Chinese art sales weak in Sotheby's HK auction

Wed Oct 8, 2008 7:13am EDT
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By James Pomfret

HONG KONG (Reuters) - The global financial crisis doused the Chinese art market boom on Wednesday, with Sotheby's saying it sold HK$1.1 billion ($141.6 million) worth of Asian art in its biannual sales in Hong Kong, around half the expected total.

Sotheby's pre-sale estimate for the five-day auction series had been over HK$2 billion, but numerous categories of artwork including jewelry, Chinese imperial ceramics, Chinese contemporary and 20th century paintings, were riven with unsold lots as global buyers and collectors sat on the sidelines.

"When it comes to certain high value pictures, maybe our sellers have been a little over-optimistic with estimates and certainly in a category which has gone up so many times in the last few years. It is only normal," Patti Wong, Sotheby's Asia Chairman told Reuters.

"While we didn't reach our series' low estimate, this is the third highest sales total ever achieved for Sotheby's Hong Kong."

The weak showing marks a symbolic turning point for the seemingly unstoppable Chinese art market, which has steamed ahead on a flood of new Chinese wealth and the country's growing international cultural stature and feted star artists.

With global credit markets frozen up amid the financial meltdown, sentiment appears to have finally weakened during Sotheby's biannual event, seen as a key barometer for Chinese art market sentiment, along with sales in London and New York.


In Sotheby's marquee autumn evening sale of Asian contemporary art over the weekend, 19 of 47 prominent works went unsold and others barely hit low estimates.   Continued...