Christie’s Four-Hour, $192.6 Million Hong Kong Auction Bonanza Saw New Records Set for Amoako Boafo and Avery Singer
Bidders from London and New York drove up prices throughout the evening.
The autumn art auctions in Hong Kong continued on Wednesday with Christie’s 20th- and 21st-century art evening sales, which set 12 new artists’ records, including ones for Bernard Buffet, Yayoi Kusama, Françoise Gilot, Avery Singer, and Amoako Boafo.
The four-hour event was a combination of two sales. It started with a curated sale, “Worlds in a Hand,” which offered 19 lots bringing together some of the hottest names from both East and West across different eras. It was followed by a sale that featured 57 lots of international art. The sales drew a combined sell-through rate of 96 percent by lot.
Besides the emerging Western names that have been at the forefront of the global art market in recent years, the sales also succeeded in placing some Asian names in the spotlight as new records were set, reflecting a continuation of the Phillips and Poly Auction Hong Kong sales earlier in the week.
The sales totaled $192.6 million (including fees unless, otherwise stated; pre-sale estimates do not include those fees), within expectations and up more than 60 percent from the auction house’s autumn evening event last year, which brought in $119.3 million.
The evening sales, together with a white-glove 21st century art day sale and the 20th century day sale that took place on the following day on December 2, totalled $258.7 million—exceeding the higher end of pre-sale expectations of the four auctions at $249 million, with a combined sell-through rate of 97 percent, setting 24 artist auction records.
Christie’s said the combined results were the highest ever auction total for this category at the auction house in the region, giving a strong boost in its confidence in the Asia market ahead of an expansion of its Asia Pacific headquarters at a shiny new tower designed by Zaha Hadid Architects in 2024.
The Covid-19 pandemic has completely transformed how auction houses operate, and nearly a year on since their adaptation to the “new normal,” online and phone bidding have taken center stage. Although most of the lots went to phone bidders represented by the house’s Hong Kong office, some of the top lots went to those bidding through London or New York.
Among the works sold to phone bidders bidding through London was Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild 747-1 (1991), which sold for HK$140.4 million ($18 million), the second priciest lot of the evening, surpassing the result of a 1984 painting by the same artist achieved at the Phillips and Poly Auction sale the night before.
Another blue-chip piece that went through the U.K. was Homme au chapeau (1964) by Pablo Picasso, which fetched HK$52.6 million ($6.7 million). Both lots came with third-party price guarantees. Matthew Wong’s Yellow Brick Road (2018) sold to a phone bidder through New York for HK$29 million ($3.7 million).
But the night’s top lot went to Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Donut Revenge (1982), which sold for HK$163.3 million ($21 million) to a phone bidder represented by Eric Chang, Christie’s chair of modern and contemporary art in Hong Kong.
It was an eventful night for Chang, as he snapped up Kusama’s painting Pumpkin (LPASG) (2013) for HK$62.5 million ($8 million), setting a new auction record for the beloved Japanese artist. Her iconic sculpture Pumpkin (2017) also sold for HK$55.45 million ($7 million), a public record for any sculpture by Kusama. Chang secured that work as well on a client’s behalf.
He also won a colorful 2017 painting, It’s Not My Jungle I’m Just Living In It by American artist Shara Hughes, for HK$9.9 million ($1.26 million).
Although the sale did not set a new record for Hughes, who is now featured in a solo exhibition at the Yuz Museum in Shanghai, it is the second highest price achieved for the artist.
There were still some in-room bidding action throughout the evening. One bidder snapped up a 2018 work by Javier Calleja for HK$8 million ($1 million) as well as Picasso’s Buste d’homme (1969) for HK$24.3 million ($3 million).
Works by Asian 20th-century masters that previously dominated the market have not performed as well at this week’s sales.
Those that could find a new home were mostly sold within pre-sale expectations, unlike the feverish record-breaking prices such works fetched in the past.
One Sanyu work failed to find a buyer at the Phillips and Poly Auction sale the previous evening. A Chu Teh-chun painting could not find a buyer at Christie’s either. Nevertheless, the 1940s Sanyu painting Vase of Lilies with Red Ground still commanded a solid price of HK$100.3 million ($12.9 million), just about reaching the lower end of its pre-sale estimate after including fees. Works by Roy Lichtenstein and Liu Wei went unsold as well.
Amoako Boafo’s stunning Hands Up (2018) achieved a new artist record at HK$26.7 million ($3.4 million). After fierce bidding between Hong Kong and London, it eventually went to a phone bidder with the Hong Kong office. Avery Singer also got a new record with Untitled (Tuesday), which sold for HK$35 million ($4.5 million), beating a record that was set just in June at Phillips New York. Bernard Buffet’s Les clowns musiciens, le saxophoniste (1991) fetched HK$16.5 million ($2.1 million), a new record for the artist and a 40 percent return on investment since it was last sold in public at Christie’s London in 2016.
Among the Asian names that achieved new records were Huang Yuxing (born 1975), whose Seven Treasure Pines (2016–19) sold for a record HK$64.8 million ($8.3 million), more than 13 times the high end of its pre-sale estimate and more than seven times the previous record set for the artist in May at Christie’s Hong Kong.
The late Georgette Chen, who was associated with the Nanyang style artists, achieved a new record with Still Life (Mid Autumn Festival) (mid-1960s), which sold for HK$10 million ($1.3 million), nearly 20 percent up from her previous record, set in 2013.
The article was updated on December 2 to include the latest sales figures.
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