In terms of the bottom line, Christie’s latest Hong Kong HK$1.07bn (£83.5m) premium-inclusive Asian series was a far cry from the firm’s record-breaking HK$2.4bn (then £162.2m) extravaganza last year.
With vendors across the board reticent to consign in this
financial climate for the sales from May 24-27, a more streamlined
12-catalogue series of classical, modern and contemporary art,
watches, wine and jewellery comprised just 1659 lots compared to
the 2448-lot outing last spring.
In terms of demand, this series showed strength in the market
across the board for quality works with provenance. This trend was
especially noticeable in the traditional money-spinning field of
Imperial Chinese ceramics and works of art.
The 186-lot mixed-vendor Imperial sale on May 27 took four hours
to conduct and was the series' most lucrative banker at HK$273.9m
(£21.4m), just shy of the pre-sale upper estimate of HK$280m
"The mood was buoyant and we found the market to be as strong as
it has ever been. There are as many Western and Asian buyers and
Chinese ceramics and works of art are still holding their value,"
commented Christie's head of department Pola Antebi.
Overall, selling rates by volume were in line with past series
and ranged from 56 per cent for the classical paintings outing to
97 per cent for the wine sale, with the five contemporary and
modern Asian and south east Asian art auctions ranging from 74 per
cent to 90 per cent.
The series' most coveted entry was a pair of Kangxi period
Imperial gilt bronze ritual bells dated to 1715 in the Imperial
sale, shown here. They were unusual for being a pair (originally
there would have been 12) and for their dragon rather than trigram
Western, Hong Kong and mainland Chinese bidding for this private
Japanese consignment illustrated the depth of interest for top-end
Imperial works of art. The winning HK$40m (£3.1m) hammer price
placed in the room by London and New York-based dealership
Littleton and Hennessy was in line with recent comparable examples.
A single Qianlong period bell in better condition made HK$27m (now
£2.1m) at Christie's Hong Kong last May. It had been a sleeper at
Bellmans of Sussex in October 2007 when it made £400,000.
Hong Kong buyers took home 45 per cent of the sale, with
mainland Chinese bidders the auction's second most prolific group
of buyers. But participation from major Western dealers and
collectors continues to be central to the buoyancy of this
Littleton and Hennessy also clinched the week's second
highlight: an Imperial blue and white Yongzheng (1723-35) dragon
bottle vase at HK$27m (£2.1m).
The price for this privately consigned vase, originally in the
Robert Chang collection, illustrates just how far the Qing Imperial
porcelain market has come in the last decade. It sold for a
premium-inclusive HK$3.98m (now £311,000) at Christie's Hong Kong
The same could be said for the best Ming dynasty porcelain: a
Ming dynasty Chenghua period (1465-87) blue and white dish from the
Du Boulay collection that made £60,000 at Bonhams in London 2003
realised HK$7m (£546,875) here.
A Ming dynasty Wanli (1573-1619) mark and period dragon box and
cover headlined Bonhams' three-catalogue May 20-21 series that
comprised Chinese ceramics and works of art, jewellery,
wristwatches and wine. It fetched HK$2.2m (£171,875).
Much has been made in the press of the emergence of the mainland
Chinese art market and the lifeblood this has injected into the
Asian auction merry-go-round. But until now there has not been a
reputable, well-organised international Asian art fair on the
mainland to cater to this domestic demand.
From June 11-14, Hong Kong's Chak's Investment together with
China's Asia Zenith Expo will be staging the first of what they
hope will become an annual event billed International Antiques
and Arts Expo 2009 at Tai Yuan's World Trade Hotel in Shanxi
province. Around 50 dealers will exhibit from Hong Kong, mainland
China, Taiwan and the West, including London dealers Knapton &
Rasti, Priestley and Ferraro, Jan Van Beers and Robert Brandt.
By Kate Hunt
£1 = HK$12.8
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