Sales drop by half in Christie's Asian art sale in HK

Sun Nov 30, 2008 10:44am EST
 
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By James Pomfret

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Half the lots in Christie's evening sales of Asian contemporary and Chinese 20th century art went unsold on Sunday, reflecting the bleak global economic outlook and cooling Chinese art market.

Bidding was lackluster with many collectors and dealers not drawn to valuations seen as overpriced given the current market conditions. Only 56 percent of 32 lots of Asian Contemporary art sold, while 46 percent of Chinese 20th Century artwork was sold.

Eric Chang, head of Christie's Asian Contemporary Art and 20th Century Chinese Art, acknowledged the "continuing difficult financial backdrop" but said Christie's was pleased to make HK$140.6 million ($18.14 million) for the two sales.

Major works by artists like China's Zeng Fanzhi, Yue Minjun and Cai Guoqiang, Taiwan's Chen Cheng-Po and India's Subodh Gupta fell short of reserve prices -- which six months ago would most likely have attracted highly competitive bidding.

"The people who were willing to spend HK$5 million was fairly limited tonight," said Roger McIlroy, an art dealer and former deputy Chairman of Christie's in Asia.

"The prices they (the sellers) were seeking were probably more than they'd paid four years ago, with the market at the moment indicating a retraction back a few years in price levels."

One bright spot was Zao Wou-Ki's "Hommage a Tou-Fou," a large abstract work of swirling greys and reds which fetched HK$45.5 million ($5.86 million) -- an auction record for the artist.

The top lot in the Asian contemporary sale was Zhang Xiaogang's "Bloodline: Big Family No. 2" -- a large family portrait from the collection of Hollywood director Oliver Stone which sold for HK$26.4 million ($3.4 million) -- though well below its pre-sale estimate of around HK$40 million.   Continued...