Sotheby’s sets two new records with Chinese painting and rare diamond in Hong Kong auction

Strong demand from buyers other than mainland collectors is helping the art market buck the trend amid the economic downturn

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 April, 2016, 1:39pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 April, 2016, 10:50am

The art market brushed aside ­economic woes as auction houses reported two record-breaking sales on Tuesday of a Chinese painting and a rare blue diamond.

At a Sotheby’s sale at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, Zhang Daqian’s 1982 hanging scroll, Peach Blossom Spring, sold for a record HK$271 million. After more than 100 bids in 50 minutes in a jam-packed room, the painting was snapped up by Shanghai’s Long Museum.

The private museum was founded by China’s art power couple, Liu Yiqian and Wang Wei, who have been making aggressive acquisitions around the world ­including Amedeo Modigliani’s Reclining Nude for a record US$170.4 million at Christie’s New York sale last year.

Hours later, Sotheby’s set ­another record by selling the De Beers Millennium Jewel 4 for HK$248.29 million. It was sold to an anonymous buyer bidding by phone.

The 10.10-carat vivid blue diamond became the most expensive piece of jewellery sold at auction in Asia, even though it was at the lower end of estimates.

“The fact that it’s a record price for jewellery in Asia I think speaks well about the Asian market ... I think it’s alive and well and very healthy,” Sotheby’s international jewellery division worldwide chairman David Bennett said.

Kevin Ching, CEO of Sotheby’s Asia, said strong and robust ­results were recorded over the past few days of the auction house’s spring sales. “It proves that the general economy isn’t a predictor of the art market,” Ching said.

Over the weekend, the Origo collection of contemporary ink art fetched HK$44 million with 82 per cent of the lots sold. Modern and contemporary Asian art sales brought in HK$794 million, with collectors from Hong Kong and Taiwan bidding intensively for Southeast Asian artworks.

“Collectors from mainland China remain strong but we also see a lot from Hong Kong and Taiwan,” Ching said.

Sotheby’s wasn’t alone. In ­another full-house bidding room in Admiralty, Bonhams achieved a number of world records at its Chinese jades auction yesterday, fetching HK$178 million. The top lot was a jade figure of a male dancer from the Eastern Han ­dynasty, which was sold for a record HK$31 million.

Colin Sheaf, chairman of Bonhams Asia, said the art market usually performed well when ­interest and inflation rates were low. And since mainland buyers no longer dominated the market like they used to, it was now attracting a global audience, he said.