Christie’s Hong Kong Auction Week Kicks Off With a $204 Million Evening Sale, Led by Yet Another Blockbuster Basquiat

The wide-ranging sale was met with intense demand in Asia.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (One Eyed Man or Xerox Face) (1981). Image courtesy Christie's
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (One Eyed Man or Xerox Face) (1981). Image courtesy Christie's

Less than two weeks after the May auctions in New York marked a return to the usual blockbuster-packed season, Christie’s pulled off a similar feat in Hong Kong. Its evening sale of 20th- and 21st-century art pulled in a robust $204 million (HK$1.6 billion) and sold 97 percent of its 74 lots.

Another similarity to the auction house’s New York sale? A painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat was again the star. The artist’s Untitled (One Eyed Man or Xerox Face) (1982) sold for $30.2 million (HK$234.3 million) on an estimate of $18 million to $21.8 million.

The work’s trip back to the auction block was fairly short. It had just been sold at Sotheby’s London in 2017 for $14.6 million, according to the Artnet Price Database, meaning the previous owner roughly doubled their investment in just four years.

Zao Wou-ki, 24.01.63 (1963). Image courtesy Christie's.

Zao Wou-ki, 24.01.63 (1963). Image courtesy Christie’s.

Contemporary Chinese painters also had a strong evening as works by Zhang Daqian, Sanyu, and Zao Wou-ki took the next highest-priced slots.

Temple at the Mountain Peak by Zhang Daqian sold for just under $27 million (HK$209.1 million). Potted Chrysanthemums (circa 1950s) by Sanyu went for $15.3 million (HK$118.6 million), while Zao Wou-ki’s 24.1.63 (1963), a brilliant red abstract painting, sold for $9.8 million (HK$76.3 million). (That work also had a relatively recent auction track record, having sold at Christie’s Hong Kong in 2013, for just $3.6 million (HK$27.9 million), according to the Artnet Price Database.)

Amoako Boafa, Justine Mendy (2018). Image courtesy Christie's.

Amoako Boafa, Justine Mendy (2018). Image courtesy Christie’s.

The sale encapsulated a wide range of offerings, including high-priced works by artists as diverse in appeal as Adrian Ghenie, Pablo Picasso, Yoshitomo Nara, and Banksy. Ghenie’s The Collector I (2008), sold for $8.5 million (HK$65.9 million), while a 1968 Picasso oil painting, Nu couché à la libellule, went for $8 million (HK$62,540,000). One of Nara’s signature portraits of a little girl with huge eyes and an oversized head, Untitled (2007), sold for just under $7 million (HK$54.2 million). It was last auctioned in 2016, at Sotheby’s Hong Kong for $1.9 million (HK$14.4 million).

The sale total was a “landmark result,” said Christie’s vice president and head of the evening sale in Asia, Jacky Ho. “It was thrilling to see passionate bidding from across the globe take center stage in Hong Kong,” he said, “marking the importance of the city in ushering a new boundary-breaking era that will re-define the art market for years to come.”

The sale set auction records for a number of artists, including Avery Singer, Ronald Ventura, Christine Ay Tjoe, Loie Hollowell, MADSAKI,  Huang Yuxing, Kim Tschang-Yeul, Yeung Tong Lung, Izumi Kato, Chen Fei, and Kohei Nawa.

Yoshitomo Nara, Untitled (2007). Image courtesy Christie's.

Yoshitomo Nara, Untitled (2007). Image courtesy Christie’s.

Other notable results for younger artists included Julie Curtiss’s painting Triplette (Triplet) (2019), which sold for $305,000 (HK$2.4 million), and Genieve Figgis’s Evening Portrait (2019), which sold for $209,000 (HK$1.6 million). Meanwhile, market darling Amoako Boafa’s portrait Justine Mendy (2018) also outperformed expectations when it sold for $1.1 million (HK$8.8 million), against an estimate of ($100,000 to $190,000).

It’s not just fine arts that are hitting new highs as the market in Asia roars back to life. Prior to last night’s evening sale, Christie’s reported record results for luxury goods, including day and evening watch sales, which realized $34.8 million (HK$269 million).

Christie’s Hong Kong week continues with sales of more 20th and 21st century art, Chinese art, wine, watches, and handbags in the coming days.


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