Japanese auction house shifts spring sale to HK

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 May, 2011, 12:00am


Every year Japan's Est-Ouest Auctions holds a spring sale in Tokyo, offering fine art, jewellery and watches to collectors from all over the world.

For 2011 the auction house will not be setting up shop in the Japanese capital, but instead shift almost 2,900 kilometres away, to Hong Kong. The spring sale was originally scheduled for the end of March - barely three weeks after the earthquake and tsunami in east Japan.

Fears of aftershocks in Tokyo, broken infrastructure and reluctance of foreign bidders to go to Japan have meant that the Tokyo and Hong Kong spring auctions will be combined. That will put twice as much fine art under the hammer - some 1,000 pieces worth around HK$80 million - on May 27 and 28 at the JW Marriot hotel in Admiralty.

'We have many Chinese, Taiwanese and Korean customers. Before the earthquake they said they'd come to the auction, but afterwards everyone was scared to come to Japan,' said Takashi Seki, president of Est-Ouest Auctions. Broken telephone lines would also have hindered bids from overseas, he said, effectively shutting out many foreign buyers.

In Hong Kong, works by Takeo Yamaguchi, Damien Hirst and Rene Magritte will be auctioned alongside vintage Patek Philippe watches, katanas from the Edo period and chinchilla coats. The pick of the lot is a 1960s Infinity Nets piece by Yayoi Kusama. Expected to fetch up to HK$4.5 million, it's the most valuable piece on sale, featuring Kusama's signature repetitive crescent patterns.

Some HK$500,000 to HK$700,000 - 15 per cent of the hammer price - raised from the sale of 31 European works will also be donated to a fund implemented by the Japanese government to support children orphaned by the earthquake and tsunami in Iwate.