Christie’s Shanghai sales dwarfed by Hong Kong results, despite increase of 35 per cent

The results for the autumn sale were helped by the US$5 million fetched by a Zou Wou-Ki work, although the auction house was disappointed a Chagall piece failed to sell

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 September, 2017, 11:24am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 September, 2017, 11:24am

Christie’s autumn sale in Shanghai on Sunday netted a total of 98.6 million yuan (US$14.9 million), a 35 per cent increase from last year, with the highlight being Zao Wou-Ki’s 24.12.2002-Diptyque (2002) – a large work in pink that Zao painted when he was 82 – which sold for 33.6 million yuan (US$5 million) including the premium.

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The oil on canvas painting fetched the highest price in the five years that Christie’s has held auctions in Shanghai. The hammer price of 28 million yuan was nearly 30 per cent higher than the top presale estimate.

However, Marc Chagall’s Les Mariés (1979), failed to sell. The painting of a newly married couple, featured on the cover of the evening sale catalogue, has familiar Chagall motifs and was estimated at 17 million to 24 million yuan.

“The Chagall was disappointing,” says Guillaume Cerutti, the chief executive, but he says overall results at both the First Open afternoon sale and the 20th century and contemporary art evening sale were satisfactory. The sell-through rates were 86 per cent and 85 per cent respectively.

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Demand proved resilient despite disconcerting news including China’s credit rating downgrade and the ratcheting up of aggressive rhetoric between the US and North Korea. However, Cerutti says the restrictions faced by foreign auction houses in China continue to severely curtail growth.

Auction houses in China are restricted by the high taxes imposed on foreign consignments that are not kept in free ports, and foreigners are also banned from selling cultural relics from before 1949. These are reasons why Christie’s Shanghai sales are still insignificant compared with the HK$2.4 billion (US$307 million) sales in Hong Kong last autumn.

Even the price paid for the Zao pales in comparison with the HK$152.9 million that one of his 1964 works fetched in Hong Kong in May – a new auction record for the artist.

Chinese clients now make up 13 per cent of Christie’s global sales, it says, and they are now spending 65 per cent more than they did globally in 2012.