Romanee-Conti, Hirst’s Guitar Lead Hong Kong Auctions

A Damien Hirst Fender Stratocaster, bottles of Romanee-Conti Domaine de la Romanee-Conti 2005 and a vintage Leica camera are leading lots in an eight-day marathon in Hong Kong by six auction houses.

International auction houses Christie’s International and Bonhams are joined by Beijing Poly International Auction Co., Ravenel International Art Group, Seoul Auction, Tiancheng Auction and United Asian Auctioneers in a series of sales through Nov. 28.

“It’s nice to be in a market with lots of crossover,” said James Hennessey, a Hong Kong-based dealer who spent HK$1.4 million ($180,000) at Christie's buying a Wang Keping sculpture a Cai Guo-Qiang oil-and-gunpowder landscape on paper and a stone-pigment-on-paper work by Japanese artist Ryozo Kato.

Even given the number of competing sales, strong bidding pushed some prices to record levels. On Nov. 23, Bonhams set a per-carat record for a Sri Lankan sapphire with the sale of a 43 carat sapphire and diamond ring for HK$12 million ($1.55 million).

On the same day, it also set a record with the HK$7.5 million ($970,000) sale of a Leica Lexus I camera circa 1930 with faux lizard skin body, more than four times its high estimate.

Abstract Oil

On Nov. 24, an abstract oil painting by 20th-century Chinese-French master Chu Teh-Chun sold for HK$60 million ($7.7 million) at Christie’s.

The work, entitled “La foret blanche II,” is a 1987 oil-on-canvas diptych measuring 1.3 meters by 3.9 meters. It was sold to a telephone buyer after five minutes of fierce bidding against an Asian woman in the sale room.

The artist’s previous top price was $5.9 million at a Sotheby’s Hong Kong auction in 2009, according to the Artnet database.

“The market is stronger and more and more money is coming because of the economic strength of Asian countries especially China,” said dealer Pascal de Sarthe.

Later in the same sale, an abstract oil on canvas triptych by Cheong Soo Pieng sold for HK$4.2 million ($540,000), also a record. Both works were purchased by Asians.

The top lot at Christie’s three-day wine sale ending Sunday that raised HK$108 million was a case of Romanee-Conti Domaine de la Romanee-Conti 2005 that sold for HK$1.7 million, according to the London-based auction house’s website.

White Stratocaster

At Ravenel’s evening sale Sunday, dealer Katherine Kwai picked up the white Stratocaster covered in Hirst dots for HK$480,000.

“Real buyers went to the previous auctions today so people spent most of their money,” she said. “The prices are very good.”

A set of matching drums sold for HK$504,000. Hirst created both, along with a Fender Telecaster guitar for a charity benefit concert performed by Squeeze at London’s Royal Albert Hall in March 2011 and were later auctioned by Christie’s to raise money for Teenage Cancer Trust.

Poly auction house made a solid debut in Hong Kong, raising HK$520 million over two days of sales including jewelry, Chinese ink paintings, and Chinese modern and contemporary art.

That exceeded proceeds from Beijing rival China Guardian, which raised HK$455 million on Oct. 7 at its inaugural Hong Kong auction.

The arrival of China’s two biggest auction houses confirms Hong Kong’s status as Asia’s commercial arts hub.

Auction Overload

“Hong Kong is the best place to hold an auction,” said UAA’s chief executive officer Yoichiro Kurata, chief executive officer of Shinwa Art Auction Co., a member of UAA,” but it’s really tough when everything is happening at the same time.”

As today, the various sales by auction houses in Hong Kong had raised more than HK$2.0 billion ($258 million), according to figures compiled by Bloomberg.

Seoul auction held its sale yesterday at the Grand Hyatt Hotel while Christie’s will auction Chinese Classical and Modern Paintings and jewelry at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre today.

On Wednesday, it holds sales of Chinese furniture, ceramics and works of art and watches.

The star lot of the Nov. 28 watches sale is a rare Patek Philippe platinum repeating tourbillion wristwatch estimated to sell for as much as $550,000.

The furniture sale includes a pair of 18th-century lantern stands which once graced the Imperial palace in Beijing and also belonged to Bela Lugosi. The stands are carved from zitan, a rare wood reserved for use by Chinese emperors. They could sell for as much as HK$4 million ($516,000).

(Frederik Balfour is a reporter-at-large for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include Mark Beech on music, Jorg von Uthmann on Paris Art and John Mariani on wine.

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