Hong Kong Assessment of auctions, and opening to Western Contemporary art

According to Artprice, the Hong Kong contemporary art market got new sales records, particularly with Western artists. What are the results and why this opening?

On 11 June, Sotheby’s Hong Kong presented the sale “Boundless: Contemporary Art”. The auction house saw nearly 60% of the lots fetch above their high estimates. The total turnover of MK$ 41.5m (US$ 5.3m) was substantially better than expectations and a hotly disputed Keith Haring (‘Untitled’, 1983) quadrupled the estimates fetching equivalent to $536.000 including fees.

This new auction record is an achievement that reflects the ongoing opening of the Asian market to major Western signatures. The result is also the fruit of several years of work by Sotheby’s (and Christie’s) in Hong Kong to nurture the interest for Western art among Chinese, Taiwanese and Southeast Asian collectors.

In the West, Keith Haring has an iconic status. Sotheby’s started trying to sell his work though their Hong Kong branch in January 2014. At the time, nobody was interested in the two works offered in a range of $100.000 to $200.000. Either the market was not ready, or the buyers were too timid. On June 11, Sotheby’s actually sold two works by Keith Haring! So the sale of Western Contemporary art in the East at last appears to be bearing fruit, opening a new way for Western auctioneers to benefit from Asian purchasing power.

Sotheby’s “Boundless: Contemporary Art” sale aimed to encompass a number of key figures of Chinese, Japanese and Western Contemporary art. The top three results of the sale belonged to, Keith Haring ($536.000), the Franco-Chinese artist, Zao Wou-ki ($505.000) and the American, Andy Warhol ($366.000 for the double portrait of Sofu Teshigahara).

But, on the whole, Western artists still have a lot of catching up to do on the Eastern secondary market. They are usually cheaper in Hong Kong than in London and New York where demand is in full swing. Even high media profiles artists like the American neo-pop artist KAWS (chosen by the French gallery-owner Emmanuel Perrotin in 2012 to inaugurate his Hong Kong space) struggled: out of five KAWS works in the catalog, three were bought in.

In fact, the “Boundless: Contemporary Art” sale produced a mix of remarkable successes and unsold works. But, it shows that Hong Kong today, stands out as the primary Asian marketplace working towards a genuine globalization of demand.

Sources : Artprice.

Sotheby’s Hong Kong, “Boundless: Contemporary Art” sale results : here.

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