A High-octane start to the new season


Fired up by the built to be destructed Banksy’s work, by Zao Wou-ki’s new record of more than $65 million and a generally favourable market context (according to Artprice’s AMCI confidence index, 68% of market professionals are in the mood for buying art), the new auction season has all the stars aligned for dynamic market activity. Artprice takes a look at the first significant results.


In Asia…

The new seasons first significant results traditionally come from Asia with the first big sales dedicated to Modern and Contemporary Art. Christie’s Shanghai was the first to raise the hammer on 21 September, mixing the most sought-after signatures from the Asian scene like Zao Wou-Ki, Chu Teh-Chun, Yoshitomo Nara and Yayoi Kusama with a few Western favourites including Marc Chagall , Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol. The most anticipated lot was a 2-metres tall canvas by ZAO Wou-Ki, whose title 13.02.92 indicates its date of completion, a custom also practiced by another abstract master, Pierre Soulages.13/02/92 is a mature work that Zao Wou-Ki created at age 71 and it was presented by Christie’s as one of the best works of this period of creation. The final result paid due respect to the importance of the canvas, fetching $6.6 million (including buyer fees) against an estimated price range of $2 – 3 million, thereby adding $4.7 million to its value six years ago since 13.02.92 fetched $1.9 million under China Guardian’s hammer on 15 May 2012 in Beijing.
Pretty much expected by the market, that was just an appetizer… because 9 days later, on 30 September in Hong Kong, Christie’s principal rival offered a 10-metre long triptych painted by Zao Wou-Ki between June and October 1985 that was ‘seriously’ anticipated by the entire market. Sotheby’s presented Juin-Octobre 1985 (its title) not only as the largest work by the artist on the market, but also as a perfect example of the fusion of Eastern and Western techniques and philosophies. The bidding on 30 September continued up to $65.2 million, far exceeding the previous high of almost $26 million at Christie’s last year (29/01/64, 25 November 2017 in Hong Kong). And… consolidating its ‘domination’ of this explosive signature in Asia (and elsewhere), on 2 October Sotheby’s hosted a sale exclusively dedicated to Zao Wou-Ki’s art in Hong Kong, offering 16 works under the irresistibly seductive title: The Sublime – Wou-Ki Zao.
The sales in this first week of October posted good results for the major signatures, especially for the Japanese artists Foujita, Kusama, Murakami and Nara who sold fifteen works in two days (October 1 and 2), but also for the fast-rising SAN Yu whose Pot De Pivoines sold close to $9 million on the same day as Wou-Ki’s new record. There were also good results for major Western signatures like Picasso, Richter, Basquiat and Mitchell.

France hosts its first sales of the new season

Over to France – where sales are driven more by passion than by speculation – and where Sotheby’s hosted the last in a series of sales of Daniel Cordier’s collection on 27 September. A former secretary to Jean Moulin, an exemplary member of France’s Resistance movement, awarded the Legion of Honour, passionate about art and an ardent defender of the artists of his time, Daniel Cordier spent 75 years acquiring thousands of works most of which were donated to the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris (donation of 500 works in 1989) and then to the Abattoirs of Toulouse. The remaining 164 works in this last sale illustrate Cordier’s superb eclecticism: Dado (Miodrag Djuric), Christo, Fred Deux, Jean Dubuffet, Roberto Matta (to whom, as a gallerist, he gave a large number of exhibitions) and Louise Nevelson… The estimated collective value of this final batch was around $1 million, a very low estimate considering the importance of certain pieces and the quality of their provenance. That forecast was finally multiplied by four, with a final total approaching $5 million. The Cordier sale was an important moment for the fans of Henri MICHAUX (23 lots sold), of DADO (12 sold works) and of Eugène GABRITSCHEVSKY (10 works sold including a new record at nearly $10,000 for a set of three small untitled gouaches). The most anticipated lot, a rare Texturology by Jean Dubuffet completed in 1958 reached its high estimate of $350,000 and a reliquary by Bernard RÉQUICHOT set a new record for the artist at $175,000 (Reliquaire des rencontres de campagne, 1960-1961). The latter result perfectly illustrates the attitude of French collectors who support artists they believe are important and singular in the history of creation, irrespective of fashion and speculation motives.


Meanwhile over at Sotheby’s, news has just come in that one of BANKSY’s most popular works has just self-destructed immediately after fetching over a million dollars. Clearly, auction rooms are no longer just theatres for financial performances; they have become playgrounds for Contemporary artists capable of anticipating, stimulating and criticising the market… all at the same time. Damien Hirst proved this 10 years ago in a very different way… by taking the reins of his own market and selling his own works. This latest prank by the elusive Banksy will no doubt revive his notoriety and probably his prices as well.