A $160,000 crystal chandelier that pulses in time with Mick Jagger singing “Gimme Shelter,” a $5.5 million Tibetan Buddha and a rare Patek Philippe watch go on sale this week, as Hong Kong kicks off its fall art season.
Auctions by Sotheby’s and Beijing-based China Guardian Auctions Co., together with the four-day Fine Art Asia fair, which opens to the public today, include almost $500 million worth of paintings, jewelry, watches, furniture, and ceramics.
Timed to coincide with China’s “Golden Week” holiday, the events will provide a good barometer of Chinese appetite for luxury items as the mainland faces slowing growth and a credit crunch.
“Some of the big buyers from China seem to be slowing down a bit because they can no longer be reliant on buying with borrowed money,” said Maria Kiang, a dealer who sells Chinese scholars’ objects from the 12th to 18th century with a booth at Fine Art Asia. “What you see are the more long-term collectors who actually appreciate the pieces rather than seeing the items as a mere commodity.”
The highlights of the Sotheby’s five-day sale beginning tomorrow include a pair of famille-rose, double-gourd vases from the Qianlong era carrying a presale high estimate of $7.7 million, a 9.08 carat Pigeon’s Blood Burmese ruby and diamond ring for $4.9 million and a Patek Philippe double-dialed wristwatch with a $1.54 million high estimate.
VIP buyers yesterday were previewing more than 6,000 art pieces from more than 90 exhibitors at Fine Art Asia, including the Tibetan Bodhisattva, Monet’s “Pommiers en Fleurs” at $7.7 million, a Tiffany Studios Peacock Table Lamp and contemporary furniture by Italian designer Ettore Sottsass.
Guardian is holding its first auction outside China on Oct. 7 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel as part of its push to become an international auction house.
One of the featured lots is an ink painting entitled “Album of Mountains and Rivers” by Chinese modern master Qi Baishi with a high estimate of $3.35 million. Wooden furniture from Ming and Qing dynasties are also on sale.
“Many mainland clients have offices or companies or houses here outside China, so it’s convenient,” Wang Yannan, Guardian’s president, said in an interview. “After 19 years in China we want to come out and test the water.”
Guardian’s first foray into Hong Kong comes at a time when Sotheby’s (BID) has announced it is setting up in China. On Oct. 2 it received formal Chinese approval to set up a joint-venture with state-owned Beijing Gehua Cultural Development Group to create an international auction house in China, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
White Cube Hong Kong has a show by Welsh conceptual artist Cerith Wyn Evans, who has designed four different chandeliers with lights that flicker to four separate sound tracks: “Gimme Shelter,” the adagio from Gustav Mahler’s 5th Symphony, sitar music by Ravi Shankar and some John Coltrane riffs. The pieces range between 50,000 and 100,000 pounds ($80,000 and $161,000)
Evans, who has previously used lights in his works to spell out lines of poetry by emitting pulses of Morse code, said in an interview the music enables the viewer to “reconnect with what Proust would call involuntary recall.”
The Sotheby’s auction at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center begins with two days of wine sales where the highly sought-after Burgundy is a nine-bottle lot of Romanee Conti 1990 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti valued at $140,000 to $200,000 or $22,222 per bottle before buyer’s premium of 22.5 percent.
The highest value lot contains nine bottles of the coveted burgundy Romanee Conti 1990 DRC that carries an estimate of $140,000 to $200,000. The Bordeaux highlight is a case of 1989 Chateau Petrus valued at $60,000, as much as $5,000 per bottle.
The wines are followed on Oct. 7 by 20th-century and contemporary Asian art, featuring an oil painting from 1992 by Chinese artist Liu Wei entitled “Revolutionary Family Series- Invitation to Dinner,” with a high estimate of $1.94 million. The work is part of the collection belonging to David Tang that hung for many years at the China Club.
An oil painting by Chang Yu, “Potted Chrysanthemums,” is estimated to fetch as much as $3.9 million during the Oct. 7 sale of 20th Century Chinese art.
The following day, Chinese paintings and more than 420 watch lots go on sale, and on Oct. 9, the final day sees the fourth installment of the Meiyintang Collection owned by Swiss businessman Stephen Zuellig, containing some of the finest examples of Chinese ceramics in private hands, and the jade and jewelry sale.
(Frederik Balfour is a reporter-at-large for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)
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