Posts Tagged ‘Hong Kong’


My colleagues in China have talked for almost a year now about the art market moving too fast – for Asian pieces as well as non-Asian pieces, and that they were preparing for a different market in the future. Additionally auction sales in China follow rules not always accepted by auction houses outside China and a number of purchases by Chinese buyers of  high priced art and antiques have not been paid for.
Now Sotheby’s reports that the percentage of mainland Chinese buyers in Hong Kong has fallen from about 44% in 2011 to about 20%-25% in 2012. Despite the absence of what we would call crazy bidding by Chinese individuals, Christie’s and Sotheby’s set new records in New York sales recently for top lots; and Macau’s gaming  revenue  for April 2012 was up 22 per cent from a year earlier! So some businesses are still booming.

Ming dynasty porcelain vase sold for HK$167.8 million

Hong Kong,  Shanghai or Beijing  — which is the fairest of all ?

We know that Hong Kong is the world’s third  largest auction market and now a new museum for contemporary art is in the planning stage to rival New York and London.  Artfix Daily just wrote an article about this
A Ming dynasty porcelain vase sold for HK$167.8 million ($21.6 million) including buyer’s premium, at a Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong.

Beijing and Shanghai have long had significant art scenes, and been home to a number of notable artists, such as Beijing’s high-profile Ai Weiwei (who recently sold his “Sunflower Seeds 2010” to the Tate Modern for an undisclosed amount). 

Yet, it is Hong Kong that has fast become a contender in the art world; known for its trade and finance the city is poised to become Asia’s art capital. 

Beginning in 2007, the former British territory has held the position of world’s third largest art auction market, after New York and London. As of 2008, Hong Kong has hosted a successful contemporary art fair; the inaugural edition drew 19,000 visitors, and representatives from 100 galleries, numbers that have more than doubled.

Hong Kong’s artist community, however, is still small and the expense of living in the city means that artists must often work day jobs to support themselves.  Finding open studio space is also tricky.

Also lacking was a significant museum, but now plans are underway for a contemporary art museum, which would open to the public in 2018.  An international competition for the building design will be held this year and plans include 20,000 square meters of exhibition space.  The ambitious project aims to rival with New York’s Museum of Modern Art and London’s Tate Modern.

On an earnings conference call Feb. 29, Sotheby’s CEO William Ruprecht and CFO William Sheridan said China was an “underpenetrated” market. With consolidated sales of $1 billion, the company plans to open new premises in Hong Kong which will have competition in strong mainland auction houses such as Beijing Poly International and China Guardian Auctions.

Hong Kong has already attracted a number of well-known art galleries, including London’s White Cube, which accommodates the area’s newly wealthy collectors. Graham Steele, the gallery’s Asia director, said to the BBC, “The energy of the city is very seductive for dealers and artists. It’s a scene that’s about to blossom and in a really great way.”

Whether the nascent gallery scene expands will depend on whether China can continually produce the buyers and sustain its economic upward trajectory. MarketWatch points out that, according to the World Bank, almost all of China’s growth since 2008 has come from “government influenced expenditure”.

(Report: Christine Bolli for ARTFIXdaily)


November 16, 2011 Leave a comment
A recent article in the NYT (October 23rd) highlighted Burmese Artists. It explained that contemporary or modern Burmese art had been slow in developing because of lack of interest, lack of local support and at one time, political censorship. Several galleries were mentioned: 
River Gallery in the old Strand Hotel in Yangon. 
New Treasure Art Gallery, owned by Min Wae Aung; also offering an artist in residency program. 
The painting featured in the NYT  of five monk figures rendered in a somewhat abstract style – that I liked most –  was by Min Wae Aung and it said that his paintings sell for up to $ 20,000 through galleries in Hong Kong, London and Paris. 
Burma has such a rich  Buddhist cultural tradition that one does not expect impressionistic oil paintings, paintings of nudes, and abstract art. Artists have flourished and been censored and neglected but survived, depending on patronage and political  climate  and Burmese art will surely continue to blossom.  What is surprising to me is how frequently Burmese artists seem to exhibit in places like Hong Kong, London and Paris – considering how isolated the country is politically.  But art always finds a way!
This is the link to the article: New Vistas for Burmese Artists
This painting is by Min Wae Aung, titled Monks on the Morning Round, and I found it on It conveys the style I like.


Reuters reported on Sotheby’s Hong Kong sales that demand for classical Chinese paintings remained strong.  A Qi Baishi ink painting “Rabbits and Osmanthus”, sold for $ 796,224, five times the estimate. 

The Asian Contemporary Art sales in Hong Kong saw around a fifth of works unsold. The sale of classical paintings had only around 5 percent of lots unsold. Mainland Chinese buyers dominated…..


