A buyer paid a record price of HK$800,000 for rare piece of calligraphy by the street artist known as the 'King of Kowloon' in a Sotheby's sale last night.
The recording-breaking work, Calligraphy on Utility Box No 2, was one of two on sale at the Convention and Exhibition Centre to feature Tsang Tsou-choi's signature ink calligraphy on a 1.6-metre grey metal box. It resembled the iconic street calligraphy Tsang painted on electrical junction boxes across Kowloon.
The work brought HK$650,000 when it went under the hammer, while the buyer also had to pay a premium of HK$150,000 to cover auction expenses. It was part of the sale of the Ullens Collection of Chinese contemporary artworks.
The work, along with Tsang's Calligraphy on Utility Box No 1, which sold for HK$596,000 last night, was created in 2000. Both lots were sold to an undisclosed Asian buyer from outside Hong Kong.
They had an estimated price of HK$200,000 and HK$300,000 each. The previous record for a work by Tsang was HK$500,000 set in 2009.
Jonathan Wong Kit-yu, contemporary Asian art specialist at Sotheby's Hong Kong, and artist Joel Chung Yin-chai, a long-time friend of Tsang, both hoped the works would be displayed in Hong Kong.
Tsang's street calligraphy has been recognised as an important part of Hong Kong's identity. His works hit the international stage at the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003.
Tsang was born in Guangdong province in 1921 and arrived in Hong Kong, barely literate, at the age of 16.
At 35, he began to spread his graffiti around town and later worked on paper, household linens, and similar items. He died in 2007.