Christie's HK Asian sales miss target, crisis weighs

Wed Dec 3, 2008 11:09am EST
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By James Pomfret

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Auction house Christie's sold $146 million worth of Asian artwork in its Hong Kong autumn sales concluded Wednesday, around 35 percent below its pre-sale estimate as the financial crisis shrunk demand for Asian art.

After the five-day sales however, Christie's made a total of HK$1.13 billion ($146 million), around 35 percent less than the pre-sale estimate, with 70 percent of the 2400 lots sold.

From ancient Chinese inkbrush scrolls to flawless diamonds, edgy contemporary Asian art, antique watches, lustrous Ming ceramics, fine wines and carved lacquer bowls, Christie's lush Hong Kong fall auctions were expected to tally HK$1.75 billion.

"Like all markets we are affected by confidence and we've definitely seen less confidence in our world in the last two or three months," Edward Dolman, the CEO of Christie's International told Reuters, adding he was bullish on Asian art in the medium term and building stronger sales in 12 months time.

In May, Christie's raked in $310 million from its spring Hong Kong sales, a best-ever tally for an Asian sales series.

Over the past few days of sales in Hong Kong, now considered the world's third major auction hub behind New York and London, the worst bruised categories were Asian and Chinese contemporary art -- with around 40-50 percent of lots unsold.

"We've had six years of bull-run, so there's definitely a tightening of belts," said Arun Vadehra, a New Delhi-based art dealer and consultant who sat through the Asian contemporary art sales earlier in the week.

"It is no longer the days of indiscriminate buying."   Continued...