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Haut-Brion 1945 Vintage Tops $334 Million Auction

Haut-Brion custom console
The Haut-Brion rouge and custom console. Source: Christie's Images Limited 2011 via Bloomberg

A lot containing 14 bottles of Chateau Haut-Brion together with a bespoke console by London-based furniture maker David Linley fetched HK$1.2 million ($153,984) at a Christie’s International wine sale.

The package, in which all bottles were shipped direct from the cellars of the Bordeaux winemaker, included a rare 1945 vintage and bottles from 1959 and 1961. A lot also containing a Linley console and 14 bottles of Haut-Brion white sold for HK$1.1 million.

The two lots, both of which carried presale estimates of HK$1 million to HK$2 million, were welcome highlights to an otherwise lackluster two-day sale that saw many lots of Chateau Lafite Rothschild go unsold.

“The bidding wasn’t as keen as I expected, so I got lucky,” said Paul Dunn, a Hong Kong-based collector who bought both top lots. “Plus Haut-Brion generously donated the proceeds to the Children’s Medical Fund which added a whole lot of meaning to the lots, so I decided to go for it.”

The three-day wine sale that ended today raised HK$64.7 million, compared with a presale low estimate of HK$60 million. About 16 percent of the lots failed to sell.

Christie’s six-day sale also includes Chinese ceramics, jewelry and watches and is estimated by the London-based auction house to raise as much as HK$2.6 billion ($334 million).

Burgundy Demand

While some Bordeaux sales flagged, demand for Burgundy remained strong. The Liv-Ex 50 Fine Wine Index, which tracks Bordeaux first growths, has fallen 18 percent since June. Less expensive Bordeaux second growths have fared better recently.

The third-most-expensive lot was a case of 12 bottles of Romanee-Conti Domaine de la Romanee Conti 1985 that sold for HK$1.2 million, almost reaching its presale high estimate of HK$1.3 million. Romanee Conti accounted for seven of the top 10 wine lots sold.

Caution was also the watchword at Christie’s evening sale of Asian 20th-century and contemporary art, with works by Chinese painters Zhang Xiaogang and Zeng Fanzhi unsold. Christie’s raised HK$397 million ($51 million), with just 42 out of 57 lots finding buyers.

“It’s a price-aware market,” said Jonathan Stone, Christie’s chairman and international head of Asian art. “There were strong moments and less strong moments.”

Bonhams Snuff

Across town, a world record amount of HK$25.3 million was paid for an 18th-century Qianlong era Chinese snuff bottle at a Bonhams auction today.

The decision by Christie’s to combine Southeast Asian, Korean and Japanese art together with Chinese for the first time was justified by the extent of cross-cultural bidding from different regions, said Eric Chang, international director of Asian 20th-Century and Contemporary Art.

The two-day sale, which included works from a private collection on Saturday night and a day sale yesterday, raised a combined HK$704.7 million compared with a presale estimate of HK$540 million.

The top-selling lot was an oil by 20th-century abstract Chinese painter Zao Wou-ki, which sold for HK$35.38 million, more than double its presale high estimate of HK$15 million.

Pascal de Sarthe, a Hong Kong-based art dealer, said he bought the painting for a client who was prepared to pay far more.

“Buyers were more cautious,” he said. “Tonight was a very lucky spot for me.”

Masriadi Star

Indonesian star Nyoman Masriadi fared better than many contemporary Chinese artists. His painting showing a parody of movie hero Indiana Jones carrying a giant diamond sold for HK$3.38 million, more than its HK$3.2 million top estimate.

While London and New York events typically are headlined by paintings, a highlight of Hong Kong is the auction of Chinese antiques. On Nov. 30, this includes a 15th-century Ming dynasty blue-and-white porcelain moonflask and a Qianlong-era white jade vase and cover that both have high estimates of HK$35 million.

The day before, Christie’s will offer two unmounted diamonds each weighing more than 35 carats as separate lots, carrying high estimates of HK$80 million apiece.

Christie’s also is displaying a collection of jewelry at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre venue that belonged to actress Elizabeth Taylor. The pieces will go on sale in New York on Dec. 13-14, including a necklace with a 50-carat pearl given to her in 1969 by Richard Burton that once belonged to Spain’s King Phillip II.

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