Art market sets records as buyers chalk up multimillion-dollar sales

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 May, 2010, 12:00am

Hong Kong's art market has shrugged off volatile financial markets to score new highs, with several records set at auctions and multimillion-dollar sales at ART HK over the past week.

Christie's had its first 'white glove auction' for any evening sale in Asia at Saturday night's Asian contemporary and Chinese 20th century art sale at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, achieving a 100 per cent sell-through rate, with all 36 lots sold. The sale fetched a total of HK$303 million, three times more than was estimated.

Chen Yifei's String Quartet, sold for HK$61.1 million to an Asian trade buyer, was the night's top lot, also setting a world auction record for the artist. Andy Warhol's Mao, the first Western contemporary art piece Christie's brought to an Asian sale, fetched HK$6.62 million, above the highest estimate of HK$5 million.

The 340 lots sold under the fine Chinese classical paintings category on Friday fetched a record HK$426.7 million, with 70 per cent of them snapped up by mainland buyers.

Christie's Asia managing director Jonathan Stone said recent fluctuations of the financial markets and economic jitters in Europe had not hurt the art market, which was experiencing a strong recovery led by Asia.

Bonhams' spring sale achieved a record high, fetching HK$127 million. The 140 Chinese snuff bottles from the Mary and George Bloch Collection sold out for HK$66 million on Friday, more than three times higher than presale estimates.

Pablo Picasso's Femme Couchee oil painting sold for HK$19 million at Japanese auction house Est-Ouest Auctions on Friday night.

Galleries reported great business at the end of the four-day ART HK yesterday, with several important works sold to Asian collectors.

Pace Beijing sold Zhang Xiaogang's Green Wall-Husband and Wife (2010) for US$1 million. London gallery White Cube sold Damien Hirst's The Inescapable Truth (2005), one of the artist's famed formaldehyde works, to an Asian collector for ?1.75 million (HK$19.69 million).

Courtney Plummer, a partner of New York-based gallery Lehmann Maupin, exhibiting for the first time at ART HK, said that sales had been strong, with half of the 25 pieces brought to Hong Kong already sold, mostly to Singaporean and Korean collectors.

'This art fair will be a destination as long as the art auctions are strong,' Plummer said.

Melanie Dankbar, associate director of Hauser & Wirth from Zurich, also a first-timer at the fair, was delighted that important sales have been done, including a painting by Zhang Enli that sold for US$90,000.

Local galleries also saw strong sales.

The Cat Street Gallery said some 20 pieces were sold to a wide range of collectors, from Hong Kong to Australia, with the priciest one sold at HK$280,000. 'More people in Hong Kong are willing to buy art,' Kate Bryan, the gallery's deputy director, said.

Records were also set in wine auctions. The two-day Acker Merrall & Condit weekend sale achieved a total of more than HK$152 million, making it the second-biggest wine auction in the world after its New York sale in October 2006.

At Christie's, just over HK$8 million was paid for a single lot of Chateau d'Yquem, with the oldest bottle dating back to 1825. This made it the most valuable wine lot sold by Christie's and at auction in Asia.

A May 21 wine sale by Sotheby's fetched just over HK$20.66 million, but a single lot of 30 bottles of Dom P?rignon Ros? OEnoth?que, which has never been commercially released before, achieved just over HK$1.33 million.

The amount set a world auction record for a single lot of champagne. It was also the first time Sotheby's sold a HK$1 million lot of wine in Hong Kong.

Additional reporting by Dennis Eng

Sold out

Christie's sold all 36 lots at its Asian contemporary and Chinese 20th century art sale, fetching, in HK$: $303m