Christie’s Will Launch a New Hong Kong Auction to Coincide With Art Basel, Undeterred by Ongoing Protests

The contemporary art sale will coincide with Art Basel Hong Kong in March.

Christie's Auction preview exhibition in May 2012 in Hong Kong, China. Photo by Sunbeamprowce, courtesy Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong have rocked the city and created some anxiety among exhibitors headed to the city’s edition of Art Basel in March. But so far, the art market itself remains undeterred. In fact, Christie’s is doubling down in the region.

The auction house has announced it will hold a new evening sale of 20th century and contemporary art in Hong Kong on March 19. The new sale, which coincides with Art Basel Hong Kong’s eighth edition, will become the third major Hong Kong event in Christie’s calendar, joining the company’s autumn and spring sales weeks, held in November and May.

“Building on Christie’s past successes in developing the market for Western art and setting numerous auctions records in both our Hong Kong and Shanghai auctions, we feel that this is the perfect moment to be unveiling a fresh new sale concept in March,” Francis Belin, President of Christie’s Asia Pacific, said in a statement. (The sale precedes Sotheby’s own contemporary art sale in Hong Kong, typically held in early April.) 

Belin said that piggybacking off of ABHK, which drew a staggering 88,000 people this year, would increase the “depth and breadth” of the company’s audience. He noted that the sale would cater to clients who are “are increasingly collecting across categories and geographical borders.” 

Art Basel in Hong Kong, 2018. © Art Basel.

Despite speculation that fewer galleries would participate in this year’s edition, ABHK has revealed a lengthy exhibitor list for 2020, with only a few notable absentees, including Galerie König, Galerie Gmurzynska, and Goodman Gallery. The fair is also offering support to participating dealers in the form of discounts on booth fixtures, meals at local restaurants, and shipping.

Christie’s does not currently plan to offer its consignors support with insurance or shipping, the auction house confirmed, hoping the promise of big-time sales will provide enough of a lure. Recent history would say it’s a safe bet. 

Christie’s fall sales in Hong Kong posted strong numbers, undeterred by the protests that have flooded the region since this summer. Even with many buyers opting to bid remotely rather than attend in person, the sales brought in a total of $336 million across five days. Buoyed by the $11.9 million sale of a Yoshitomo Nara painting, the auction house’s 20th century and contemporary art evening sale on November 23 netted $137 million alone—a Hong Kong record for the company. 

“Serious collecting is a long-term play,” Belin told the Art Newspaper, referring to the impact of the protests on the market. “Seasoned buyers and sellers look beyond short-term fluctuations.”

Highlights from the sale have not yet been revealed. A representative from the auction house anticipates that the first works will be announced in January. 

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