Hot Lots: 5 Female Artists Art Buyers Adored at Hong Kong’s Autumn Day Sales

Works by emerging women artists from Asia and the west achieved auction prices well above the presale estimates.

Ann Craven, Baby Cordon Bleu (1997). Courtesy of Phillips.

Following the recent trends seen in New York’s auction week and at Art Basel Miami Beach, the marquee autumn art sales in Hong Kong last week had several high-value works by blue-chip names that were either withdrawn from auction or went unsold. Modestly priced works and works by emerging names fresh to the market were instead the most appealing to buyers at the evening and day sales held in the city by Christie’s and Phillips last week.

Christie’s had three day sales on December 1, following an evening sale that concluded with a noticeably lower total compared to its previous auction seasons over the past year.

Its sale of works from Marc Chagall’s estate, part II of which began in London, totaled HK$74.4 million ($9.6 million, all sale prices include buyers’ fees unless otherwise stated; presale estimates do not), with all the 20 lots sold and nearly double the higher end of the presale expectations. The 20th century art day sale totaled HK$146.8 million ($18.9 million), very close to the higher end of the presale estimates. And the 21st century art day sale achieved HK$192.7 million ($24.8 million), nearly 20 percent above the higher estimate and with more than 90 percent of the works sold.

Phillips, which debuted its partnership with Beijing’s Yongle auction house this season, achieved HK$88.7 million ($11.4 million) at its 20th century and contemporary art and design day sale on November 30, well within the presale estimate and with 84 percent of the 152 lots offered selling through.

Women artists in particular seem to have caught buyers’s eyes this season. Here are some  highlights from the sales.


Sarah Slappey (b. 1984)

Pink and Green Pearls (2020)

Sarah Slappey_Pink and Green Pearls

Sarah Slappey, Pink and Green Pearls (2020). Courtesy of Christie’s.

Auction: Christie’s Hong Kong 21st Century Art Day Sale, December 1, 2022

Estimates: HK$80,000 to HK$120,000 ($10,284 to $15,427)

Sold for: HK$604,800 ($77,759)

Calling the South Carolina-born, Brooklyn-based artist a rising star in the art market is no exaggeration. Prices of her sleek paintings characterized by long-fingered hands and sensual tangles of limbs have been on an upward trend over the past year. Of her nine auction entries in Artnet Price Database, seven of them, including two lithographs, were achieved this year. An artist record of HK$1 million ($129,599) was set at Phillips’ Hong Kong evening sale held on the same night, just hours after this 2020 painting sold for nearly five times its high estimate.

“Slappey’s appealing and absurd aesthetic visual language made her work stand out during the preview,” said Sihan Hu, associate specialist 20/21 Asia at Christie’s. Her popularity at the Hong Kong sales indicated a strong interest among collectors for works that draw on the female body and self-care, Hu noted.


Camilla Engström (b. 1989)

Love Tastes Delicious (2020)

Camilla Engström, <i>Love Tastes Delicious</i> (2020). Courtesy of Christie's.

Camilla Engström, Love Tastes Delicious (2020). Courtesy of Christie’s.

Auction: Christie’s Hong Kong 21st Century Art Day Sale, December 1, 2022

Estimates: HK$80,000 to HK$120,000 ($10,284 to $15,427)

Sold for: HK$567,000 ($72,899)

The sale of this whimsical and somewhat sexual 2020 painting by the 1989-born Engström became her first entry in the Artnet Price Database. The career of this Swedish-born artist, who divides her time between Los Angeles and Stockholm, can be traced back to 2016, when she began to appear in group shows in New York and published her illustrations in A Book of Dicks.

Since then the artist has been shown at Over the Influence gallery in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and Bangkok, König Galerie in Berlin, and Swedish dealer Carl Kostyál’s gallery in Stockholm. She is also a social media celebrity, with a verified profile on Instagram boasting more than 118,000 followers. Love Tastes Delicious, which was last shown in a 2020 exhibition at L.A.’s Over the Influence, achieved nearly five times its high estimate at the Hong Kong auctions.

