A NEW record for Ming porcelain set by a king of Las Vegas provided the headline, but the real story of Christie’s anniversary series in Hong Kong was the rise and rise of Modern and Contemporary Asian art. This relatively new visitor to the global auction market has now eclipsed more traditional collecting disciplines as Christie’s biggest earner in Hong Kong.
Christie’s marked their 20th year of sales in Hong Kong with their largest ever series on the island: a small leaning tower of plush catalogues from blinging wristwatches to 13th century calligraphy.
Among them was The Imperial Sale: Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art on May 30 that included a superb and very rare Hongwu (1368-1398) copper-red vase that sold at HK$70m (£4.9m) to the casino magnate Steve Wynn. He announced his intention to donate the vase to a museum in Macau, where he recently applied to develop four hotels and three casinos on a 22-hectare site in Cotai.
Christie’s sold 268 or 66 per cent of the 409 works of art offered for a total of HK$331.4m (£23.2m) – a house record in a collecting discipline that was among the first on the Hong Kong bandwagon in 1986.
However, this sum was pushed aside by the grand total of HK$475.9m (£33.3m) achieved by four sales or an unprecedented 863 lots devoted to Modern & Contemporary Southeast Asian Art, 20th Century Chinese Art, Asian Contemporary Art (all on May 28) and Fine Modern and Contemporary Chinese Paintings (May 29).
Confirming the enormous potential of these categories, which cut their teeth in the relative backwaters of Singapore and Taipei in the 1990s, selling rates scarcely dipped below 90 per cent in all but one of the sales. Among a clutch of artist records was the oil on canvas Village de pluie rouge, Maison de nuage blanc No. 53 by Chu Teh-Chun (born 1920) that prompted some animated bidding before it sold to an Asian private buyer at HK$23m (£1.61m), five times its estimate.