The Clean Air Auction, held on April 4 in the middle of Sotheby’s eight-day Hong Kong Spring Sales 2011, was the first of its kind, said Joanne Ooi, chief executive officer of the advocacy group Clean Air Network.
“This was a great opportunity to use a high-profile art event to educate people about how Hong Kong pollution is affecting our health,” said Ooi.
Hong Kong posted the highest levels of roadside pollution last year since the city started collecting readings in 1999, triggering government health warnings at least 12.6 percent of the time, according to Bloomberg calculations based on government data. Business leaders including the General Chamber of Commerce have said pollution is harming the city’s ability to recruit top executives.
About 25 percent of respondents to a survey published in December said smog has led them to consider leaving the city because of concerns over their health.
“I’ve been in Hong Kong since 1994 and seen Hong Kong go from blue skies to grey,” said Bobby Mohseni, director of art consultant MFA Asia Ltd., who paid HK$30,000 for a series of four silk embroideries on linen depicting decomposing plastic bottles, bags and paper. “We really need to take action.”
Among other items, a pair of diseased lungs made of fiberglass, rice and car paint sold for $140,000.
The funds raised through the sale of the 42 lots will be used to support the group’s research programs and activities to educate and mobilize the public about the health impact of air pollution, Ooi said.
“We’re not just concerned with selling art, we care about the environment,” Kevin Ching, chief executive officer of Sotheby’s Asia, said at the auction. “Looking out from our office we see massive grayness, which is quite depressing.”
Sotheby’s spring auctions in Hong Kong, which continue through April 8, include fine wines, Chinese contemporary art sales, traditional Chinese paintings, antiques, jewelry, watches and ceramics. The highlights are two private European collections: the Ullens sale on April 3, and the Meiyintang sale of ceramics, including an 18th-century Qing vase estimated at more than $23 million, on April 7.
Sotheby’s raised HK$648 million ($83 million) with fees yesterday on fine art, beating a hammer-price estimate of HK$150 million.
The top lot, “Spring Mountains in Sichuan” by Zhang Daqian, fetched HK$64.5 million, more than three times its estimate.
The HK$182 million sale of contemporary Asian art set a record for Zhang Xiaogang’s “Bloodline” series, at the equivalent of $7.2 million.
To contact the reporter on this story: Frederik Balfour in Hong Kong at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Mark Beech at email@example.com.