Phillips and Poly Auctions Rake in $86 Million in Their Latest Joint Sales in Hong Kong, Signaling a Big Boost From Last Year

The sales introduced a group of new Western artists into the secondary auction market in Hong Kong.

Phillips auctioneer Jonathan Crokett selling Gerhard Richter's Kerzenschein (Candle-light) at the Phillips and Poly Auction evening sale in Hong Kong in November 2021. Courtesy of Phillips.
Phillips auctioneer Jonathan Crokett selling Gerhard Richter's Kerzenschein (Candle-light) at the Phillips and Poly Auction evening sale in Hong Kong in November 2021. Courtesy of Phillips.

Works by emerging artists set records yet again at Phillips’ and Poly Auction’s joint Hong Kong sales this week, but this time, it wasn’t just Western names making headlines.

Asian artists are also in the spotlight this time, rubbing shoulders with blue-chip masters such as Gerhard Richter, Alexander Calder, and Claude Monet.

The 20th century and contemporary art and design sales (held on Monday and Tuesday) totaled HK$670 million ($86 million), a slight dip from June’s white-glove sales, which totaled HK$702 million ($90.4 million).

But it was still more than a 67 percent jump from a year ago, when Phillips partnered with China’s biggest state-owned auction house for the first time.

This week’s sales saw a record 1,100 global participants from 45 countries across Phillips’ bidding platforms alone, including those through the auction house’s London, New York, Hong Kong, and Beijing offices, as well as online bidders from Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, and Barbados (which has just parted ways with the Queen and become a republic).

The momentum was a stark contrast to Hong Kong’s stock market slump, which fell for three days straight to a 14-month low amid fears over the Omicron coronavirus variant and the sell out of Macau casino stocks following the high-profile arrest of gambling junket king Alvin Chau.

Tuesday’s evening sale included 52 lots (six others were withdrawn before the sale) and totaled HK$454.6 million ($58 million), exceeding pre-sale expectations. Five lots had guarantees. The entire session lasted for three hours, with phone bidders dialing in through the Beijing offices appearing to be indecisive at times.

Gerhard Richter, <i>Kerzenschein (Candle-light)</>. Courtesy of Phillips.

Gerhard Richter, Kerzenschein (Candle-light)</>. Courtesy of Phillips.

Leading the sale was Richter’s abstract work Kerzenschein (Candle-light) (1984), which sold for HK$102 million ($13 million), nearly 35 percent above its pre-sale expectations. (All final prices include fees unless otherwise noted; pre-sale estimates do not include those fees).

It was followed by Yayoi Kusama’s 2004 pink painting INFINITY-NETS (OPRT), which fetched HK$22.6 million ($2.9 million). Twentieth-century Asian master Zao Wou-ki’s abstract 20.3.64 (1964), making its first appearance on the market since 1998, was the third top lot of the sales, bringing in HK$22 million ($2.8 million). Far Away Eyes, a 2017 painting by the late Matthew Wong, came fourth with HK$21 million ($2.7 million).

Other big works in the top 10 in the evening sale include Calder’s mobile sculpture Two Red Petals in the Air (1958) (HK$20 million/$2.67 million) and Monet’s 1883 painting Pavots dans un vase de Chine, which went for HK$13.6 million ($1.7 million) to an online bidder from Thailand. David Hockney’s Bridlington Violets from 1989 fetched HK$12.4 million ($1.58 million).

Not all the big names fared well, however. Paysage Aux Hirondelles (circa 1931, estimated to sell for between $3.5 million and $5.9 million) by Sanyu, another 20th-century artist who has dominated Asia’s market for a long time, went unsold.

So did George Condo’s Entangled Figures (2009), although his more colorful piece, The Dreamer (2008), sold for HK$11 million ($1.4 million). (Shanghai’s Long Museum has just concluded a solo show of Condo. Works by Hernan Bas and Shara Hughes, who were also featured in museum shows in Shanghai, also sold for prices that doubled presale estimates.)

Izumi Kato, <i>Untitled</i>. Courtesy of Phillips.

Izumi Kato, Untitled. Courtesy of Phillips.

Phillips has also done again what it does best: introduce new names to the secondary market. A total of 15 new artist records were set over two days, including those featured in a new series called “Ultra/Neo,” which focuses on “a new generation of ultra-contemporary Asian artists,” according to Jonathan Crockett, chairman of Phillips in Asia and the helmer of Tuesday’s evening sale.

The most eye-catching names of the two-day sales were Japanese artists Izumi Kato (born 1969) and Susumu Kamijo (born 1975). Works by the two artists set new records for their markets.

Kato’s enigmatic triptych Untitled (2008) sold for HK$11.7 million ($1.5 million), nearly doubling presale expectations. The U.S.-based Kamijo’s Marching To The Sun (2020) brought in HK$2 million ($274,604), nearly four times its estimate.

Ayako Rokkaku’s cute painting Untitled ARP 07-013 (2007) sold for HK$6.3 million ($807,660), a new record for the artist and double the pre-sale estimate. Meanwhile, Spanish artist Javier Calleja also achieved a new auction record with 30 works: Untitled (2017), which sold for HK$12 million ($1.5 million).

Scott Kahn, <i>Cadman Plaza</i>. Courtesy of Phillips.

Scott Kahn, Cadman Plaza. Courtesy of Phillips.

Phillips also introduced several Western names to the secondary market in Hong Kong, including Polish artist Ewa Juszkiewicz, whose painting, Appropriation (2018), sold for HK$1.89 million ($242,409), more than doubling its pre-sale expectations.

Blue Ancestor (2019) by Tunji Adeniyi-Jones, who just opened a solo show at White Cube in London, sold for HK$1 million ($128,259), more than 50 percent up from its presale estimate.

And South African painter Cinga Samson’s Ivory V (2018) sold for HK$2.5 million ($320,642), more than six times its estimate. Scott Kahn’s 2002 painting Cadman Plaza sold for HK$7.5 million ($962,782), more than seven times its estimate and nearly 2,000 times the $500 hammer price record that was set for the work in April 2017.

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