Sotheby's Hong Kong Fireworks

Modern & Contemporary Sales Surprise to Upside in Hong Kong; Christie's Went to Chicago to Bring Kerry James Marshall to Market

Hsiao Chin, La Proiezione Dell’Universo-3 (700-1.5m HKD) 5.16m HKD

Hong Kong's Harbor exploded with fireworks on Monday to celebrate National Day, the pyrotechnics could have easily been in recognition of Sotheby's sales of Modern and Contemporary art over the weekend.

Over a series of five sales on Sunday and Monday in Hong Kong, Sotheby’s generated $232.5m in sales for Modern and Contemporary art. The five sales were a mix of Asian, Southeast Asian and European art demonstrating the broad appetite for global art in the region. The results are punctuated by a number of lots bid well over their high estimates.

Richard Lin Painting Relief 12.12.63 (3.8 — 5.8m)  9,120,000 HKD 

The flagship Sunday night Modern Art Evening sale brought in HKD 1.1bn ($141m) led by the HKD 510m ($65m) sale of Zao Wou-ki’s massive Juin-Octobre 1985. Among the top five lots was a Pablo Picasso, Buste d’Homme Lauré that made $7.8m toward the low end of the estimate range and showing some of the appeal of Western artists in the region. The top lots were dominated by familiar Chinese blue-chip names like Zao Wou-ki, Sanyu, and Chu Teh-Chun. A record price was set for Anglo-Chinese artist Richard Lin at $1.165m. Hsiao Chin’s La Proiezione dell’Universo-3 was bid to three times the high estimate to make $659k.

George Condo, The Aztec Cosmologist HKD 19.3m ($2.47m)

The Contemporary art evening sale also made strong prices totaling HKD 455m ($58m) with Joan Mitchell’s Syrtis leading the sale with a low estimate HKD 56m ($7m) result. Among the Contemporary lots that exceeded expectations were Liu Ye’s Red No. 3 at HKD21.7m or more than twice the high estimate. George Condo’s The Aztec Cosmologist was bid up to be among the artist’s top five prices when it sold for HKD 19.3m ($2.47m). Finally, Kaws’s Companion (Resting Place) made a very strong HKD 6.7m ($859k). Other Chinese painters with strong results were Wang Xingwei, Yu Youhan, and Hao Liang. Southeast Asian painters like Ronald Ventura posted strong sales too.

Le Pho, Gathering Flowers (300 - 500k HKD) 1,750,000 HKD 

In the dedicated Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian art sale, there were even more surprises. The total was HKD 62m ($7.9m) but only one of the top 20 lots did not greatly exceed the high estimates often doubling or tripling them. Artists Isaac Israels, Le Pho, Hendra Gunawan, Affandi, Fernando Cueto Amorsolo, and Brian Uhing were among the outperforming names.

Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkin (2-3m HKD) 5.4m HKD

The Contemporary art day sale was 100% sold with HKD 114.33m ($14.6m) in total led by works from Yayoi Kusama, Sam Francis, Yoshitomo Nara, Banksy, and Antony Gormley.

Christie’s Lands a Big Kerry James Marshall in Chicago

There’s a nice detail in Bloomberg’s report about the City of Chicago selling its Kerry James Marshall work Knowledge and Wonder that had been commissioned for the Legler Branch Library in 1995. The work will be featured in November’s Post-War and Contemporary art sale with a $10-15m estimate. Katya Kazakina adds this about how the deal came to be:

  • “Christie’s contacted the city about the painting three weeks ago, offering an attractive estimate, [Mayor Rahm] Emanuel said. Part of the proceeds will be used to transform the library, which had housed the painting for more than two decades, into a regional branch.”

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