The Top10 in Hong Kong



Fridays are the Best! Every other Friday, Artprice offers you a themed auction ranking. The ranking this week reveals the 10 best performing artists during the recent auctions in Hong Kong.

Top 10 Auction Results in Honk Kong (01/10/2015 – 15/10/2015)
Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Yayoi KUSAMA $6 063 000 No. Red B (1960) 2015-10-04 Sotheby’s HONG KONG
2 WU Guanzhong $4 902 000 Peach Blossoms (1973) 2015-10-04 Sotheby’s HONG KONG
3 ZENG & MA Fanzhi & Jack $4 644 000 Paradise (2014) 2015-10-04 Sotheby’s HONG KONG
4 Louise BOURGEOIS $4 644 000 QuarantaniaQuarantania (1947-1953) 2015-10-05 Seoul Auction HONG KONG
5 Whan-Ki KIM $3 999 000 19-Ⅶ-71 #209 (19-Ⅶ-71 #209) (1971) 2015-10-05 Seoul Auction HONG KONG
6 FU Baoshi $3 870 000 Beauties (1945) 2015-10-06 Sotheby’s HONG KONG
7 ZHANG Daqian $2 644 500 Lotus in the Wind (1973) 2015-10-06 Sotheby’s HONG KONG
8 ZAO Wou-Ki $2 580 000 08.03.66 (1966) 2015-10-04 Sotheby’s HONG KONG
9 ZHANG Daqian $2 386 500 Lotus Pond (1979) 2015-10-06 Sotheby’s HONG KONG
10 ZHANG Xiaogang $2 347 800 Tiananmen No. 3 (1993) 2015-10-04 Sotheby’s HONG KONG
copyright © 2015


Hong Kong has one of the most dynamic markets in the world and offers Western artists a gateway to the Asian market. Taking the pulse of this market, especially in this tricky economic period, allows us to see which artists are faring best at auction, and at what price. Artprice revisits the recent results for October, especially strong in Hong Kong, where Sotheby’s organised no less than eight fine art auctions in three days (4–6 October), a veritable marathon of auctions featuring everything from traditional Asian art to the most contemporary of pieces. These eight sessions brought in USD 162m (Sotheby’s turnover from 4–6 October), USD 76.8m for the only sale of the Modern and Contemporary Asian Art evening, the most prestigious of all.

It was during this auction that the work of the most popular Japanese artist in the world, Yayoi Kusama (born in 1929), sold for USD 7m including fees. Titled No. Red B, this piece from 1960 was purchased for USD 2m above its estimate. Sotheby’s just missed setting a new world record for Kusama, which is currently for the canvas White No. 28 sold last year in New York (USD 7.1m including fees, Christie’s, 12 November 2014). Such a result, USD 7 m, solidifies the power of the Hong Kong market compared to that of New York, as the buyer is a private Asian collector. Collected more avidly in the East than in the West, Yayoi Kusama is exploding with prices that have increased 512% since 2000, a rapid rise in just the last five years.


Second place is held by Wu Guanzhong (1919-2010), an Asian market phenomenon whose price index has risen nearly 600% since 2000. His canvases fetch preposterous prices in China: several millions of dollars for the best, including a record of USD 17.7m in 2011 (with his canvas Lion Woodsde 1988, sold at Poly International in Beijing). His works are sporadically found at New York auctions, generally drawings, sold for USD 100,000–300,000, rather than the intensely sought-after canvases in Chine.

Guanzhong is also included, along with Fu Baoshi (1904-1965) and Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), the most popular artists in the Chinese scene. These two masters have also been among the 10 best performing artists in the world for the past four years. Without having returned to the peak prices achieved at auction in 2011 (record of USD 24.5m for Zhang Daqian at Sotheby’s Hong Kong and of USD 36.2m for Fu Baoshi at Beijing Hanhai in Beijing), they remain safe investments in modern Chinese art.

Another safe haven the major auctions can no longer do without: the work of Franco-Chinese Zao Wou-Ki (1921-2013), one of the most sought-after artists today. All of Asia (Hong Kong, Taiwan, continental China) is thirsty for his work and makes up 80% of his turnover; while France remains a hotbed for his work (40% of transactions). Zao is the most acclaimed Chinese artist in both the Chinese and European market, a success that is pulling aloft other Chinese artists who have marked the French artistic landscape.


Surprise rankings

Three surprises are in the ranking, with the explosive duo formed by Zeng Fanzhi & Jack Ma for one piece only, the introduction of Louise Bourgeois to the Hong Kong market, and the confirmation in the Korean market with the new record for Kim Whan Ki.

Third in the ranking: Paradise is the sole work known to be jointly created by Zeng Fanzhi & Jack Ma, the fruit of a one-off collaboration in a philanthropic context. Zeng Fanzhi & Jack Ma created this work for The Paradise International foundation, a non-profit foundation working to protect the environment. During its time at auction on 4 October at Sotheby’s, it rocketed from an estimate of close to USD 200,000 to a sale price of USD 5.4m! Indeed, Zeng Fanzhi is the most popular Chinese contemporary artist of all, but the generosity of the auction participants partially explains this price surge, with the proceeds of the sale going to The Paradise International foundation. The work itself, The Paradise, is a continuation of Zeng Fanzhi’s work and commitment, beginning an Expressionist landscape series (Landscape series) after the famous Masques (Masks) series that catapulted him in the contemporary scene. Zeng took advantage of his notoriety to make his fellow countrymen aware of ecological issues that concern him. Zeng Fanzhi grew up in the city of Wuhan, unfortunately feared for its thick clouds of pollution, unbearable heat, and especially polluted water.

In fifth place we have Kim Whan Ki (1913-1974), further proof of the explosion underway for the leading figures in Korean art. His canvas 19-Ⅶ-71 #209 sold for USD 3.99m, the all-time high for this artist who is generally more used to Korean auctions (66% of his regular turnover comes from Korea) than those in Hong Kong. Major artist in the modern Korean art scene, he also represents the opening of the international scene as, after his studies in Tokyo, he worked in Seoul, Paris and New York. Western markets are still not very active, although his work sold for USD 1.4m in 2011 in New York.

The month of October also marks the first time a Hong Kong auction house sees the work of Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010), with positive results: her sculpture in bronze QuarantaniaQuarantania changed hands for USD 4.6m, within its estimated range, at Seoul Auction. This is the current record for this totemic work, sold for USD 2m less in New York in 2008.

This ranking confirms the high performance of the Chinese market, and the increasing attention paid to Japanese and Korean contemporary artists. It shows us that contemporary creation attains the best rankings and that, in addition to Asian artists, an artist as renowned as Louise Bourgeois in the Western art world can begin to find a place in Chinese auction houses as well.