By the Numbers: A Breakdown of Results From Christie’s Shanghai and Hong Kong Evening Sales, September 2023
Despite reports of market corrections and economic downturn, the sale series met presale expectations.
When Christie’s held its first auction in Shanghai in 2013, it was widely seen as a landmark event. The modest mixed categories sale featuring just under 40 lots of art, wine, and other collectibles was the first auction held independently by an international auction house free of a joint venture. The sale was also a vote of confidence in mainland China as a viable market despite a reported 24 percent decline in the Chinese market in 2012. The house has been staging auctions in Shanghai regularly since then.
Fast forward to 2023: Christie’s, still the first and only international auction house to host live sales independently in the country, celebrated its 10th anniversary in Shanghai with a sale series that took place in both Shanghai and Hong Kong over the past weekend. It also moved to its new Shanghai office and gallery spaces last year. But much like the climate in which the house launched its Shanghai sale, the macroeconomic environment doesn’t seem to be the most favorable. Recent reports have been pointing at an economic slowdown and uncertainties in China, including Hong Kong, which recently lost its crown as the world’s freest economy to Singapore after 53 years.
Nevertheless, the auction series comprised of three sales—10th Shanghai Auction Anniversary: 20th/21st Century Art Evening Sale and Luxury Evening Sale, as well as the Hong Kong 20th/21st Century Art Sale—still met expectations with relatively high sell-through rates despite global market corrections. Christie’s said that almost 60 percent of the new buyers at the Shanghai event were millennials.
Compared to traditional blue-chip names, sales of works by younger artists brought some delightful surprises. An auction record was achieved for Chinese rising star Zhang Zipiao for the sale of her 2021 painting Mushroom Cloud 02 at the Shanghai art sale, hammered at CNY 1 million ($138,268, sold for CNY 1.3 million/$174,218 including fees), more than three times the presale low estimate. Several other millennial artists surpassed expectations at the Hong Kong sale, such as Zhang Yexing, those painting Shining (2011) went under hammer at HK$260,000 ($33,381), nearly seven times the fees-free presale low estimate at HK$40,000 (sold for HK$327,600/$42,060 including fees).
This sale series can also be seen as a preview to how things may change after Christie’s moves to its new headquarters in Hong Kong next year. The sale in Hong Kong over the weekend was also a mid-season sale outside of the house’s usual spring and autumn marquee sale series. With new headquarters set to open next year, more auctions are expected to take place at the new premises.
Christie’s is certainly not alone. Phillips, which moved into its new Hong Kong headquarters in March, has already been introducing changes to its auction calendar. Similarly, Sotheby’s will be expected to be doing the same after moving to its new Hong Kong headquarters in 2024, which promises to be an interesting year for art auctions in Asia.
Below, the story by the numbers:
10th Shanghai Auction Anniversary: 20th/21st Century Art Evening Sale
Total Sales After Fees: CNY124 million ($17 million)
Lots Sold: 40
Lots on Offer Before Withdrawals: 43
Lots Withdrawn: 1
Lots Bought In: 2
Sell-through Rate Counting Withdrawals: 93 percent
Sell-through Rate Excluding Withdrawals: 95 percent
Hammer Total: CNY98.9 million ($13.6 million)
Presale Low Estimate Before Withdrawals: CNY73.3 million ($10 million)
Presale Low Estimate After Withdrawals: CNY70.2 million ($9.7 million)
Hammer Total vs. Presale Low Estimate Before Withdrawals: +CNY25.6 million ($3.6 million)
Hammer Total vs. Presale Low Estimate After Withdrawals: +CNY28.67 million ($3.9 million)
Total Low Estimate of Withdrawn Lot(s): CNY3 million ($414,804) (4 percent of the total presale low estimate before withdrawals)
Guaranteed Lots: 0
Third-Party Guaranteed Lots: 0
Top seller: Lot 112, Zao Wou-ki, 16.02.64 (1964), sold for CNY12.4 million ($1.7 million) including fees. Hammer price was CNY10 million ($1.38 million), within the fees-free presale expectations between CNY8.5 million and CNY12 million.
Hong Kong 20th/21st Century Art Sale
Total Sales After Fees: HK$87 million ($11.2 million)
Lots Sold (Including Guaranteed Lots): 57
Lots on Offer Before Withdrawals: 62
Lots Withdrawn: 2
Lots Bought In: 3
Sell-through Rate Counting Withdrawals: 92 percent
Sell-through Rate Excluding Withdrawals: 95 percent
Hammer Total: HK$69.4 million ($8.9 million)
Presale Low Estimate Before Withdrawals: HK$59.7 million ($7.7 million)
Presale Low Estimate After Withdrawals: HK$58.9 million ($7.6 million)
Hammer Total vs. Presale Low Estimate Before Withdrawal: +HK$9.7 million ($1.2 million)
Hammer Total vs. Presale Low Estimate After Withdrawal: +HK$10.5 million ($1.3 million)
Lots With House Guarantees: 0
Lots with Third-Party Guarantees: 4
Total Low Estimate of Third-Party Guaranteed Lots: HK$35.8 million ($4.6 million) (60 percent of the total presale low estimate before withdrawal)
Top seller: Lot 6, Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Nets (GGF) (2017), a third-party guaranteed lot, sold for HK$16.7 million ($2 million) including fees. It hammered at HK$13.5 million ($1.7 million), below the fees-free presale estimate at HK$13.8 million to HK$18.8 million.
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