Yue Minjun (China, b. 1962), Untitled (Smile-ism No. 9). Lithograph. 80 x 110 cm (31½ x 43¼ in). Estimate HK$18,000-30,000. Offered in Contemporary Art Asia, 21-28 May 2019, Online

The new collector’s guide to Asian contemporary art

Who’s hot? Which regions are undervalued? How important is an auction history? Specialist Sarina Taylor addresses these questions and more about a fast-growing market

  • 1
  • Are editions a good way to start a collection?

Editions are an excellent way to acquire a work by an Asian artist you admire at a more accessible price point. Examples of artists who offer high-quality editions of images from their iconic series include Ju Ming, Yoshitomo Nara and Yayoi Kusama

Yoshitomo Nara (Japan, b. 1959), After the Acid Rain (Night Version). Japanese woodcut print. 55.5 x 44.5 cm (21⅞ x 17½ in). Estimate HK$130,000-200,000. Offered in Contemporary Art Asia, 21-28 May 2019, Online

Yoshitomo Nara (Japan, b. 1959), After the Acid Rain (Night Version). Japanese woodcut print. 55.5 x 44.5 cm (21⅞ x 17½ in). Estimate: HK$130,000-200,000. Offered in Contemporary Art Asia, 21-28 May 2019, Online

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  • An artist I admire is best known for paintings. Should I collect the same artist’s works on paper or sculpture?

Works on paper and sculpture can give you a different perspective on an artist’s process. The works on paper of Yayoi Kusama, who normally uses acrylic in her paintings, for example, offer an alternative interpretation of her paintings.

Similarly, Park Seo-Bo’s mixed media paintings can be compared with his silkscreen prints. Works on paper and sculpture complement the artist’s primary medium, and can be collected and appreciated as works in their own right. 

Yayoi Kusama (Japan, b. 1929), Pears, 1978. Marker pen on paperboard. 24.3 x 27.3 cm (9⅝ x 10¾ in). Estimate HK$120,000-200,000. Offered in Contemporary Art Asia, 21-28 May 2019, Online

Yayoi Kusama (Japan, b. 1929), Pears, 1978. Marker pen on paperboard. 24.3 x 27.3 cm (9⅝ x 10¾ in). Estimate: HK$120,000-200,000. Offered in Contemporary Art Asia, 21-28 May 2019, Online

  • 3
  • Should I focus on a particular region?

There’s no need to limit yourself. In the past the market for Asian artists was more regionally focused — Chinese collectors only focusing on works by Chinese artists, for example — but now we’re seeing more collectors acquiring works regardless of geography or nationality.

Artists from Asia are increasing their international presence and enjoying more attention from collectors internationally. One example of this is Zao Wou-Ki, who has long been considered a modern master in Asia but has only recently received the same level of recognition in the United States. He has held retrospectives in Taiwan since the mid-1990s, but only just had his first retrospective held in an American museum in 2016 at the Asia Society in New York.

Zao Wou-Ki (Zhao Wuji, FranceChina, 1920-2013), Untitled. Lithograph. Sheet 76 x 56 cm (29⅞ x 22 in). Estimate HK$26,000-40,000. Offered in Contemporary Art Asia, 21-28 May 2019, Online

Zao Wou-Ki (Zhao Wuji, France/China, 1920-2013), Untitled. Lithograph. Sheet: 76 x 56 cm (29⅞ x 22 in). Estimate: HK$26,000-40,000. Offered in Contemporary Art Asia, 21-28 May 2019, Online

  • 4
  • What impact does the condition of an artwork have on its value?

This depends on the artwork and the artist. Takashi Murakami's prints, for example, should be in pristine condition — anything less would negatively affect the value of the work.

Walasse Ting (Ding Xiongquan, USAChina, 1928-2010), Four Beauties. Acrylic, ink and colour on paper. 36 x 48 cm (14⅛ X 18⅞ in). Estimate HK$28,000-40,000. Offered in Contemporary Art Asia, 21-28 May 2019, Online

Walasse Ting (Ding Xiongquan, USA/China, 1928-2010), Four Beauties. Acrylic, ink and colour on paper. 36 x 48 cm (14⅛ X 18⅞ in). Estimate: HK$28,000-40,000. Offered in Contemporary Art Asia, 21-28 May 2019, Online

For some artists however, what may appear to be deterioration or damage can be an integral part of their practice. Walasse Ting’s works on paper are often creased because he saturates thin Chinese paper with brightly coloured ink or acrylic paint, and the wetting and drying of the paper and mixing of different media affects the condition of the work. The resulting marks of imperfection would be considered a part of the artist’s technique, and not a reflection of the artwork’s quality.

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  • Which is more important to consider, market value or historical value?

Market value doesn’t necessarily reflect the historical value of an artwork. Historically important groups such as the Fifth Moon and Ton Fan Group are undervalued relative to their significance in the history of Asian post-war abstract art, with renowned artists including Hsiao Chin, Li Yuan-Chia, and Hu Chi-Chung.

