Posts Tagged ‘Sotheby’s’


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.


Bloomberg carried another article about Chinese buyers failing to pay or pay in full  for art purchased at auction. According to this article some jade purchased at auction in France was not paid for by a Chinese buyer. Sotheby’s introduced a requirement last April  that bidders pay a deposit for premium lots.  The deposit is HK $ 1 million (US $ 128,791).

Christie’s now has a similar requirement. If you are interested in any High Value lot ( a lot with low estimate of HK $ 8,000,000, or above), you are invited to complete the High Value Lot pre-registration and pay a deposit of HK $ 1,000,000.  And you will be given a High Value paddle for identification purposes.
I am not sure if this is an uniquely Chinese buyer problem – right now it  seems to be for Chinese art – but I imagine any art bought at auction  by buyers from other high profile and  quickly developing economies/countries might show a similar pattern. Or am I wrong here?

BONHAM’S transforming the duopoly of Sotheby’s and Christie’s into a triopoly?

October 13, 2011 Leave a comment
With a recent capital infusion of Pounds 30 million, Bonham’s is taking on its two rivals, Sotheby’s and Christie’s. The company now offers financial inducements in form of guarantees and advances similar to the other two auction houses. And it has hired a specialist, Anthony McNerney for its contemporary art department. Together with his eight department specialists  he produced a very substantial catalogue for its contemporary art auction of 20 lots for the  London October 13th auction. 
Pierre Soulages, Brou de Noix 1951

PHOTOGRAPHS by Linnaeus Tripe!

October 13, 2011 Leave a comment

IF YOU MISSED BEING  IN INDIA AND BURMA IN THE MID 1800’s  here is the next best thing —PHOTOGRAPHS  by  Linnaeus Tripe!

Sotheby’s London to offer important newly discovered and unseen early photographs by Linnaeus  



LONDON.- Sotheby’s London announced that it will offer for sale a remarkable group of more than 220 newly-discovered photographs by Linnaeus Tripe depicting India and Burma in the mid-1850s, including 42 images of which no other prints are recorded, and five previously unknown photographs. Tripe was one of the greatest photographers working in India in the 19th Century and this is the largest single collection of his photographs ever to have been offered for sale. Tripe’s Views of Mysore of 1854 (estimated at £100,000-200,000) and his Views of Burma of 1855 (estimated at £200,000-300,000*) are highlights of Sotheby’s Travel, Atlases, Maps and Natural History Sale on 15th November 2011. These extraordinary photographs were presented by Tripe to the Governor-General of India, the 1st Marquess of Dalhousie, and have come by descent to the present owner. They have not been seen by scholars for 150 years and are being offered for sale for the first time. Read More



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…..


Go to and click on Bookshop and you will find Asian art auction catalogues from major auction houses, and a few books. This is from my overflowing library of auction catalogues, —-  and books that I have bought twice……..

Sotheby’s Sale of the Mei Yun Tang Collection of Paintings by Chang Dai-Chien Totals $87.3 Million

 I am showing this article verbatim as it appeared in the newspaper —- because it illustrates the Chinese art market scene- Chinese paintings/Chinese collectors,  and shows how important provenance always is.
Sotheby’s Sale of the Mei Yun Tang Collection of Paintings by Chang Dai-Chien Totals $87.3 Million

Sotheby’s Hong Kong achieves HK$4.28 billion/US$549 million in the first half of 2011. More than doubling the sale total of the first half of 2010. Photo: Sotheby’s

HONG KONG.- Sotheby’s Hong Kong concluded the sale of The Mei Yun Tang Collection of Paintings by Chang Dai-chien today with a triumphant total of HK$680 million / US$87.3 million, against a pre-sale estimate of HK$130 million / US$16.7 million. All the 25 masterpieces on offer were sold in just over an hour, and the top lot of the sale, Lotus and Mandarin Ducks sold for HK$191 million / US$24.5 million, setting the auction record for the artist. 

In a saleroom filled to capacity, bidders in the room and on the telephone competed fiercely for the works offered. Bidding for Lotus and Mandarin Ducks, the top lot of the sale, started at HK$10 million and concluded after approximately 30 bids when a telephone bidder defeated a rival in the room with an offering of HK$191 million / US$24.5 million (Est. HK$20 million / US$2.56 million), setting an auction record for the artist. 

Bidding for Ancient Temple Amidst Clouds also opened at HK$10 million, followed within seconds by an offering on the phone of HK$60 million that took the whole room by surprise. The bidder on the phone successfully acquired the work for HK$67.86 million / US$8.7 million (Est. HK$20 million / US$2.56 million). 

Speaking of the sale, C.K. Cheung, Head of Sotheby’s Fine Chinese Paintings department, said: “With intense bidding wars and stunning prices achieved for numerous works in just over an hour, I believe today’s highly anticipated sale of The Mei Yun Tang Collection of Paintings by Chang Dai-chien has left a lasting impression on those present in the room. This is an extraordinary triumph in terms not only of its commercial success, but also in its demonstration of the artistic merits of The Mei Yun Tang Collection as well as the unwavering four-decade friendship between the artist and the collector. Sotheby’s has been extremely honoured to be entrusted with a sale of such importance and I am deeply grateful to the consignors for the support and trust they have shown to the Fine Chinese Paintings Department.” 

Kevin Ching, Chief Executive Officer, Sotheby’s Asia, comments on the sale, “Today’s sale of The Mei Yun Tang Collection of Paintings by Chang Dai-chien is Sotheby’s Asia’s first-ever standalone art sale in nearly 40 years and, therefore, an important milestone in the history of Sotheby’s Asia that reinforces our leadership in the Asian art market. The stunning result achieved today proves that impeccable provenance is key to strong participation and bidding interest regardless of the date of sale. Sotheby’s will continue to source the finest artworks from around the world, and we look forward to offering to collections more collections of such quality and importance on top of our regular spring and autumn auction series.”


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.