The record-breaking sale of Zhang Xiaogang’s Bloodline: Big Family No. 3 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong on April 5. (Photo courtesy Sotheby’s)
This week in Hong Kong there has been no sign of the ardour for top Chinese contemporary artists cooling. It is clear that the most popular and well recognised artists will continue to see escalating prices, as we predicted last week. Sotheby’s are particularly pleased with the record-setting sale of a piece by Zhang Xiaogang and many other high end of estimate prices.
After active competition from five bidders, Zhang’s Bloodline: Big Family No. 3 sold for US$12.1 million at the Sotheby’s Hong Kong Modern And Contemporary Asian Art Evening Sale on April 5, surpassing its high estimate of $10.3 million. This amount is significantly higher than the artist’s previous record, which was set in 2011 with the sale of Forever Lasting Love (Triptych) for $10.1 million. Inspired by family photos from the Cultural Revolution and European surrealism, the painting was one of the artist’s rarer, early works, and had established a previous world record for Zhang when it was auctioned in 2008 for about half its current value.
The painting by Zhang Xiagang is regarded as highly charged politically which is partly responsible for the record price (Photo courtesy Sotheby’s)
A major factor in the uplift in prices of Chinese contemporary works is attributable to the rising presence of Chinese collectors in the market. With growing incomes and a pragmatic, investment-minded approach to buying, Chinese bidders are more active every season as their numbers swell. “While bidding on the selection of highly desirable works was truly global, Asian collectors walked away with most of the top pieces,” said a Sotheby’s representative. The rising presence of wealthy Chinese collectors at global auctions may well help Chinese auction prices to catch up on those of Western prices in the coming years.
Zeng Fanzhi’s This Land So Rich In Beauty No. 6 (Diptych) surpassed its high estimate with a sale of $2.8 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong evening sale. (Sotheby’s)
Chinese contemporary art dominated the top 10 lots of the sale, with many pieces surpassing their high estimates. Two pieces by Zeng Fanzhi, the artist with the current world record for the most expensive piece of Chinese contemporary art, topped their high estimates—his This Land So Rich In Beauty No. 6 (Diptych) and Mask Series No. 5 both sold for $2.8 million. Chinese-French painters were highly prominent at the sale: Sanyu’s Potted Chrysanthemums sold for $10.3 million, while three of Zao Wou-Ki’s paintings were among the top 10.
Sanyu’s Potted Chrysanthemums was the second-highest lot of the evening after the Zhang Xiaogang piece, selling for $10.3 million. (Photo courtesy Sotheby’s)
Here are the top 10 lots with exact prices in USD:
1. Zhang Xiaogang, Bloodline: Big Family No. 3, 1995: $12,076,923
2. Sanyu, Potted Chrysanthemums, 1950s: $10,353,846
3. S. Sudjojono, Pasukan Kita Yang Dipimppin Pangeran Diponegoro (Our Soldiers Led Under Prince Diponegoro), 1979: $7,482,051
4. Chen Yifei, Morning Prayer, 1996: $3,461,538
5. Zeng Fanzhi, This Land So Rich In Beauty No. 6 (Diptych), 2006: $2,887,179
6. Zeng Fanzhi, Mask Series No. 5, 1994: $2,887,179
7. Zao Wou-Ki, 06.01.64, 1964: $2,743,590
8. Zao Wou-Ki, 18.08.67, 1967: $2,671,795
9. Zao Wou-Ki, 20.01.64, 1964: $2,456,410
10. Kazuo Shiraga, Chitaisei Honkoshin, 1960: $2,312,821
The strength of blue-chip works went far beyond the top 10. Many Chinese contemporary works in the seven-figure range met or exceeded their estimates, such as Yue Minjun’s Garbage Hill, which fetched $1.5 million, and Liu Wei’s Dad In Front of TV Set, which sold for about $1.4 million. The auction achieved a sale of 92.7 percent of all works by lot and 96.3 percent by value, showing that interest remains strong among blue-chip buyers at all price levels.
With thanks to Sotheby’s Hong Kong