to pay HK$1.6 million for a watch. That case has been settled.

In 2006, Sotheby's sued a buyer who had agreed to pay HK$1.9 million for two Chinese paintings, marking the first time the auctioneer filed an arrears case on the mainland, said spokeswoman Rhonda Yung.

A Hangzhou court ruled in favour of Sotheby's last month, she said. 'It happens,' Ms Yung said. 'We do deal with [delinquent bidders] every year.'

Luo, whose Golden Leopards sold for HK$12.6 million at the April auction, is an acclaimed artist whose work has been shown in galleries around the world.

His painting Father hangs in the Chinese National Art Gallery.

The April auction netted HK$403 million in bids, setting a world record price for works by Chinese artists Liu Xiaodong and Guo Bochuan, Sotheby's said.

Liu's Battlefield Realism: The Eighteen Arhats fetched HK$61.9 million, while Guo's The Forbidden City netted a winning bid of HK$27.2 million.