Hong Kong’s art market looking stronger



Hong Kong’s Spring sales were a success with Christie’s posting a total of $364 million from its May sales (which contained a small percentage of non-Fine Art lots) including $59.2 million from its prestige Modern & Contemporary Art evening sale on 28 May 2016. Overall, the sales reflect an optimistic mood with particularly low unsold rates and a strong show of buyer confidence!

Christie’s buyers were predominantly Asian, acquiring 70% of the lots sold and adding to the market values of ZAO Wou-Ki (with a result above $9 million) and other artists like Cesar LEGASPI (Philippines), Hyong-Keun YUN (Korea), Seund Ja RHEE (Korea), LALAN (China) and Yasuo SUMI (Japan) who all reached new auction highs. On 29 May, Christie’s Modern & Contemporary Art day sale (with equally prestigious signatures as the night before, but with a less up-market selection of works) was also very well received with 90% of the lots sold and particularly strong bidding for Zao wou-ki and Chu Teh-Chun, China’s two leading 20th century abstract artists, and for the Japanese artist Yoshitomo NARA, whose For Citizen no less than tripled its estimates, fetching $1 million.

Although Yoshitomo Nara was not the most expensive artist in these recent sales, he acted as a good indicator of the high level of confidence in the Asian market. Firstly, because he’s a Contemporary artist whose prices will be, a priori, more volatile than those of early-20th century artists, and secondly because his star lot in the prestige sale of 28 May, Banging the Drum, fetched $770,000 in 2014 in London. In most cases, a rapid resale after just two years would be considered risky; however, on the back of strong demand, Nara’s price index has inflated by 60% since 2014 and it propelled Banging the Drum to above the million-dollar line on 28 May.
Nevertheless, the undisputed star of the Hong Kong sales was clearly the Franco-Chinese artist Zao Wou-Ki with Christie’s selling no less than 16 works by the artist in two days. These works ranged from lithographs available for $6,000 – $10,000, to one of his early canvases (Untitled (Vert émeraude) which clearly showed the influence of Paul Klee and fetched $9.1 million. Christie’s was particularly pleased with the result as Sotheby’s has so far generated all of Zao’s best results. An emblematic work from a turning point in Zao’s career, . Since 2000 his price index has risen by 1000% and his prices are still rising on the back of strong international demand.
In the wake of Zao Wou-ki, Chu Teh-Chun’s results also confirmed the impressive momentum driving 20th century Franco-Chinese artists. CHU Teh-Chun, – whose price index shows a massive 1,600% increase since 2000 – has just crossed the $5 million threshold for the sixth time in his auction history.

On the whole, the results of these recent sales illustrate the strength of the Hong Kong market which acts as the primary hub for pan-Asian but also Franco-Chinese artists… artists who are sought-after by major European museums and collectors. From local to glocal, Hong Kong is the only Chinese city that has managed to maintain it growth dynamic over the last year and a half.