Hsiao Chin (Xiao Qin, Taiwan, b. 1935), Tendency, painted in 1962. Acrylic on canvas. 70 x 90 cm (27½ x 35⅜ in). Estimate HK$50,000-100,000. Offered in Contemporary Art Asia, 21-28 May 2019, Online

Hsiao Chin (Xiao Qin, Taiwan, b. 1935), Tendency, painted in 1962. Acrylic on canvas. 70 x 90 cm (27½ x 35⅜ in). Estimate: HK$50,000-100,000. Offered in Contemporary Art Asia, 21-28 May 2019, Online

Works by Hsiao Chin, for example, break free from tradition to employ simple colours and basic geometric forms. While his paintings are grounded in the framework of traditional Chinese painting, they also embrace a modernist style.

  • 6
  • What are the prospects for Southeast Asian art?

The market for Southeast Asian artists is growing rapidly, and shows immense potential. Many of these artists have established careers and long sale histories within their own countries but, until recently, their market has been very regional. Thanks to Biennales, art fairs and international exhibitions, they’re becoming more accessible to collectors across the world.  

Pacita Abad (Philippines, 1946-2004), Fermentation, executed in 2003. Mixed media collage on paper. 80.5 x 106 cm (31¾ x 41¾ in). Estimate HK$30,000-50,000. Offered in Contemporary Art Asia, 21-28 May 2019, Online

Pacita Abad (Philippines, 1946-2004), Fermentation, executed in 2003. Mixed media collage on paper. 80.5 x 106 cm (31¾ x 41¾ in). Estimate: HK$30,000-50,000. Offered in Contemporary Art Asia, 21-28 May 2019, Online

Since Southeast Asian art is still an emerging market, the works are relatively affordable, making this category an excellent entry point for new collectors. Our sale will include works on paper by Filipina painter Pacita Abad and Vietnamese painter Le Pho.

  • 7
  • What is the trend in Asian contemporary sculpture?

We are finding many artists who are creating unique, highly conceptual pieces that blur the lines between sculpture and decorative art. For example, Ju Ming’s Taichi Series  conveys a sense of the Chinese taichi spirit with a strong modernist feel.

Ju Ming (Zhu Ming, Taiwan, b. 1938), Taichi Series. Bronze sculpture. 15 x 28 x 11 cm (5⅞ x 11 x 4⅜ in). Estimate HK$120,000-200,000. Offered in Contemporary Art Asia, 21-28 May 2019, Online

Ju Ming (Zhu Ming, Taiwan, b. 1938), Taichi Series. Bronze sculpture. 15 x 28 x 11 cm (5⅞ x 11 x 4⅜ in). Estimate: HK$120,000-200,000. Offered in Contemporary Art Asia, 21-28 May 2019, Online

  • 8
  • Who is collecting contemporary art from Asia at the moment?

There’s a global demand for Asian contemporary art, from the United States to Europe and of course within Asia. We’re finding that collectors, particularly new buyers, are attracted to the affordability of this category. Most of the works in our upcoming sale are also reasonably sized and convenient to transport or hang, making it both beautiful and practical for apartments or small homes.

Yayoi Kusama (Japan, b. 1929), Pumpkin. Glazed porcelain sculpture with the original box. 8 x 12 x 10 cm (3⅛ x 4¾ x 3⅞ in). Estimate HK$30,000-50,000. Offered in Contemporary Art Asia, 21-28 May 2019, Online

Yayoi Kusama (Japan, b. 1929), Pumpkin. Glazed porcelain sculpture with the original box. 8 x 12 x 10 cm (3⅛ x 4¾ x 3⅞ in). Estimate: HK$30,000-50,000. Offered in Contemporary Art Asia, 21-28 May 2019, Online

  • 9
  • I like an artist for whom there seems to be little to no auction history. Should I be concerned?

If an artist has a short auction history, it doesn’t necessarily reflect their market value. Many Asian artists could be very successful in their own country through their studio or a local blue-chip gallery or institutions, but haven’t yet had the opportunity to establish themselves on the international scene or through auction houses.

Liu Ye (China, b. 1964), Crying Over Mondrian. Silkscreen print. 80 x 55 cm (31½ x 21⅝ in). Estimate HK$20,000-40,000. Offered in Contemporary Art Asia, 21-28 May 2019, Online

Liu Ye (China, b. 1964), Crying Over Mondrian. Silkscreen print. 80 x 55 cm (31½ x 21⅝ in). Estimate: HK$20,000-40,000. Offered in Contemporary Art Asia, 21-28 May 2019, Online

  • 10
  • Which new artists should I look out for?

Asian contemporary art is still a relatively new market in global terms and we are regularly discovering artists, both emerging and established, who are worthy of attention. Right now, we recommend you keep an eye on Liu Ye and Hiroyuki Matsuura.

Hiroyuki Matsuura (Japan, b. 1964), Escape 2, painted in 2004. Acrylic on canvas. 92 x 92 cm (36¼ x 36¼ in). Estimate HK$100,000-150,000. Offered in Contemporary Art Asia, 21-28 May 2019, Online

Hiroyuki Matsuura (Japan, b. 1964), Escape 2, painted in 2004. Acrylic on canvas. 92 x 92 cm (36¼ x 36¼ in). Estimate: HK$100,000-150,000. Offered in Contemporary Art Asia, 21-28 May 2019, Online