Christie's Asia art sales reap $137 million

Wed May 27, 2009 12:50pm EDT
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By James Pomfret

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Auction house Christie's sold a total of $137 million worth of Asian art in its spring sales in Hong Kong, above pre-sales estimates, a sign the firm and dealers said would lift sentiment in the Asian art market.

Christie's had expected to sell $97 million for its four-day Hong Kong spring sales, but the offerings were pared back substantially from a year ago, and conservative valuations helped drum up demand.

Eighty percent of the 1,600 lots were sold for a total of HK$1.07 billion ($138 million). In the fall sale, 70 percent of the lots sold to half-empty auction halls.

The highlight of the auction series was the sale of more established categories of Chinese art, including imperial Chinese ceramics, which saw healthy bidding for top lots.

A record HK$45.4 million ($5.86 million) was paid for a pair of gilt-bronze "dragon" ritual bells from the Kangxi reign, which had been expected to sell for a third of that amount.

"There's a palpable sense of optimism and a change in mood from the end of last year," Christie's CEO Edward Dolman told Reuters on the last day of the sales.

Both Christie's and Sotheby's hold biannual Asian art auctions which are seen as a barometer for the market.

"We're not seeing much weakness, nor much downturn for high quality pieces of Chinese art," Dolman said.   Continued...

<p>An undated handout photo shows the 1950s minimalist painting "Cat and Birds" by renowned Chinese artist Sanyu which fetched a record $5.4 million at Christie's Hong Kong auction May 24, 2009, a positive sign for the Asian art market which has been battered by the global financial crisis. REUTERS/Christie's Handout</p>