Pop Goes the Bubble in Chinese & Indian Art

Fallout from the global economic crisis hits the opening sale of modern and contemporary Asian art at Sotheby's in Hong Kong
Visitors enter a Sotheby's auction room in Hong Kong on October 6, 2008. Sotheby's is presenting a sale of modern and contemporary art. MIKE CLARKE/AFP/Getty Images

While much of Hong Kong hunkered down just hours before the arrival of a typhoon on Oct. 4, the start of Sotheby's three-day auction of modern and contemporary Asian art was buffeted by the financial storm on Wall Street. Of the 47 works that went under the hammer, more than 40% were unsold. What's more, earnings for Sotheby's (BID), including the auctioneer's commission known as the "buyer's premium," were a paltry $15 million, accounting for just 41% of the auction house's estimated takings for the night. Among the biggest upsets was the unsold work by India's hot-selling artist Subodh Gupta, Untitled, which had an estimated price of $1.55 million to $2.05 million. Another big surprise: Chinese cynical realist painter Liu Wei's triptych, The Revolutionary Family Series, failed to find a bidder willing to meet the $1.55 million suggested minimum.

To continue reading this article you must be a Bloomberg Professional Service Subscriber.