Sotheby’s Hong Kong Rakes in $110 Million from Modern and Contemporary Asian Art

Several new records were set at the Easter Weekend auctions.

Hendra Gunawan “Pandawa Dadu (The Dice Game from the Mahabharata Epic)” (1971) achieved HK$26.4 million / US$3.39 million, setting a new auction record for the artist. Image courtesy of Sotheby's HK.

Hendra Gunawan Pandawa Dadu (The Dice Game from the Mahabharata Epic) (1971) achieved HK$26.4 million (US$3.39 million) setting a new auction record for the artist.
Image courtesy of Sotheby’s HK.

Sotheby’s Hong Kong raked in HK$863.5 million (US$110.7 million) from their recent Modern and Contemporary Asian Art evening sale, Modern Asian Art day sale, Contemporary Asian Art day sale, and Modern & Contemporary Southeast Asian Art day sale.

The auction giant’s Spring 2015 Hong Kong sales series continued during the long Easter weekend, with sales of watches, ancient porcelain and artifacts taking place today.

More than Double the Estimate for Wu Guanzhong

Modern Chinese works led the art sales with the late master Wu Guanzhong in the spotlight. His Plum Blossoms (1973) became the top lot when it sold for HK$66.8 million (US$8.6 million) to an Asian collector at an April 4 evening sale.

The painting was part of a specially-curated group of Wu’s works titled “Nature Through the Eyes of Wu Guanzhong” which showcased six masterpieces sourced from different collections in Asia and Europe. The selection alone brought in a total of HK$157 million (US$20.1 million) at more than double the pre-sale estimate.

Wu’s earlier works drew particularly high prices, with Lotus Flowers (1973) selling for HK$34.3 million (US$ 4.4 million) to an American private collector.

Less Blockbusters, More New Records

The April 4 evening sale totaled HK$603 million (US$ 77.3 million) with 82.6 percent of the 69 lots sold. This is compared to the sale at the same time last year that achieved HK$670 million (US$85.9 million) with 92.7 percent of the 55 lots sold. Notably missing from this year are blockbuster contemporary Chinese works such as the Bloodline: Big Family No. 3 (1995) by Zhang Xiaogang that buoyed last year’s results.

Nonetheless, nine artists established new auction records at the evening sale, including Hendra Gunawan whose work Pandawa Dadu (The Dice Game from the Mahabharata Epic) (1971) achieved HK$26.4 million (US$3.39 million), and Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merprès for Dancers which sold for HK$20.4 million (US$2.6 million). The painting came from the collection of the late Professor Arthur Lim.

Kevin Ching, CEO of Sotheby’s Asia concluded, “Blue-chip, 20th Century works fresh to the market dominated the evening sale, which presented many opportunities for both new and established collectors.”

This was also the case with works by Zao Wou-Ki which remain popular as ever, with 07.04.61 (1961) fetching the second highest price tag of the weekend at HK$55.64 million (US$7.133 million).

Wu Guanzhong “Plum Blossoms”  (1973) sold for HK$66.8 million/ US$8.6 million to an Asian collector becoming the top art lot at Sotheby's Hong Kong this Spring. Image courtesy Sotheby's HK.

Wu Guanzhong Plum Blossoms (1973) sold for HK$66.8 million (US$8.6 million) to an Asian collector, becoming the top art lot at Sotheby’s Hong Kong this Spring.
Image courtesy Sotheby’s HK.

At an April 5 day sale of modern Chinese works, collector appetite continued to grow, buying a total of HK$84 million (US$10 million) worth of works. The painting 16.05.59 (1959) by Zao Wou-Ki outshone the rest of the lots, fetching HK$12 million (US$1.5 million).

Jiang Guofang’s relatively recent triptych Dream of Spring in March (2008) achieved the second highest price at the day sale with the hammer going down at HK$7.28 million (US$933,000).

A special selection of 14 exceptional works by T’ang Haywen, one of the early modernizers of Chinese ink art, was all snapped up, with the highest price achieved by Untitled, a 70 x 100 cm diptych that sold for HK$600,000, five times its pre-sale high estimate.

Southeast Asian Works Performed Exceptionally Well

Southeast Asian works prove to be sought after still, with Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merprès works on a roll. After de Merprès’ Dancers established a new records on April 4, his Tahitiennes au Bord de la Rivière (Tahitian Women at the Riverfront) (1932) fetched the highest price at an April 5 day sale dedicated to Southeast Asian art. The oil on canvas work sold for HK$4.64 million (US$594,000). At the same sale, Lee Man Fong’s Boy with Flute on a Buffalo (1951) sold for HK$4.16 million (US$533,000).

Leading an April 5 Contemporary Asian Art day sale was Zeng Fanzhi’s oil on canvas Portrait (2005), which fetched HK$4.88 million (US$625,000). Chinese artist Liu Wei also performed will with Purple Air (2007) and Revolutionary Family Series (1991) selling for HK$3.68 million (US$471,000) and HK$3.08 million (US$394,000 respectively).


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