Alligator at $73,000 Tops Christie’s Sale of Handbags

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A case of Romanee-Conti, a record-breaking Vietnamese oil painting and Hermes handbags are among the highlights so far in Christie’s International’s Hong Kong autumn auctions estimated to raise HK$3 billion ($387 million).

As demand for traditional areas of the auction business levels off and competition to source new works heats up with new entrants in Hong Kong, Christie’s introduced handbag and contemporary ink painting auctions for the first time yesterday.

“They are always looking for new categories and luxury handbags makes sense, when you are talking about ostrich and crocodile Birkins and Kellys,” said Aaron Fischer, consumer analyst at CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets. “These categories are consistent with other luxury product offerings, particularly because these bags are hard to source at the retail level.”

Hong Kongers are among the most brand conscious consumers so introducing luxury handbags by Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Chanel was an easy choice, Christie’s Asia President Rebecca Wei said.

“My girlfriends who have never asked me about auctions of paintings before have said ‘I’m coming Rebecca, how do I bid on these bags,’” Wei said. “It’s great to pick up new clients and do cross-selling.”

Birkin Bags

Two Hermes Birkin bags, one made of alligator, the other crocodile, were the top lots, selling for HK$562,500 apiece in the HK$13.8 million sale. A limited edition ostrich Birkin went for the same amount.

Christie’s inaugural auction of contemporary ink raised HK$60.7 million, led by the sale of a scroll nearly 42 feet (13 meters) long titled “Scenery of Hong Kong” by Liu Guosong for HK$16.8 million.

On Nov. 23, a 12-bottle lot of Romanee-Conti 1988 made by Domaine de la Romanee-Conti sold for HK$1.6 million or about HK$206,000 per bottle including buyer’s premium of 22.5 percent.

An oil painting by 20th century artist Le Pho sold to a Chinese collector for HK$6.52 million on Nov. 22, setting an auction record for a Vietnamese artist that more than doubled a record set just minutes before when a Nguyen Phan Chanh work fetched HK$3.16 million.

The seller of both works was Patrick Lorenzi, an Oslo-based Frenchman whose great grandfather purchased the painting from the artist when he was governor of Tonkin, the French colonial province in northern Vietnam.

“This painting went from Hanoi to Paris to Oslo to Hong Kong directly from this family,” said Jean-Francois Hubert, senior consultant for Vietnamese art at Christie’s. The 1937 oil-on-canvas landscape is titled “View From the Hilltop.”

The Pho was one of 72 lots sold out of 81 offered during the evening sale that raised HK$635 million, led by a 20th century oil on masonite of peonies by Sanyu that fetched HK$56 million.

Christie’s five-day marathon ends tomorrow, when an embroidered 15th century silk thangka depicting Buddhist deities valued at HK$80 million goes on sale.

Other auctioneers including Seoul Auction, Bonhams and Est-Ouest Auctions and Sotheby’s are holding sales of art, antiques and jewelry this week.