Sotheby's toasts stellar HK wine sales, art sales mixed

Tue Apr 3, 2012 9:18am EDT
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By Farah Master

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Global auction house Sotheby's kicked off its spring sales in Hong Kong by selling all lots in a two-day wine sale, outstripping expectations, but the picture was less clear for its Asian and Chinese art sales as buyers became more selective.

The five-day sale by Sotheby's of wine, jewellery, Asian and Chinese art, ceramics and watches, held from March 31 to April 4, is closely watched as a barometer of emerging market demand from Asian and Chinese buyers in 2012.

Soaring demand, particularly from Chinese investors for expensive artwork and luxury goods, has become the norm in recent years. But escalating prices in 2011 and challenging economic conditions resulted in lackluster demand for certain lots at the previous season's sale.

China, which has been the engine of growth for luxury brands including Prada and international auction houses, cut its annual growth target to 7.5 percent for 2012, a pace the government hopes will give it room to push structural reforms.

Sotheby's said its wine sales beat top estimates at HK$63.6 million ($8.19 million) compared with a forecast of HK$57.3 million.

"Mature, classic Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne were a huge success," said Sotheby's Worldwide Head of Wine Serena Sutcliffe.

Demand for bottles of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti dominated the auction, which took place on March 31 and April 1, with the two top lots of Romanee Conti 1988 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti sold for HK$1.6 million, topping estimates of HK$1.1 million.

At the 20th Century Chinese Art sale on Monday, 90.7 percent of the lots were sold, fetching a total of HK$255 million against a presale high estimate of HK$238 million.   Continued...

A glass of red wine in a file photo. REUTERS/Tony Gentile