Christie’s two evening sales in Hong Kong on Sunday (May 28) met with mixed results, but did not fall flat. The house’s 20th/21st Century sale and the return of its Post-Millennium Evening Sale together achieved a total of HK$889 million ($113.5 million, including fees), led by the sale of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s (1986), hammered at HK$51.5 million ($6.6 million) and sold for HK$62.6 million ($8 million).
The combined volume of the back-to-back sales was just under 20 percent up from last fall’s HK$742.6 million with nearly one-third more lots offered. (This is an adjusted total of last fall’s evening sales due to after sale and canceled sales, but Christie’s declined to disclose which lots’ sales were canceled). But Sunday’s total was just about 63 percent of that achieved in spring 2022. The Post-Millennium sale was steady, but the main evening sale total fell short of the presale expectation.
Blue-chip International art by the likes of Jeff Koons, Yayoi Kusama, René Magritte, and Marc Chagall, as well as some younger market hot names including Nicolas Party and Avery Singer, dominated the sales, where several records for Asian artists were also achieved. Christie’s said nearly 50 percent of the new buyers in the 20th and 21st century art sales, including the day sales, were millennials.
Although several works were unsold and some achieved a hammer price right at the lower end of the presale expectation (or even lower), and with few in-room bidding activities, the vibe was generally vibrant. That was particularly true after Adrien Meyer, Christie’s co-chairman of Impressionist and modern art, took over as the auctioneer and picked up the pace in the last hour of this nearly four-hour marathon.
But what felt more surreal than Magritte’s painting (1929-1930)—hammered at HK$42 million ($5.4 million) and sold for HK$51 million ($6.5 million)—was the strange sort of deja-vu on Sunday as a longstanding executive of the house’s chief rival, Sotheby’s, took the floor. Sunday’s event marked the bidding debut of former Sotheby’s veteran Kevin Ching at Christie’s, as its new Asia chairman.
Christie’s also announced its collaboration with Taiwanese mega pop star and collector Jay Chou in between the two sales. Details of the collaboration are yet to be announced but Chou already made his auction house debut, curating a Sotheby’s Contemporary sale in June 2021.
Below, the story by the numbers…
Post-Millennium Evening Sale:
Total Sales After Fees: HK$163 million ($21 million)
Lots Sold (Including Guaranteed Lots): 28
Lots on Offer Before Withdrawals: 32
Lots Withdrawn: 1
Lots Bought In: 3
Sell-through Rate Counting Withdrawals: 87.5 percent
Sell-through Rate Excluding Withdrawals: 90.3 percent
Hammer Total: HK$131.6 million ($16.8 million)
Presale Low Estimate Before Withdrawals: HK$110.5 million ($14 million)
Hammer Total vs. Presale Low Estimate: +HK$21 million ($2.7 million)
Total Low Estimate of Withdrawn Lots: HK$5 million ($638,405) (4.5 percent of the total presale low estimate)
Lots With House Guarantees: 1
Total Low Estimate of House Guaranteed Lots: HK$300,000 ($38,304) (0.27 percent of total presale low estimate)
Lots with Third-Party Guarantees: 3
Total Low Estimate of Third-Party Guaranteed Lots: HK$9,300,000 ($1.2 million) (8.4 percent of the total presale low estimate)
Top seller: Lot 20, Nicolas Party, (2015), sold for HK$39 million ($5 million). Hammer price was HK$32 million ($4 million), within the presale expectations of HK$26 million and HK$36 million ($3.4 million to $4.6 million).
Lasting Memory: Auctioneers at Hong Kong sales have been generally quite patient as, for some reason, phone bidders take much longer to decide to place a bid than they do at sales in London or New York. Very often, phone bidders at Hong Kong sales tended to ask for small increments for each bid. But this time, the leading ladies of Sunday’s sales, auctioneers Georgina Hilton (Post-Millennium evening sale) and Chen Liang-Lin (first half of the main evening sale), were determined to keep the pace, hurrying their colleagues sitting at the phone bank along. They also refused phone bidders’ demands for increments as small as HK$50,000 ($6,383) per bid. “Just say no to her,” Chen told a colleague bidding on the phone for a client.
20th/21st Century Art Evening Sale:
Total Sales After Fees: HK$725.7 million ($92.7 million)
Lots Sold (Including Guaranteed Lots): 48
Lots on Offer Before Withdrawals: 59
Lots Withdrawn: 2
Lots Bought In: 9
Sell-through Rate Counting Withdrawals: 81 percent
Sell-through Rate Excluding Withdrawals: 84 percent
Hammer Total: HK$589 million ($75.2 million)
Presale Low Estimate Before Withdrawals: HK$595.6 million ($75.3 million)
Hammer Total vs. Presale Low Estimate: – HK$6.5 million ($828,646)
Total Low Estimate of Withdrawn Lots: HK$34 million ($4.3 million) (5.7 percent of the total presale low estimate)
Lots With House Guarantees: 2
Total Low Estimate of House Guaranteed Lots: HK$43 million ($5.5 million) (7.2 percent of the total presale low estimate)
Lots with Third-Party Guarantees: 10
Total Low Estimate of Third-Party Guaranteed Lots: HK$165 million ($21 million) (27.7 percent of the total presale low estimate)
Top seller: Lot 82, Jean-Michel Basquiat, (1986), sold for HK$62 million ($8 million) including fees to a phone bidder represented by Jacky Ho, Christie’s vice president and head of evening sales in Hong Kong. It went under hammer at HK$51.5 million ($6.6 million), below the lower end of the presale estimate of HK$55 million ($7.1 million). But the new sale price was slightly lower than its previous result at auction. The work last appeared in the market on October 28, 2020, at a Sotheby’s New York sale. It sold for $8.1 million including fees.
Lasting Memory: Works from the 20th century by renowned Asian artists of Chinese descent were once among the most sought after categories in Hong Kong sales. But in recent years their performance has not been living up to expectations. Several 20th century works with relatively high estimates were on offer this spring, but some ended up not finding a buyer, including a 1996 oil painting by Wu Guanzhong and a 1983 work by Chen Danqing. A 1998 canvas work by Chen Yifei was withdrawn.
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