September 15, 2011 Leave a comment
I neglected  to report  on one of my favorite fields  – SEA art by native as well as western artists who have settled in SEA- 20th century artists from Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia –  if Chinese paintings are too expensive for you, you may want to follow SEA art auctions  taking place in Hong Kong and Singapore. I can remember when an Affandi was not out of the question for a regular budget – now you would have to buy  his ink on paper drawings if you want to find something under $ 10,000/20,000.  And what about Theo Meier, Rudolf Bonnet, Walter Spies, Ari Smitt? The last Ari Smitt I appraised about four years ago, a large floral acrylic was approximately  $ 14,000 – but no more!   
Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merpres was always more expensive but in the recent Christie’s  Hong Kong auction on May 30th,  a  painting titled  Temple Festival in Bali went for  US $ 989,450; his works  sold in the $ 300,000 to $ 400,000 range some five years ago. But not all paintings are readily sold.  It took me some time to broker a painting by the Philippine painter Tabuena but it was easy to sell a Fernando Amorsolo. 
There is an art market for artists from Cambodia and Thailand, right now mainly handled through dealers and prices have steadily gone up. While there is a large expatriate artist community in Bali, it is mainly  ethnic Thai and Cambodian painters. I have clients who wish to sell their Thai paintings from the 1960’s/1970’s and I will probably work on this soon!
A client asked me who commanded higher prices, the expats or the local artists? There are several artists like Affandi, and the eccentric  Indian artist Maqbool Fida Husain (although he died a Quatari national on June 9, 2011) who command very high prices – but not in comparison with Chinese artists.  I would say that with some exceptions, the expat artists sell for less at the moment. 
Christie’s has two sales for South Asian, Indian and SEA art. 1. South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art, September 13, 2011 in NYC, including quite a few Jamini Roy, some not too expensive, M.F. Husain ($ 300,000-$ 500,000), Souza (including several very interesting ink on paper drawings estimated under $ 3,000; and 2. Indian and Southeast Asian Art, September 13, 2011, NYC. I selected a few items that appealed to me……

Bonhams Achieve Blockbuster Sales of Chinese Art in Hong Kong Today with All Lots Sold

I am quoting this verbatim from
(Bonham’s Hong Kong sold rare snuff bottles, rare Shoushan carvings  and other rare  items for top prices.)
The top price was achieved by a pair of superbly decorated inlaid panels showing mythical landscapes, which sold to a Chinese buyer at HK$3.8 million(£302,440) (lot 275, estimate HK$600-800,000). Photo: Bonhams.
HONG KONG.- Bonhams Hong Kong secured another ‘Golden Gavel’ triumph today (25 May 2011) with the sale of the legendary Mary and George Bloch Collection of Chinese Snuff bottles: Part III. All 142 lots sold out for a total of HK$38,361,600 (£3,054,329). 

The blockbuster sale proves that the international market for the finest Chinese snuff bottles shows no sign of abating at the top level. The Island Shangri-La Hotel’s ballroom was filled to capacity today as bidders from Hong Kong, Beijing, Taipei, Singapore, London and California vied with bidders on the telephone to acquire the superb snuff bottles from the third selection of the world’s finest private collection, by far the best ever to come to the auction market. For the third time in this series of sales, every lot was successfully sold, maintaining Bonhams’ unique auction tradition in Hong Kong. 

Colin Sheaf, Chairman of Bonhams Asia and auctioneer of all three Golden Gavel sales in the series, commented: “Handling this collection is in every respect the peak of our auction business in Hong Kong. The bottles are superb examples to research and discuss with clients, selling them attracts a truly global response from collectors and dealers, and every sale has sold every single lot we have offered, often for world record prices. Nothing can more clearly demonstrate the strength of the global auction market for Chinese art, and the hungry demand from an unprecedentedly wide ranging circle of active buyers.” 

As anticipated, top price was paid for a gold-ground enamelled copper Imperial snuff bottle, manufactured in the Beijing Palace Workshops probably in the 1770s, which sold for HK$4.2 million (£334,323) to a private Asian buyer (lot 141, estimate in excess of HK$3.5 million). 

The collection of snuff bottles was not the only major single-owner collection that Bonhams Hong Kong was selling today. The Q Collection of Exquisite Soapstones had been sourced in the West, but sent to Hong Kong in the belief that it would particularly appeal to the new generation of ‘Shoushan stone’ buyers in mainland China and also in Taiwan. The stone originates from Fujian province, and many collectors of Fujianese family origin now live in Taiwan. Carved mostly in the 17th – 18 Century, these small but very carefully designed semi-votive images mostly depict Buddhist and Daoist mythical figures, and have long appealed to southern Chinese buyers. This time active bidders from London, the US, Singapore and even Thailand competed with more traditional South East Asian buyers, ensuring that almost all the top lots were sold at prices often exceeding their high estimates. 

