Marathon Art Sale Raises Record $94.8 Million, Triple Estimate

``Self Portrait in the Yellow Mountains'' (1961) by Zhang Daqian is auctioned at Sotheby's in 2011. The ink-and-water work fetched HK$46.6 million, nearly four times its high estimate of HK$12 million, becoming the top lot of Sotheby's Oct. 4 sale in Hong Kong. It was not paid for, Sotheby's alleged in a complaint. Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg

A marathon of competitive bidding by collectors of Chinese artworks pushed a Hong Kong auction to more than three times its estimate.

Sotheby’s biggest Chinese fine-painting sale ended last night after almost 12 hours and 364 lots. Its total of HK$738.3 million ($94.8 million) including fees was the highest for the New York-based auction house in that art category. The presale estimate was HK$200 million at hammer prices.

Wealthy Chinese are keen to buy works by the nation’s top artists. Bidding was brisk for 36 pieces by 20th-century master Zhang Daqian. Other highly sought lots by Lin Fengmian and Qi Baishi sold at several times estimates. A second sale raised $HK2.1 million for the University of Oxford’s China Center.

“I said to them to raise money is great,” Kevin Ching, Sotheby’s Asia chief executive officer, commented on the Oxford sale in an interview. “You will need to do many more auctions.” More Chinese mainland parents are sending their children to England for education, he said.

Yesterday’s top-selling lot was Zhang’s 1961 color picture “Self Portrait in the Yellow Mountains.” The ink-and-water work fetched HK$46.6 million, nearly four times its high estimate of HK$12 million.

Enthusiastic bidding in the main saleroom -- where 16 lots sold for more than HK$10 million -- wasn’t repeated in the second salon for the charity event aiding the new HK$250 million center in Oxford, England. Just 15 lots sold of 37 offered, including porcelain, scrolls and embroidered robes.

Estimate Target

Excluding the Oxford sale, Sotheby’s has raised HK$1.6 billion in four days, including contemporary and 20th-century Asian art and wine. It is on its way to exceeding its HK$2.7 billion estimate for six days of sales.

The highlight of today’s auctions include rare Qing dynasty porcelains from the Meiyintang collection and a ring featuring a 9.27 carat pink diamond known as the Golconda Pink that carries a high estimate of $19 million. Watches and jewelry from the estate of Hong Kong singer and actress Anita Mui are also on sale today, with the final sale of watches tomorrow.

Buyer’s premium, the commission added to the hammer price of works sold, is 25 percent for the first HK$400,000, 20 percent for lots fetching as much as HK$8 million, and 12 percent above that. The wine premium is a flat 21 percent. Estimates reflect the hammer price, before premium.

Potential buyers who aren’t represented at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre sale can bid via Sotheby’s online bidding system.

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