LARGE new gallery spaces in Hong Kong look set to provide the battleground in the competition for private treaty sales between Sotheby’s and Christie’s.
Christie's opened a 15,000 sq ft gallery and
saleroom space in the heart of Hong Kong early in 2010. Now
Sotheby's are to launch a similar venture, which is virtually the
The new facilities will allow the two
auction houses to showcase major artworks to wealthy Asian buyers
on their doorstep all year round. They will also free them from the
limitations of their time slots at the main convention centre where
they continue to hold their major sales.
Christie's are already using their space for
wine sales and previews, and both houses have mentioned future
sales on their premises, but neither will yet give details of what
these will entail.
However, the facilities will certainly
give them a more visible presence in an increasingly important
market beyond the biannual auction series they currently hold.
Christie's Asia president François Curiel
told ATG: "It can be used for any kind of auction, and if we find
we need to have additional auctions in addition to the big two
auctions at the convention centre every year then yes, why not, but
at the moment there is nothing on the calendar."
Meanwhile, Patti Wong, chairman of Sotheby's
Asia, said: "It has been very clear for the last couple of years
that our clients want to transact with us outside of our current
twice-yearly schedule, and that there is eager anticipation for the
launch next month of our Hong Kong gallery space where we will
mount auctions and selling exhibitions, show upcoming sale
highlights from our other international centres and hold other
The Sotheby's HK gallery includes a
permanent salon for Sotheby's Diamonds, "a unique partnership" with
Steinmetz Diamond Group, "allowing clients to purchase from the
collection throughout the year".
On top of previews in May for June sales in
London, Sotheby's have announced two selling exhibitions for their
new gallery space, from May 19-31.
One covers 30 'important works' by Japanese
artist Yayoi Kusama and the other is Modern Masters: Corot
to Monet - French Landscape Painting in the 19th and 20th
The latter appears to be, at least in part,
an exercise in taste-making, the key to broadening demand for
Western art and antiques among Asian buyers.
Sotheby's president and CEO Bill Ruprecht
added: "This transformative space will increase the level of
activity and the range of objects we will offer to clients in Asia
on a regular basis."
The results of Sotheby's five-day Hong Kong spring series of
sales, which ended on April 4, illustrated why competition is
becoming ever more heated in this market. Sotheby's Asia chief
executive Kevin Ching announced "more than 2780 lots sourced from
nearly 30 countries around the world were sold to buyers primarily
from across Asia, but with substantial worldwide competition", and
achieved over US$316m, "solidly over" pre-sale estimates of over