“Camilla Engström is another young female artist we brought to Hong Kong for the very first time,” Hu said. “Engström’s art questions the cult of the self and combines the female body with mother nature. It is extremely hard to access her works in the primary market; therefore, we expected this work to encourage some competitive bidding but the final result was beyond our expectations.”


Christine Ay Tjoe (b. 1973)

Stars from the Black Idea (2012)

Christine Ay Tjone, <i>Stars From the Black Idea</i> (2012). Courtesy of Christie's.

Christine Ay Tjone, Stars From the Black Idea (2012). Courtesy of Christie’s.

Auction: Christie’s Hong Kong 21st Century Art Day Sale, December 1, 2022

Estimates: HK$1 million to HK$2 million ($128,562 to $257,124)

Sold for: HK$6,048,000 ($777,597)

The Indonesian artist’s abstract paintings have been earning greater recognition in the market in recent years. Her 2016 work, The Highest Prayer 01, sold for HK$10.3 million at Christie’s evening sale after a fierce bidding competition. Although it went for nearly five times the higher end of the presale estimate, it did not break the artist’s auction record, which was also set at Christie’s Hong Kong in May 2021.

In this year’s day sales, this 2012 painting achieved a result three times above its high estimate. “Christine Ay Tjoe is undoubtedly an iconic representative of the new generation of Southeast Asian female artists,” Hu noted. “She focuses on human philosophy with impactful and painterly brushstrokes, giving contemporary abstract paintings a strong placement in the art market.”


Mayuka Yamamoto (b. 1964) 

White dog boy (2018)

Mayuka Yamamoto, <i>White dog boy</i> (2018). Courtesy of Phillips.

Mayuka Yamamoto, White dog boy (2018). Courtesy of Phillips.

Auction: Phillips Hong Kong 20th Century and Contemporary Art and Design Day Sale in association with Yongle, November 30, 2022.

Estimate: HK$400,000 to HK$600,000 ($51,300 to $76,900)

Sold for: HK$1,386,000 ($178,117)

This 2018 painting depicting an enigmatic-looking boy in a white dog hat is a signature image by the Japanese female artist who, according to Danielle So, head of the day sale at Phillips Hong Kong, is “very representative of the ‘ultra-contemporary art’ movement.”

“Her paintings portray children in animal suits or possess animal features to reveal their inner world,” So told Artnet News. “Similarly to Yoshitomo Nara, her figures take on this persona that’s somewhat like a protective armor in response to their emotions and psychological state.”

The work went under the hammer for HK$1.1 million ($141,405), nearly double the higher end of its estimate, after a heated bidding war among several phone buyers and a lady bidding in the sale room. It was eventually sold to the in-room bidder for nearly HK$1.4 million, making it Yamamoto’s third-priciest work sold at auctions, according to Artnet Price Database. Her other work, Penguin Boy (2019), sold for HK$1.6 million ($210,599) at Christie’s Hong Kong art day sale on December 1, but still did not manage to break the artist’s record of $281,740, set at Taiwan’s Ravenal in 2021.


Ann Craven (b. 1967)

Baby Cordon Bleu, 1997 (1997)

Ann Craven, <i>Baby Cordon Bleu</i> (1997). Courtesy of Phillips.

Ann Craven, Baby Cordon Bleu (1997). Courtesy of Phillips.

Auction: Phillips Hong Kong 20th Century and Contemporary Art and Design Day Sale in association with Yongle, November 30, 2022.

Estimates: HK$90,000-120,000

Sold for: HK$693,000 ($89,085)

Prices for the New York-based artist appear to be going up since an auction record of $680,000 set in May, at Christie’s New York sale of the collection of former Swiss dealers and connoisseurs Thomas and Doris Ammann. Several of the artist’s other top prices recorded in the Artnet Price Database have all been achieved since then, including this lot, which sold for $89,085, the fourth-highest price achieved for the artist.

Craven’s work, which references photo-realism and plein air painting, were recently featured in the New England Triennial 2022 held at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, and are already held in public collections including New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Whitney Museum. But for collectors, her painting are “increasingly difficult to get in the primary market,” according to So, who added: “Her works are easily digestible and for viewers to look upon beauty, especially that of nature, is soothing to the mind.”

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