The top price was achieved by a pair of superbly decorated inlaid panels showing mythical landscapes, which sold to a Chinese buyer at HK$3.8 million(£302,440) (lot 275, estimate HK$600-800,000). The sale achieved a total of HK$21.8 million(£1,735,118) and it is very unlikely that a collection of this quality and range of soapstone carving will ever again come to auction. 



 Christie’s Hong Kong will offer at its auction on June 1st, 2011  a rotating vase with reticulated outer walls and painted interior. Everything is decorated exquisitely with motifs with double and triple meanings, with craftsmanship destined for the Imperial court. According to Artdaily, “the neck and inner cylinder are one piece while the reticulated outer walls, base, and foot form the envelope within which it revolves. A porcelain cone placed in the centre between the bases of the outer and inner sections provides the pivot on which the latter is able to rotate. It would have been necessary that no part of the vases should distort during firing; that all the sections should shrink the same amount in the firing; and that the revolving section should not become stuck to the rest of the vase during or after the assembly process. This would be a tall order for a vase that was only fired once, but the current vase and other similar vessels, such as those preserved in the Imperial collections, are decorated in enamels, which required an additional firing at a lower temperature.  Not content with making a vase that revolved, the ceramicists who produced this vase added a further degree of difficulty to their task by piercing the outer shell in order to create a reticulated pattern and to allow the decoration of the inner wall to be seen. The design of the reticulated roundels in the outer shell had to be very carefully balanced so as not to result in distortion or collapse of the outer wall during firing. ”

Price on Request.


China jumped from ninth place to first place in 2010, becoming the world’s largest auction marketplace for Fine Art, overtaking the United States and United Kingdom. In addition,  the dramatic evolution of the internet and its 2 billion and a half users have caused a speedy acceleration of online art sales. All this is reported by Artprice, the world leader of art market information. China not only played an important role in the global economic recovery, it also seized the limelight in cultural, art  and sports events. Expressing the pride of Chinese culture it took the global auction prices to new heights. And what I have commented about before — prices of Chinese artists have not only closed the gap but overtaken Western artists and art works. 
So it is no surprise that the Ullens Collection auctioned off at Sotheby’s Hong Kong on April 3, 2011 brought new record prices for contemporary Chinese art.


April 13, 2011 1 comment

There have been rumors about mainland Chinese buyers not paying up or not paying the buyer’s commission.  One example was the bronze zodiac heads from the Yves St. Laurent Estate  were the Chinese government said that the heads were unlawfully removed from China and that no payment was due! Now the Financial Times reports that Sotheby’s required a  $ 1 million deposit from bidders of premium lots in a recent auction of Imperial Porcelains in Hong Kong.  

And as a consequence perhaps, a sale in Hong Kong at Sotheby’s of 18th century Chinese ceramics,  just over 55% of its pre-sale low estimate was achieved. Protest or a tipping point for the strong mainland Chinese buyers – or perhaps both ? !

On the other hand, the sale of the Meiyantang  Collection, widely believed to have been the finest collection of its kind in private hands, is said to have totaled  US $ 447 millions, a new record for auction in Hong Kong.

Pacific Asia Museum

If you are near Pasadena, California, visit the the Pacific Asia Museum.

The museum has two interesting exhibits/programs:

MEIJI, JAPAN REDISCOVERED, March 31, 2011-February 26, 2012. This exhibit explores  cultural, artistic and political relationships between post-feudal, after 1868,  Japan and the West. This was  a very dynamic and vibrant time for Japan opening the country up to America and Europe, showcasing the arts of Japan by creating art specifically for export.  At one time work of art from this period was somewhat neglected but  collectors and scholars alike have a new appreciation for the high technical skill  of these art objects.

And  a new book by  Donald Stadtner – SACRED SITES OF BURMA: MYTH AND FOLKLORE IN AN EVOLVING SPIRITUAL REALM; available through amazon. Don Stadtner will give a talk about thee sacred sites at the Pacific Asia Museum on April 10, 2011, at 2:00PM.  There is a dearth of books on the arts of Burma, especially in English.

If you an bear to hear about another record-breaking price for Chinese art – a triptych by Zhang Xiaogang, titled FOREVER LASTING LOVE,  fetched HK $ 79 millions (US $ 10,162,807 ) at Sotheby’s Hong Kong Contemporary Chinese Art auction on April 2nd, more than double its estimate. Sales result for the entire auction came to the equivalent of US $ 54,9 millions, sold on the strength of 105 lots from the collection of Baron Guy Ullens, founder of Beijing’s largest private art museum.  Sotheby’s did not identify the buyer of the painting. Although this painting is extraordinary for a number of reasons, I am in awe of these prices,  and am humbly remembering how long it took for many European paintings to reach stratospheric price ranges.  What will the future hold?