Sotheby’s five-day autumn auction in Hong Kong ended last night with a total sale of HK$2.05 billion ($263 million) as buyers pushed prices of some top lots to records and shunned others.
The event’s revenue, with fees, compares with a presale low estimate of HK$1.6 billion at hammer prices. The figure was boosted by highlights such as the HK$34.3 million paid for a painting by Indonesian artist Lee Man Fong, the most for a Southeast Asian artist.
“There might have been a fear of it all collapsing but in fact people are more selective,” Daniel Eskenazi, a London-based dealer, said in an interview.
A pair of Qianlong-era double-gourd vases sold for HK$107 million yesterday, nearly twice their presale high estimate, proving that rarity still attracted keen bidding.
A 1992 painting by Chinese artist Liu Wei, entitled “Revolutionary Family Series-Invitation to Dinner,” sold for HK$17.46 million, setting a record for the artist. The work hung for many years in David Tang’s China Club in Hong Kong.
A work by Zhang Xiaogang fetched HK$20.8 million, while three other of his works went unsold, as did paintings by top-selling contemporary Chinese artists Zeng Fanzhi and Yue Minjun.
“The results of this sale are showing some cracks in the market, with a large number of cornerstone artists’ works going unsold,” Jehan Chu, a Hong Kong adviser who runs Vermillion Art Collections, said.
The contemporary Asian sale, normally the marquee event, raised HK$117 million with 42 out of 153 lots unsold, making less than its presale estimate of HK$130 million. In contrast, the Southeast Asian contemporary sale earned HK$121 million, more than twice its presale estimate.
There were some unanticipated hiccups for Sotheby’s. A work by 20th-century master Zhang Daqian, with a higher estimate of HK$12.8 million, was pulled on the eve of its Oct. 8 sale after a Taiwanese Buddhist nun contested its ownership.
The top lot of that 20th-century Chinese sale was a painting by Chang Yu entitled “Potted Chrysanthemums” which sold for HK$30.9 million, compared with a high estimate of HK$30 million.
Then the owner of 17 portraits from a Qing dynasty imperial collection decided to withdraw them on the morning of their sale yesterday, to offer them in a private sale, Sotheby’s said in a statement.
Demand for wine continued to show strength, with 96 percent of lots sold over a two-day period, raising HK$73.6 million. The top lot of nine bottles of Romanee Conti Domaine de La Romanee-Conti 1990 sold for HK$1.7 million, or $24,580 per bottle.
The most expensive watch was a Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon wrist watch that sold for HK$10.5 million, compared with a high estimate of HK$12 million.
The highlight of the jewelry auction, the last sale of the series, was an 89-carat D-color diamond necklace that sold for HK$39.9 million compared with a presale high estimate of HK$50 million.
Sotheby’s faced new competition in Hong Kong as the Beijing-based China Guardian auction house ventured outside China for the first time on Oct. 7 with a sale of Chinese painting and calligraphy, and Ming and Qing dynasty furniture.
In an event dominated by mainland Chinese buyers, the auction earned HK$455 million, more than doubling its presale estimate of HK$185 million, with 90 percent of lots sold.
The top lot was a landscape series of colored-ink paintings by Chinese artist Qi Baishi painted in 1922 that sold for HK$46 million compared with a high estimate of HK$26 million.
The next major Hong Kong sale will be held by Christie’s from Nov. 23 to 28 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center.
Sotheby's stock declined more than 2 percent after the sales total was reported, to $31.05.
(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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