Hong Kong's importance as international arts hub grows

City remains key centre for sale of Chinese art even as its importance to Western art increases

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 November, 2012, 3:20am

Hong Kong still has a while to go before it becomes an international arts hub, with local interest in Western art still nascent despite its increased visibility in the market.

"It's not like people are flocking to Western art," said Sotheby's Asia chairwoman Patti Wong.

Sotheby's Hong Kong will host its inaugural sale of Asian and Western contemporary art in Asia. It will feature more than 80 works, including some big Western names like Roy Lichtenstein, Fernando Botero and Andy Warhol.

The sale, called Boundless: Contemporary Art, will take place at Sotheby's gallery in Admiralty on Monday. It is expected to fetch between HK$47 million and HK$68 million.

Wong said that London and New York were still the centres for Western contemporary art, and that the Hong Kong market was dominated by Chinese works.

But Western contemporary art is becoming more visible in Hong Kong, with the Museum of Art hosting a large Warhol exhibition in December and a Picasso exhibition at the Heritage Museum in May.

Wong said that the latest auction was aimed at attracting younger collectors, by offering a combination of Asian and Western contemporary works that "you can live with".

She said that identifying potential buyers to take part in European and American sales and cultivating the local market were her long-term goals but that she also hoped the general public would enjoy the free exhibitions.

"We want to bring art and the local community closer. Not everyone has the chance to travel," she said, adding that the auction house is planning more non-commercial activities in the future.

Sotheby's Hong Kong took in HK$2.05 billion in October - down from April's HK$2.46 billion, and a sale last autumn that earned the auctioneer HK$3.2 billion. Rival Christie's has also seen a decline in sales.

Christie's concluded its six-day Hong Kong autumn auction on Wednesday, realising a total of HK$2.6 billion, against a pre-sale estimate of HK$2.2 billion, down from sales last autumn of HK$2.85 billion.

Works by Jiangsu-born, Paris-based artist Chu Teh-chun were popular.

His La foret blanche II fetched HK$60 million, including the buyer's premium, at Christie's Asian 20th century and contemporary art sale on Saturday. That was a new auction record for the artist.

Three other works by Chu - auctioned for HK$20 million to HK$21 million - also made it into the top 10 for the night.

Chu's Lumiere eternelle went under the hammer at HK$14.5 million at the Ravenel's Hong Kong autumn sale, and was sold for HK$18.56 million including the buyer's premium.