Spring auctions in Hong Kong total HK$2.55bn / US$327m

Zao Wou-Ki’s second-largest painting ever to come to auction sells for HK$178,000,000; Yoshitomo Nara breaks record at HK$14,525,000; the 17 sales across paintings, ceramics, wine, watches, jewellery and handbags total HK$2.55 bn / US$327m

Christie’s annual Hong Kong spring auctions, which spanned six days and 17 sales, saw a strong Asian interest in the largest offering of Western art to date. Almost 20 per cent of buyers across all sales were classed as ‘millenials’, with 20 per cent of buyers also new to Christie’s. The week’s total realised HK$2.55bn / US$327m.

‘This season, collectors responded resoundingly to innovatively curated sales which offered a fresh approach to collecting,’ said Francis Belin, President, Christie’s Asia Pacific. ‘We were also thrilled by the strong public turnout through the week, testament to the unrivalled selection of international exhibitions and events offered.’

Zao Wou-Ki (Zhao Wuji, 1920-2013), Triptyque, 1987-1988. Oil on canvas. Overall: 200 x 486 cm (78¾ x 191⅜ in). Sold for HK$178,000,000 in 20th Century & Contemporary Art (Evening Sale) on 25 May 2019 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

On 25 May the 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, and a further brand new evening sale, ICONOCLAST, featuring works by 16 artists born between 1969 and 1989, achieved a total of HK$910,255,000 / US$116,494,254, with a combined sell-through rate of 91 per cent by lot. The evening series saw records set for seven artists, including Yoshitomo Nara for Sleepless Night (Cat), which fetched HK$34,925,000 / US$4,469,695; and Yayoi Kusama for Pumpkinwhich achieved HK$14,525,000 / US$1,858,907 — a record price for a Kusama sculpture.

The top price of the evening was achieved by Zao Wou-Ki’s Triptyque (1987-1988) (above), the second-largest painting by the artist ever to come to auction, which realised HK$178,000,000 / US$22,780,405. This monumental homage to Monet and Matisse spread across three canvases measures two metres high and almost five metres across. 

Le Pho (1907-2001), Nue (Nude), 1931. Oil on canvas. Dimensions: 90.5 x 180.5 cm (35⅝ x 71⅛ in). Sold for HK$10,925,000 on 26 May 2019 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

The 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Series on 26 May, totalling HK$243,411,250 / US$31,151,723, was led by Le Pho’s Nue (Nude), one of 17 works offered from the Tuan Pham Collection of Vietnamese art. Painted in Hanoi in 1931, Pho’s seminal work realised HK$10,925,000 / US$1,398,179, more than double its low estimate. Strong results were achieved for Japanese and Chinese contemporary artists, including Zhou Chunya, Liu Ye and Jia Aili.

The four sales of 20th Century and Contemporary art held over two days saw a combined sell-through rate of 82 per cent, and realised a total of HK$1,153,666,250 / US$147,845,977, one of the highest ever totals for the category, and one of the strongest sell-through rates in recent years.

Jia Aili (b. 1979), The Wasteland, 2007. Oil on canvas. 267 x 200 cm (105⅛ x 78¾ in). Sold for HK$18,125,000 on 25 May 2019 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

‘Passionate bidding was consistent across a broad spectrum of genres and price points, helping to achieve exceptional results for both iconic and emerging artists, in the process setting 24 artist records,’ said Eric Chang, Chairman, Asian 20th Century & Contemporary Art, of the results. 

Christie’s series of three live auctions of Chinese Paintings on 27 and 28 May, which included the sale of eight works from the Chokaido Museum Collection, totalled HK$451,688,750 / US$57,807,036. The standout lot from this series of sales was Poems in Large Running Script  by Wen Zhengming from the Chokaido Museum Collection, which realised HK$83,227,500 / US$10,651,439. The handscroll, dating to the Jiajing period (1521-1567), went under the hammer for 16 times its low estimate, including premium, after 35 minutes of intense bidding.

Li Keran (1907-1989), Army Crossing the Yangtze River, 1964. Hanging scroll, framed, ink and colour on paper. Size: 96.2 x 60.3 cm (37⅞ x 23¾ in). Sold for HK$19,925,000 in Fine Chinese Modern Paintings on 28 May 2019 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

Further highlights included Calligraphy in Running-Cursive Script  by Yao Shou, which achieved almost 37 times its low estimate before realising HK$36,692,500 / US$4,695,899 — a world record price for the artist at auction; and Li Keran’s Army Crossing the Yangtze River  (above) from 1964This work, which realised HK$ 19,925,000 / US$ 2,549,998, is Li’s interpretation of Chairman Mao Zedong’s poem, People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Occupation of Nanjing, and is the largest and most comprehensive known composition on this theme.

The Christie’s Finest and Rarest Wines and Spirits Auctions achieved a total of HK$58,017,250 / US$7,438,109, with the first Christie’s dedicated whisky auction in Asia realising a sell-through rate of 100 per cent and a total of HK$3,898,750 /US$499,840 against its low estimate of HK$1.9 million. 

The sales attracted global interest from more than 20 countries across four continents and welcomed new international registrants. Among the top lots were two magums of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti,1999, Grand Cru, Côte de Nuits, which realised HK$875,000 / US$112,180; and a 10-bottle Macallan Single Malt Vertical, 1970-79, which achieved HK$525,000 / US$67,308.


A superb coloured diamond and diamond ring, Moussaieff. Sold for HK$58,825,000 in Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels on 28 May 2019 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

The Christie’s Important Watches spring auction achieved HK$102,888,500 / US$13,167,650, while The Magnificent Jewels auction totalled HK$348,640,250 / US$44,618,910. The top price was achieved by The Bubble Gum Pink (above), a rare fancy vivid purplish pink diamond ring by Moussaieff, with centre stone weighing 3.43 carats. 

The Handbags & Accessories auction on 29 May fetched HK$45,590,000 / US$5,833,049 and was led by the sale of an exceptional, matte white Himalaya crocodile and diamond Birkin from 2011, which achieved HK$2,000,000 / US$255,892.

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The last day of auctions in Hong Kong on 29 May saw the culmination of the five Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art sales, which realised a combined total of HK$398,833,250 / US$51,029,036. 

Highlights included an extremely rare blue and white ‘fruit and flower spray’ vase, dating to circa 1723-1735, which realised HK$37,260,000 / US$4,766,650; and an important robin’s egg-glazed pear-shaped vase from the Baofang Pavilion Collection of Imperial Ceramics, which achieved HK$7,925,000 / $1,013,840. 

Elsewhere, a majestic pair of wooden bodhisattvas made around 1,000 years ago fetched HK$45,205,000 / US$5,783,049, while a rare ‘numbered four’ purple Jun tripod bulb bowl, dating to the Yuan-Ming dynasty, achieved HK$14,525,000 / US$1,858,174.

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