By the Numbers: A Breakdown of Results From Christie’s Hong Kong’s 20th/21st Century Evening Sale, November 2023

Get the stats behind the spin.

Auctioneer Liang-Lin Chen selling Sanyu's Femme nue sur un tapis (Nude on Tapestry) at Christie's Hong Kong 20th/21st Century Art Evening Sale on November 28, 2023. Photo courtesy Christie's.

Christie’s Hong Kong concluded its autumn evening art sales on Tuesday (November 28) with two auctions held back to back: the 20th/21st Century Art Evening Sale, which we will focus on in this report, and the Post-Millennium Evening Sale.

The main event of the night, the 20th/21st Century sale, delivered respectable results despite the gloomy vibe that has hovered over auctions in the region throughout 2023. The hammer total slightly surpassed the presale low estimate, even accounting for withdrawn lots.

Although the top lot successfully found a buyer, several blue-chip names went unsold or sold at prices that were below or just barely met their low estimates. Works by the likes of Lee Ufan, Rudolf Stingel, Liu Ye, Takashi Murakami, George Condo, and Liu Wei did not find buyers. Paintings by Zhang Xiaogang and Yoshitomo Nara hammered at prices well below their estimates. Withdrawals included works by Wassily Kandinsky, Nara, Keith Haring, and Wang Xingwei.

Nonetheless, the sale set several records. Italian artist Salvo’s colorful 1994 landscape painting Il Mattino (The Morning) hammered at HK$6.9 million ($889,845), or HK$8.7 million ($1.1 million) with fees, a new record for the artist. Nature’s Inspiration (1963), an enigmatic canvas by Cheong Soo Pieng, set a new record for the Singaporean artist, achieving a hammer price of HK$9.2 million ($1.2 million) after a long bidding war between two phone bidders. The third-party guaranteed work made a total of HK$11.5 million ($1.5 million) including fees.

Sanyu Christie's

Sanyu, Femme nue sur un tapis (Nude on Tapestry) (1929). Photo: courtesy of Christie’s.

Below, the story by the numbers…

20th/21st Century Art Evening Sale

  • Total Sales After Fees: HK$694 million ($89 million)
  • Hammer Total: HK$570.7 million ($73 million)
  • Top Seller: Lot 11, Sanyu’s Femme nue sur un tapis (Nude on Tapestry), the cover lot of this sale. The painting executed in 1929 is said to be the Chinese-French artist’s first major nude painting. The work came from the Dreyfus Collection in Paris. It hammered at HK$160 million ($20.6 million), above the presale expectations. It made more than HK$187 million ($24 million) after fees, the sixth most expensive Sanyu work sold at auction, according to Artnet’s Price Database.
  • Lots on Offer: 53
  • Lots Withdrawn: 4
  • Lots Sold: 46
  • Lots Bought In: 7
  • Sell-through Rate: 81 percent (46/57)
  • Sell-through Rate After Withdrawals: 87 percent (46/53)
  • Presale Low Estimate: HK$570.2 million ($73 million)
  • Presale Low Estimate After Withdrawals: HK$496.2 million ($64 million)
  • Hammer Total vs. Presale Low Estimate: +HK$530,000 ($67,943)
  • Hammer Total vs. Presale Low Estimate (revised after withdrawals): +HK$74.5 million ($9.5 million)
  • Total Sales of Equivalent Sale Last Year: HK$678 million ($86.9 million)
  • Lots Guaranteed: 8
  • Lots With House Guarantees: 4
  • Lots With Third-Party Guarantees: 4
  • Total Low Estimate of Withdrawn Lots: HK$74 million ($9.5 million)
  • Total Low Estimate of Guaranteed Lots: HK$208.8 million ($26.7 million, 37 percent of total presale low estimate)
  • Total Low Estimate of Third-Party Guaranteed Lots: HK$101.8 million ($13 million, 12 percent of total presale low estimate)
  • Quote of the Night: “It’s an auction. Can’t wait forever,” auctioneer Georgina Hilton said, nudging her colleagues on the phone with bidders who were taking too much time to decide whether to place the next bid. Even an experienced auctioneer like Hilton who’s skilled at keeping things moving was challenged by the slow pace of the Hong Kong sales.
  • Lasting Memory: The moment when the excited Prapavadee Sophonpanich, Christie’s general manager for Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, won two bids back to back. She was acting on behalf of the same client on the phone for works by Thai artists Thawan Duchanee and Pratuang Emjaroen. Each sold for the same price, HK$6 million ($775,081).


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