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Zao Wou-ki Leads Sotheby’s $18.4-Million Beijing Auction

Sous Bois Dans la Nuit By Zao Wou-Ki
Zao Wou-Ki’s Sous Bois Dans la Nuit, sold for $5.8 million on June 1 at a Sotheby's auction in Beijing. Photo: Sotheby's via Bloomberg

June 2 (Bloomberg) -- Sotheby’s sold modern and contemporary Chinese art for 115 million yuan ($18.4 million) in a Beijing auction yesterday.

The most expensive lot was an abstract painting by Chinese-French artist Zao Wou-ki titled “Sous Bois Dans la Nuit” that sold to a client in the room for 36 million yuan, the auction house said in a statement. The pre-sale high estimate, excluding buyer’s fees, was 24 million yuan.

The June 1 sale was Sotheby’s second auction in China. The company sold $37 million of art at its inaugural Beijing sale in December. China is the fastest growing source of clients for international auction houses as increasing affluence is driving demand for art and collectibles as alternative investments.

Still, the most lucrative part of the Chinese art and antiques market valued at 10.6 billion euros ($14.3 billion) in 2012 by the European Fine Art Foundation is off-limits to foreign auction houses under a law to protect cultural relics.

Sotheby’s received permission in September 2012 to establish a joint-venture auction house with state-owned Beijing Gehua Cultural Development Group. Sotheby’s holds an 80 percent stake in the entity, Sotheby’s Beijing (Auction) Company Ltd.

Christie’s also holds sales in China where it is the first foreign auction house to operate without a local partner. It raised $20 million in a Shanghai auction of Asian and western 20th century and contemporary art on April 26.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Frederik Balfour in Hong Kong at fbalfour@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Matthew G. Miller at mmiller144@bloomberg.net Kim McLaughlin, Peter Chapman

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