Hong Kong’s Spring sales were a success with Christie’s posting a total of $364 million from its May sales (which contained a small percentage of non-Fine Art lots) including $59.2 million from its prestige Modern & Contemporary Art evening sale on 28 May 2016. Overall, the sales reflect an optimistic mood with particularly low unsold rates and a strong show of buyer confidence!
Christie’s buyers were predominantly Asian, acquiring 70% of the lots sold and adding to the market values of ZAO Wou-Ki (with a result above $9 million) and other artists like Cesar LEGASPI (Philippines), Hyong-Keun YUN (Korea), Seund Ja RHEE (Korea), LALAN (China) and Yasuo SUMI (Japan) who all reached new auction highs. On 29 May, Christie’s Modern & Contemporary Art day sale (with equally prestigious signatures as the night before, but with a less up-market selection of works) was also very well received with 90% of the lots sold and particularly strong bidding for Zao wou-ki and Chu Teh-Chun, China’s two leading 20th century abstract artists, and for the Japanese artist Yoshitomo NARA, whose For Citizen no less than tripled its estimates, fetching $1 million.
Although Yoshitomo Nara was not the most expensive artist in these recent sales, he acted as a good indicator of the high level of confidence in the Asian market. Firstly, because he’s a Contemporary artist whose prices will be, a priori, more volatile than those of early-20th century artists, and secondly because his star lot in the prestige sale of 28 May, Banging the Drum, fetched $770,000 in 2014 in London. In most cases, a rapid resale after just two years would be considered risky; however, on the back of strong demand, Nara’s price index has inflated by 60% since 2014 and it propelled Banging the Drum to above the million-dollar line on 28 May.
Nevertheless, the undisputed star of the Hong Kong sales was clearly the Franco-Chinese artist Zao Wou-Ki with Christie’s selling no less than 16 works by the artist in two days. These works ranged from lithographs available for $6,000 – $10,000, to one of his early canvases (Untitled (Vert émeraude) which clearly showed the influence of Paul Klee and fetched $9.1 million. Christie’s was particularly pleased with the result as Sotheby’s has so far generated all of Zao’s best results. An emblematic work from a turning point in Zao’s career, Untitled (emerald green) generated the artist’s fourth best-ever Hong Kong result. Since 2000 his price index has risen by 1000% and his prices are still rising on the back of strong international demand.
In the wake of Zao Wou-ki, Chu Teh-Chun’s results also confirmed the impressive momentum driving 20th century Franco-Chinese artists. CHU Teh-Chun, – whose price index shows a massive 1,600% increase since 2000 – has just crossed the $5 million threshold for the sixth time in his auction history…