Christie's sees momentum for Chinese art market

Tue Apr 13, 2010 8:46am EDT
 
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By James Pomfret

HONG KONG (Reuters Life!) - Auction house Christie's expects to sell HK$ 1.5 ($193 million) worth of predominantly Chinese artwork during its spring sales in Hong Kong, buoyed by recent positive art sales in the region.

While the estimate is similar to the total achieved at Christie's previous sales series in Hong Kong last autumn, it expects positive market sentiment from last week's record Sotheby's Asia auctions to spill into its own sales in May.

"Across the board, we're feeling quietly optimistic," Jonathan Stone, regional managing director for Christie's in Asia, said on Tuesday. His firm's biannual sales of mostly Chinese and Asian art in Hong Kong are considered a market barometer.

Given current sentiment, he said the final tally might even surpass the HK$2 billion mark ($258 million), given higher valuations for objects compared with autumn, a shrinking supply of top artwork and consistently strong demand for exceptionally rare items, even during the worst of the financial crisis.

Some 2,400 objects will be put on the auction block, including diamonds, antique carved rhino horns and an exquisite Chenghua imperial stembowl worth an estimated $1 million.

Also included are a batch of large abstract oil paintings by 20th century Chinese master Zao Wou-ki and a minimalist canvas by deceased Chinese artist Sanyu "Vase of Lilies with Red Ground" that could fetch up to $2.3 million.

Last week, rival Sotheby's racked up its highest ever tally of $256 million for a Hong Kong sales series. While Chinese contemporary art has struggled to recapture its pre-financial crisis vigor, Chinese artist Liu Ye's "Bright Road" sold for $2.4 million, a record for the artist at auction.

More established collecting categories, like 20th century Chinese paintings and ceramics, also notched up solid results, with a white jade imperial seal from the Qianlong period making $12.3 million, a world record for any jade seal at auction.   Continued...