SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - A huge, whimsical floral sculpture by Japan's Takashi Murakami is set to steal the show at Sotheby's Hong Kong auction of modern Asian art in a region apparently unfazed by the global economic slowdown.
The October 4 sale is Sotheby's first of a series of five in Hong Kong, the world's third largest art auction market after New York and London, where more than 570 works from all over Asia, valued at a minimum of $69 million, will go under the hammer.
"The Asian contemporary art market is still going strong," Chin Yeow Quek, deputy chairman of Sotheby's Asia, told Reuters during a preview of the sales in Singapore.
"The business is so global now that people from all over the world are looking for a place to park their money during this global slowdown and the art market has so far proven resilient."
Quek said China's newly rich art acquirers were still major buyers of regional, and especially Chinese art, while Indonesian and Indian paintings were also proving very attractive.
Murakami's 4 meter by 3 meter (13 feet by 10 feet) "Flower Matango", tagged at $3 million, is the first work by this significant contemporary artist to be auctioned in Asia, said Evelyn Lin, head of Sotheby's contemporary Asian art department.
"Murakami has a very strong market in Europe and the United States, but this is his first work in Asia, which is a testament to the strength of the market here," she added.
Other highlights of the sale include a signature "Bloodline: The Big Family" work by Chinese artist Zhang Xiaogang as well as works by record-breaking cynical Realist artist Yue Minjun and the comic-book style, sarcastic paintings of Indonesia's Nyoman Masriadi, including one that features a Batman and a Superman.
The October 5 20th Century Chinese Art sale will feature works by Taiwanese artist Chen Chengbo and Wang Zhenghua's "Nanchang Uprising", considered an art classic of Communist China.
Works by mainly Indonesian artists including Masriadi and the renowned Affandi will feature in the October 6 Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian sale. And the highlight of the Fine Chinese paintings sale of the same day is the delicate ink brush scroll, "Along the Yangtze River", by Wu Guanzhong, who requested the proceeds be donated to a scholarship that bears his name at Beijing's Tsinghua University.
The auction series will also include Sotheby's first night-time sale, a nod to the black-tie, formal evening sales of New York and Europe, but with a more casual, Asian twist.
"Night-time sales tend to be more social events and our October 4 sale will be our first in Asia, but because we tend to be more casual here, we're not expecting tuxedos," Quek said.
Rival auction house Christie's held a glitzy evening sale this spring in Hong Kong which saw a work by Zeng Fanzhi sell for $9.7 million, a then-auction record for any Asian contemporary artwork.
Editing by Roger Crabb