This past Saturday, Sotheby’s hosted a Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Hong Kong… the auction featured “a refined selection of exceptional masterpieces,” though you could probably debate the “masterpiece” status of a few of the lots.
As expected, the top lot was Basquiat’s Untitled (Red Warrior)… it was a guaranteed lot with an irrevocable bid, so we knew it would sell. That said, it didn’t attract much additional interest and hammered at HK$ 143M ($18.4M), which was below the HK$ 150-200M estimate; the premium bumps that price up to HK$ 162M ($20.9M), so they needed it on that one.
Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara took second with his work Under the Hazy Sky… a 2012 canvas which was sold through Pace Gallery. This one was also guaranteed with an irrevocable bid and ultimately hammered at HK$ 61.5M ($7.9M); within the HK$ 55-75M estimate. While the premium wasn’t necessary to hit the estimate on this one, it would be needed for the sale overall – the premium pushed this lot up to HK$ 68.7M ($8.8M).
Close behind was Joan Mitchell’s Untitled – another guaranteed lot… this one hammered at HK$ 58.8M ($7.5M), on a HK$ 50-60M estimate; HK$ 65.2M ($8.3M) with premiums. This one last sold at Christie’s Evening Sale in New York back in 2004… at that time, it sold for just $477K!
There were a number of other lots that saw nice prices and impressive results… a work by Adrian Ghenie found a buyer at HK$ 54M ($7M), though that was guaranteed; and a Lichtenstein went for HK$ 48M ($6.1M). There were also lots like Rafa Macarrón’s Rutina Flour, which sold for HK$ 3.4M ($550K) – more than six times the estimate!
Once the premiums were added in, there were no lots sold below estimate – that was certainly a plus. That said, there were a few failures… four to be exact – works by Liu Wei (HK$ 10-20M), Jennifer Guidi (HK$ 1.6-2.8M), Zeng Fanzhi (HK$ 8-10M), and Banksy (HK$ 12-18M).
At the end of the session, 31 works were sold (88%) for a total of HK$ 586.8M ($75.4M) with premium… the sale’s estimate was HK$ 508.4-705.8M, so they were comfortably in their range. As I alluded to earlier, without the premiums they fall just short at HK$ 507.8. Don’t get me wrong, it was a solid result… it just didn’t have the fireworks you’d expect for an evening sale.