Romanee-Conti at $474,000 Is Auction Record for Wine Case

Twelve bottles of Romanee-Conti sold for HK$3.675 million ($474,000), leading records set at auctions by Christie’s International Plc in Hong Kong that raised HK$1.35 billion after three days.

The winning bid for the 1978 Burgundy on Nov. 23 by a Chinese buyer smashed the previous $345,000 auction record for a case of wine, while a record HK$70.7 million was bid for a painting by Zhu Dequn, the highest amount paid for the Chinese-French artist’s work. Christie’s will offer about HK$2 billion of items in the six-day sale.

The mood among buyers in Hong Kong was buoyed by this month’s record art sale in New York and auctions of diamonds in Geneva. The sale of postwar and contemporary art in New York earned $692 million and set new highest prices for 10 artists including Francis Bacon, Willem de Kooning and Jeff Koons.

“When those auctions did so well it’s keeping everyone confident,” said Pascal de Sarthe, a Hong Kong-based dealer. The record price for the Zhu artwork shows the “gap between postwar U.S. and Asian works is narrowing.”

Record prices for wine come even as the benchmark Liv-ex Fine Wine 50 Index erased gains made in the first 10 weeks of the year. While Bordeaux still dominates wine-fund holdings, Burgundies have taken an increasing share of top 10 slots at auctions.

Contemporary Art

The Zhu painting, also bought by a Chinese buyer, was one of 64 lots that sold on the Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale on Nov. 23, which raised HK$935 million. The abstract untitled oil on canvas diptych painted in 1963 carried a pre-sale high estimate of HK$40 million, according to Christie’s catalog.

The most-expensive artwork sold at the evening sale was the HK$113.3 million oil on canvas “Hospital Triptych No. 3,” painted in 1992 by China’s Zeng Fanzhi. A new auction record for southeast Asian painters was set when a work by Indonesia’s Lee Man Fong sold for HK$36 million.

Chinese buying is expected to dominate for the remaining three days of sales that end on Nov. 27 when Christie’s offers Chinese ceramics and works of art.

“The collector base of mainland Chinese has grown to one million from zero 10 or 12 years ago,” said James Hennessy, a Hong Kong-based dealer. “They have the funds ready and are looking for things relatively inflation proof. The Chinese art market has really outperformed other asset classes for the past 10 years.”

Other highlights of the sales include a diamond riviere necklace with a combined weight of 104.84 carats and an estimated value of as much as HK$72 million, an apple-green enameled lantern vase worth as much as HK$25 million, and two Patek Philippe wrist watches, one platinum, the other gold, with high estimates of HK$5 million.

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