Sotheby’s First Auction in Singapore in 15 Years Hopes to Exceed $10 Million—and Reignite Interest in Southeast Asian Art

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Sotheby’s is bringing a Southeast Asia-heavy lineup to first live auction in Singapore in 15 years. The house hopes to reintroduce the category to the global art market at the same time the city-state is making a play to become the region’s next art hub.

Of the 50 lots consigned to the August 28 sale unveiled on Thursday, 86 percent are Southeast Asian artworks. There is no lack of important modern names, including Sinaporean pioneer Georgette Chen, whose painting (1963–65) is expected to deliver more than $1 million. All told, the sale carries an estimate of $10 million (SG$18 million).

Walter Spies, Tierfabel (Animal Fable)

Walter Spies, Tierfabel (Animal Fable) (1928). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Other Southeast Asian highlights include the 1928 painting by the Russian-born German painter Walter Spies, who lived in Indonesia. Works by Spies are rare; only 35 Indonesian-themed canvases survived World War II. Consigned from a Southeast Asian private collection, this one carries an estimate of more than $2.5 million.

Rounding out the offerings are Hendra Gunawan’s 1980 painting (estimate: $687,460 to $868,370), ($542,732 to $868,370) by the Belgian-born Bali transplant Adrien Jean Le Mayeur de Merprès, and Le Pho’s (1938) ($448,658 to $723,642) from an American private collection.

Works by Vietnamese-French painter Mai Trung Thu; Indonesian painter Srihadi Sudarsono, who died in February of this year; and Christine Ay Tjoe, who has shown with blue-chip gallery White Cube, are also on offer.

Le Pho, Vietnamese Lady

Le Pho, Vietnamese Lady (1938). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s introduced a biannual Southeast Asian art sale to Singapore in 1996, but centralized its Asian activities in Hong Kong in 2008 as demand grew. Now, the tide has changed again as Hong Kong faces an exodus of talent and money amid ongoing travel restrictions and a tightening grip from Beijing.

“This sale affords us a special opportunity to engage directly with the growing and important concentration of collectors and art enthusiasts in the region,” Jasmine Prasetio, Sotheby’s managing director of Southeast Asia, told Artnet News.

In addition to Southeast Asian art, the sale also contains blue-chip Asian names, such as Chinese-French 20th century master Zao Wou-ki, whose is estimated to fetch between $2.8 million to $3.6 million. The sale also includes a smattering of hip international names popular among younger collectors including Jordy Kerwick, Mr., and Javier Calleja.

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