Sotheby's autumn Asian art sales rebound from spring

Thu Oct 8, 2009 6:51am EDT
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By James Pomfret

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Auction giant Sotheby's made a higher-than-expected $168 million or so in total sales for its autumn Asian sales in Hong Kong, in what it said was a sign of strengthening sentiment in the stricken Chinese art market.

Sotheby's said its sales tally for the array of Chinese antiques and paintings, Asian contemporary art, wine, jewelry and watches put up in its fall auctions, was the third highest sales total for its closely watched biannual Hong Kong sales, and 88 percent higher than its spring sales tally.

But for observers looking for evidence of a stronger footing for the Chinese art market after a troubled year, the results were mixed, with collectors still reluctant to put up outstanding works for sale, and the auctions still riddled with unsold lots.

The rebound was also partly the result of Sotheby's offering nearly 50 percent more works for sale than the spring.

Patti Wong, Sotheby's Asia chairman, described the overall results as "strong," with buyers pursuing the most valuable and rare works. She also described "notably stronger" participation by mainland Chinese buyers -- considered a vital pillar if the market is to recover more substantially.

Demand, as has traditionally been the case, was ferocious for the sprinkling of exceptional works cropping up in the sales, including a rare, Qing dynasty "zitan" emperor's dragon throne which was sold to a Chinese buyer for $11.07 million.

"The Chinese (antiques) market is stronger than any other market, it's going to keep going up, because it's getting thinner on the ground and more people are buying it, especially in China," said London-based Asian art dealer Nader Rasti.

UNSOLD LOTS   Continued...