Published on Monday, July 11th, 2011
Reaching record highs reminiscent to 2008, has the market regained its footing? Is it demonstrating its resilience in the face of economic crisis? To some it may feel like a slap in the face, at a time when many nations are standing on the precipice of an economic abyss, that in striking contrast the art market is flourishing. Yet, perhaps the question on everyone’s minds is the following: who is raking in the highest sums?
The contemporary art market in China plunges ahead at full speed. Starting off the season in April was Sotheby’s sales in Hong Kong that chalked up HK$3.49 billion ($447 million). Yet Christie’s soon blew this record out of the water when the auction house reached an extraordinary HK$3.65 billion ($469.2 million) in six days of sales. Zhang Xiaogang's 1988 painting "Forever Lasting Love
" sold for a total of $10 million, setting a new record for a living Chinese artist. An evolution in the taste of collectors is evidently shifting to Chinese art. Classical style contemporary artists, little known to the West, are seeing their value soar, as the collectors seem to be partial to artists from their own culture. Indeed even little known Chinese artists are experiencing a sharp rise in the prices of their art.
Another record-breaker for Christie’s in Hong Kong was renowned Chinese contemporary artist Zeng Fanzhi’s “The Leopard
”. Estimated at US$769,200 to 1,025,600 and sold to a private Asian buyer for US$ 1,236,170. Furthermore, Zao Wou Ki’s “2.11.59
” was hammered down at over HK$40 million ($5 million) to several times its pre-sale estimate (HK$10-15 million). This season China exerted its power in the contemporary art ring through the affirmation of soaring prices and the galloping pace of growth. Despite high success, art market experts seem to agree that Hong Kong and China in general require more establishments concentrating on contemporary art in order to remain at the top. This season proved that Asian works are ever increasing in demand, with 67% of the Chinese works selling over their high estimates and setting multiple world auction records.
Catching experts off guard, London’s auction houses doubled their total sales for the same auction last summer, suggesting that Europe is making a comeback. A telephone bidder, competing against a third-party guarantor, gave 7 million pounds for Andy Warhol’s 1973 silkscreen painting, “Mao,
” a work estimated at 6 to 8 million pounds. Sotheby’s has reached its highest total for a contemporary art sale by taking in £108.8 million. Francis Bacon’s high status was reaffirmed as his stunning emerald “Crouching Nude
”, one of a series of visceral portraits of his muse Henrietta Moraes, sold for £8.3 million. At Christie's auction in London on another Bacon painting, “Study for a Portrait
” sold for £18 million - £7 million more than its original estimate. In this particular session, 53 of the 65 Contemporary works of art on offer were gobbled up by buyers, adding up to almost £79 million, or $126 million. At £17.96 million it exceeded by half the unprinted estimate in the region of £11 million, plus the sale charge. Stamina did no cease throughout the sale, which totaled $125.7 million, towering high above the $123.8 million estimate. Out of 65 works in the auction, only 12 failed to sell. Officials at Christie’s said Europeans dominated the buying.
All signs point to a flourishing market for art in both London and Hong Kong. While appetite for Chinese contemporary art appears to get stronger by the day, Europe is definitely making a remarkable comeback to the international stage of contemporary art. curated by rachel betz