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Sales report: Sotheby's Hong Kong

Art Market | Since 2012, Sotheby’s auction house has organized Hong Kong sales that bring together internationally renowned and Asian artists. Built on a local/global synergy, these sales are a strategic tool of influence : the pearl of the Orient as China’s strong arm.

Auction scene at Sotheby’s “Boundless: Contemporary Art”, January 20, 2015 © Courtesy Sotheby’s
Auction scene at Sotheby’s “Boundless: Contemporary Art”, January 20, 2015
© Courtesy Sotheby’s

- Rise in the rate of representation of Western artists
From a weak participation in the first sale, the ratio has progressively evolved : 22% in 2012, 34% in January 2014, 27% in June 2014 and 54% in the 2015 sales. Regarding the geographic origin of works sold, there is a similar progression. While sales at Boundless : contemporary art #1 only included 21 lots of western works out of 83 total (25%), the 5th sale totalled 47 out of 105 (45%).
Over the five sales, the works of 36 European artists were on offer, with 19 French (Klein, Venet, Mathieu Georges...) and 9 English artists (Hirst, Quinn, Emin...). As for the Americas, there were 22 U.S. artists (Warhol, Lichtenstein, Basquiat, Haring, Koons...) and 6 Latin Americans (Fontana, Botero...).

- Rate of non-sale higher among Asian artists
Apart from Boundless : contemporary art #4, the other four editions confirm this trend. The first auction included 10 unsold individual lots, of which only 3 were non-Asian artists : 2 Boteros estimated at between $1,250,000 and $1,800,000 and a Lichtenstein estimated at between $700,000 and $840,000. This ratio is even more pronounced at the Boundless : contemporary art #3 auction, where 11 of the 12 unsold lots were Asian artists. This loss is estimated at between $1.8 and $2.4 million and explains the total sales result attaining 45% of the high end of the estimate ($3,485,711 against $5,065,152). By comparison, the other sales, in chronological order, brought in $6,148,561 (-32% from the estimated high of $8,109,921), $4,474,906 (+6,8 / $4,187,201), $5,433,436 (+0,8 / $5,386,659) and $5,354,067 (+23% / $4,344,600).

-The total value of Western sales has evolved considerably
Representing $1,841,697, or 30% of the total sales, from the 1st auction, 29% for the 2nd, 38% for the 3rd, 35% for the 4th and 53% for the latest auction. The configuration of the Top 5 largest bids for each auction has changed over this period :
- For the 1st auction, Botero was the only non-Asian artist in the ranking
- The Top 5 for Boundless : contemporary art #2 included two Western artists (Anselm Kieffer and Marc Quinn), as did the next year (Marc Quinn and Georges Mathieu).
- Only Lichtenstein figures in this ranking for the January 2015 sale.
- The configuration differs for Boundless : contemporary art #5 with 2 Keith Haring works and a Warhol in the Top 5 - with a sales record for Keith Haring. Note that 17 of the 31 Western artists in the latest auction had already participated in at least two prior sales. Warhol and Hirst were in all five Sotheby’s organized auctions, with Warhol selling 20 lots out of 21 for a total of $1,300,000 and Hirst selling 8 of 9 lots for a total of $500,000.

Sotheby’s strategy of mixing markets reflects an increasing interest in Western contemporary art, but even more so a market position. China, by way of Hong Kong, holds a major place on the Asian continent in the globalisation of supply and demand. However, this position is not yet confirmed; sales of artwork have fallen 30% since the start of 2015 (Artnet figures) and the Chinese economy remains volatile.

Vincent Kozsilovics / Carlotta Montaldo
Publié le 01/08/2015
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Auction scene at Sotheby’s “Boundless: Contemporary Art”, January 20, 2015 © Courtesy Sotheby’s

Auction scene at Sotheby’s “Boundless: Contemporary Art”, January 20, 2015
© Courtesy Sotheby’s

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