Modern masters, contemporary stars · Sotheby’s Hong Kong 2022

Modern masters, contemporary stars · Sotheby's Hong Kong 2022

Modern masters, contemporary stars · Sotheby’s Hong Kong 2022 Pablo Picasso — Dora Maar — 1939Yoshitomo Nara — Oddly Cozy — 2013 Overview of the April 2022 Modern and Contemporary art auctions at Sotheby’s Hong Kong. By G. Fernández · · Images: Pablo Picasso, “Dora Maar”, painted in March 1939 ·· Yoshitomo Nara, “Oddly Cozy”, painted in 2013. The Modern Evening Auction achieved a total of HK$543 million (US$69 million). The sale started strong, with two works by two Vietnamese artists (Mai Trung Thu and Le Pho) fetching four times their pre-sale estimate. The latter artist was one of the biggest surprises of the auction, when his “Figures in a garden” fetched HK$17.9 million (about US$2.3 million), some seven times its pre-sale estimate. This trend of rising appreciation of Southeast Asian modern art was further confirmed when two works by Singaporean artist Cheong Soo Pieng fetched four times their pre-sale estimate. The big star among the Asian works was Chen Yifei’s “Banquet” (1991), a painting for which Sotheby’s spared no praise, calling it “a masterwork from Chen Yifei’s creative peak. It is not simply the pinnacle of the artist’s personal achievements; it also represents Chinese art’s rebirth”. Ay caramba. Despite these accolades, the work was auctioned for just HK$54.5 million (about US$13.2 million), a far cry, for example, from the 149.5 million yuan (US$22.7 million) paid for “Warm Spring in the Jade Pavilion”, another work by Chen Yifei sold in China in late 2017. Without as much acclaim as the previous work, Wu Guanzhong’s “Plum blossoms” (1973) sold for HK$103.9 million (about US$13.2 million), within the pre-sale estimate calculated by Sotheby’s. “Vent debout” (1989), a monumental abstraction by Chu Teh-Chun, was auctioned for HK$34.2 million (about US$4.4 million), slightly above expectations, but far from the HK$229.6 million paid last year at Sotheby’s for his “Harmonie hivernale” (1986). In addition to these Asian artworks, the auction also included several works from the European avant-garde, and in my humble opinion none of them were too interesting. The big star of the auction (along with the aforementioned “Banquet”), a portrait of Dora Maar painted by Pablo Picasso in March 1939, is a somewhat “dull” work compared to other portraits of Maar sold in recent years. Nevertheless, the painting was sold for HK$169.4 (around US$21.6 million), a fairly acceptable price for a work whose pre-sale estimate was “above HK$138 million”. “Baigneuse accoudée” is one of those nudes by Pierre-Auguste Renoir that would possibly have done better at auction in the late 1990s than today, when the post-impressionist / classicist / Ingresque Renoir seems totally out of fashion. The work did not reach its minimum price, and was not sold. “Les pivoines” (1969), a typical still life by Marc Chagall, sold for HK$14.9 million, within Sotheby’s pre-sale estimate. After the modern art auction, and before moving on to the contemporary art auction, Sotheby’s presented the lot that was the real star of the evening: “The De Beers Blue”, a 15.1-carat blue diamond that fetched 450.9 million Hong Kong dollars (US$57.5 million). Time for the Contemporary Evening Auction, which achieved a total of HK$746.4 million (US$95.1 million). Did we say that the modern art sale started off strong? Well, the contemporary art auction started like a hurricane. Anna Weyant’s “Josephine” (2020) fetched nine times its most optimistic pre-sale estimate, as did Cheng Xinyi’s “Aperitif” (2018). Before reaching the “stars” of the auction, works by young artists such as Shara Hughes or Maria Berrio had already smashed their pre-sale expectations, as did a “Pumpkin” by Yayoi Kusama. More positive surprises from the auction: “I Hope You Don’t Mind”, a work by Javier Calleja that could pair well with the “little girls” by Yoshitomo Nara (we will talk about Nara later, by the way), fetched HK$6.7 million, more than eight times its most optimistic pre-sale estimate. Tomokazu Matsuyama’s “Something Came Together” (2018) sold for more than six times its most optimistic pre-sale estimate. This euphoria, however, did not reach the works with the highest presale estimates, without meaning that they failed. The auction’s a priori most valuable work, a large bronze “Spider” (1996–97) by Louise Bourgeois, sold for HK$129 million (US$16.4 million), close to its most conservative pre-sale estimate. The work had sold less than five years ago at Sotheby’s New York ($14.7 million), which is likely to have diminished its appeal. “Oddly Cozy”, one of Yoshitomo Nara’s now famous “little girls”, sold for HK$112 million (US$14.3 million), close to its most optimistic pre-sale estimate. We have already spoken several times about Basquiats being oversold on the market, and these suspicions were made clear when “Worshipper”, which had a pre-sale estimate of between HK$63 and 93 million, failed to find a buyer. In truth, it is not a great Basquiat, and both its somewhat late date (1984) and the fact that it has been previously auctioned in 2010, 2014 and 2017 did not help the work to reach its expectations. In any case, it will be necessary to wait for the Phillips auction next May, which will include an undisputed masterpiece by the artist valued at $70 million, to draw a full conclusion about the current state of the market for Jean-Michel Basquiat. #2022 #ArtMarket #theartwolf


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