Christie’s Hong Kong sale beats expectations with $184 million gain that set 11 new records for market stars

It must be a sign of the new reality we live in that no one batted an eyelid as a major Christie’s evening auction was broadcast live around the world from Hong Kong today. Telephone banking specialists in London and those operating in the wee hours of the morning in New York, jumped in and out of competition for lots on offer in the 20th/21st century art sale, alongside bidders in the room in Hong Kong, as well as those online and on phones.

Along the same lines, just a few years ago it would have been hard to imagine an auctioneer announcing before the sale that cryptocurrency would be accepted for certain lots “unless the buyer is in Mainland China”, not to mention bidding high. on the auction house‘s “LIVE” online platform, from locations ranging from Michigan to Panama.

But such is the new post-pandemic reality, where big evening sales are now a mix of IRL and virtual thanks to the technology that major auction houses have fully embraced over the last couple of years or so, to be able to organize their seasonal sales in the face of sporadic closures.

Tonight also marked the debut on the auction stage for Liang-Lin Chen, the specialist and head of sales for Hong Kong, since CEO Elaine Kwok left the company earlier this year. Chen did a deft and impressive job navigating the auctions as they poured in both from the immediate saleroom and from around the world.

The total for the evening sale was HK$1.4 billion ($184 million), which exceeded low expectations. Of 59 lots offered (three were withdrawn), 55, or 93%, were sold.

The sale followed a pattern somewhat similar to that seen at recent New York auctions where bidding took off and was often frothy for the work of promising young artists at more moderate price points. This was reflected in 11 new auction records for artists such as Hernan Bas and Zhang Enli, as well as Scott Kahn, Firenze Lai, Ayako Rokkaku and Rhee Seundja.

Pie Fight Interior 12 (2014). Image courtesy of Christie’s.” width=”1024″ height=”829″ srcset=”×829. jpg 1024w,×243.jpg 300w, 05/CHK-Ghenie-50×40.jpg 50w, 1500w” sizes=”(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px”/>

Adrian Ghenie, Interior Pie Fight 12 (2014). Image courtesy of Christie’s.

Notably, a new record was set for market star Romanian artist Adrian Ghenie at HK$81 million ($10.3 million) for Interior Pie Fight 12 (2014). He was picked up after a few offers by Alex Rotter, Christie’s chair of 20th and 21st century art, bidding from New York for a client. Ghenie’s previous record is just over a week old, set on May 19 when degenerate art (2016) sold for $9.3 million at Sotheby’s New York.

But when it came time for other trophy work, in the tens of millions, bidding was often tight and thin, with major works hovering around the low estimate and falling under the hammer after just a few bids. Monet’s painting Weeping willow (1918-1919), with a weak estimated at HK$95 million ($12 million), failed to even approach that level at auction and was one of the casualties of the night.

Zao Wou-ki 2.09.64 (1964).  Image courtesy of Christie's.

Zao Wou-ki 2.09.64 (1964). Image courtesy of Christie’s.

Of the lots on offer, 20 – or about a third – carried warranties, so they would sell no matter what. These included the auction’s flagship lot, a large work by Franco-Chinese star painter Zao Wou-ki. 29.09.64. (1964), which sold for HK$278 million ($35.4 million). As always, a round trip to the auction block gives an indication of demand for a particular work or artist. This artwork was last sold in 2017 by Christie’s, when it fetched HK$152.9 million ($19.6 million), according to the Artnet price database.

Christie’s auctioneer Georgina Hilton at the May 26 evening sale in Hong Kong. Image courtesy of Christie’s.

The second highest prize of the evening was another set of trophies, that of Pablo Picasso Bust of a man in a frame (1969), which came from the estate of Sean Connery. Auctioneer Georgina Hilton, who spoke halfway through the sale – and wore a smart white jacket and bow tie – joked that it belonged to the former James Bond star: “Now , I hope my outfit makes sense to you all.” She opened the auction at HK$100 million ($12.7 million) and it was quickly turned over to a telephone banking specialist in the room for a premium price of HK$174.95 million. Kong ($22.3 million).

The next best result was for sought-after Japanese mega-star Yoshitomo Nara, when Wish for world peace (2014), a close-up portrait of one of his iconic baby girls with huge eyes, sold for HK$97 million ($12.4 million). The artwork, which was guaranteed, last appeared at auction in 2016, when it sold for $2.3 million, according to the Artnet price database.

Pablo Picasso, Bust of a Man (1969).  Image courtesy of Christie's.

Pablo Picasso, bust of a man (1969). Image courtesy of Christie’s.

One of David Hockney’s most recent brightly colored landscape works, the hexagonal shape Nichols Canyon III (2017), which was also guaranteed, took in HK$94.8 million ($12 million).

With the Ghenie record, another work by the artist, Self-portrait in 1945 (2014) attracted the interest of specialists in Hong Kong, as well as London, but still fell below the low estimate when it sold for HK$10.65 million (1, 35 million dollars), bonus included.

The sale kicked off with fashionable names, like Hilary Pecis, whose calm, skillfully rendered interiors won acclaim. Big boy (2020), surpassed its high estimate of HK$2 million ($255,000), to sell for HK$9.2 million ($1.1 million). At least five bidders sued him.

And that of André Butzer Untitled (2020), featuring its own iconic characters with large cartoonish eyes on a neon pink background, also sparked intense competition from at least seven bidders. Chen noted that the aforementioned online bids came from Michigan and Panama, though they ultimately lost out to intense competition from a Christie’s specialist in Hong Kong who made a bid for his client and won. for a bounty of HK$3.3 million ($417,000).

David Hockney, Nicholls Canyon III (2017).  Image courtesy of Christie's.

David Hockney, Nicholls Canyon III (2017). Image courtesy of Christie’s.

It was another victory for a painting by the late African-American artist Ernie Barnes, whose works have recently gained attention. Listen ! (1980) showing a group of people with elongated limbs in a jubilant dance, cost HK$7.6 million ($963,000). It is now the third highest auction result for the artist after his work first crossed the $1 million mark twice in the last week alone.

But the last offer of the evening, an NFT (non-fungible token) from Japanese star Takashi Murakami, which was added at the end of the sale as a standalone bundle, proved disappointing. bid on CloneX #4346 (hit Dec 12, 2021), by creators listed as “Clone X – X TAKASHI MURAKAMI by RTFKT Inc” met with lackluster bidding that came nowhere near HK$5 million ($637,000), and the lot was declared unsold.

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Laura J. Boyer