Move to London, the Asian auction market is exploding

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The upcoming London and Hong Kong auctions show that the Asian market is continuing its upward trajectory.

As this month’s auctions approach, all eyes will certainly be on Hong Kong. In a significant change, Sotheby’s contemporary art auction this week is worth as much as HK $ 751million (around £ 71million), easily surpassing its London session, estimated at between £ 35million and 54million. sterling.

Indeed, the composition of the two sales is very different. The London session largely reflects the more traditional end of the contemporary market, although it takes place during Frieze week. works by Gerhardt Richter (three major summaries from the Helga and Walther Lauffs collection); Melotti; Baselitz; Auerbach and Gursky feature in the sale, along with a few more avant-garde names such as Salman Toor, Oli Epp and Trey Abdella. And then, to rock the mix, there’s THE Banksy, the one shredded in 2018 and now re-appearing in the market with a, uh, improved pre-sale estimate of £ 4m to £ 6m (he was making £ 1.1m. pounds at the time, after going halfway through the chipper …)

Contrast the Sotheby’s October 9 auctions in Hong Kong, which reflect just how important the international art market has become in Asia. Alongside Asian mainstays such as Zhang Xiaogang, Liu Wei and Zeng Fanzhi, Sotheby’s showcases works by young, fashionable artists such as Joel Mesler, Jadé Fadojutimi, Eddie Martinez, Nicolas Party and Amoako Boafo as well as other ‘brands’ more established as Adrian Ghenie, Roy Lichtenstein and Joan Mitchell.

The headline is that of Jean-Michel Basquait Untitled (red warrior, 1982), showing a figure in red gesturing violently (a color still very favorable in China). It is estimated to be between 150 and 200 million Hong Kong dollars (around 14-18 million pounds sterling) and is one of the 17 “premium lots” – which means that bidders must first register to bid. above – another indication of the richness of these. Asian sessions are more and more.

In March of this year, Christie’s sold another painting of a warrior, also dating from 1982, for $ 41.8 million, setting a new record for a Western artwork in Asia. But this month, Christie’s isn’t hosting a contemporary art sale in Hong Kong, but is broadcasting its auction live in London from Hong Kong and New York on October 15. The sale of 41 lots is estimated between £ 46.3 and 66.2million, including Lot 14, NFT for the three bored monkeys of Yuga Labs, freshly minted this year and bringing estimates of 800,000 to 1.2 million pounds …

Finally, in the Sotheby’s Impressionist Art Sale in Hong Kong, also on October 9, a still life of Van Gogh gladioli is offered, with a target of HK $ 70 to 100 million (6.3 to 9 million pound sterling). Of course, Van Gogh is nothing new to Asians, since the Japanese appetite for cursed artist reached its peak in 1990. But it is the quintessential brand in Asia, and it is the first time that one of its paintings appears at auction in Hong Kong.

All this confirms the figures of the latest Artnet Intelligence report. They found that only 158 works by Western artists were sold in the territory between 1991 and 2004; by the first half of 2021, it had risen to 967. No doubt these figures will increase even more, and no wonder Sotheby’s has sent top specialists Alex Branczik and Max Moore to its Hong Kong headquarters!

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