March 24, 2010 / 4:04 AM / 9 years ago

"Lucky" 8 at star art auction to lure wealthy Chinese

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - A huge, red and violet number 8 by U.S. pop artist Robert Indiana will go on sale in April at a Hong Kong auction with a star-studded catalog aimed at enticing wealthy Asians to buy Western contemporary art.

The April 4 sale, by South Korea’s Seoul Auction, features works by Marc Chagall, Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso and Takashi Murakami, as well as a host of top-notch Chinese, Japanese and Korean artists.

“All of these works are of superlative quality and are specially curated to appeal to knowledgeable Asian collectors,” Misung Shim, managing director of Seoul Auction Hong Kong, said.

The contemporary art market has yet to recover from the battering it took during the global economic downturn, but by targeting collectors in China, whose economy is surging as the rest of the world grapples with the fallout, the auctioneers expect to exceed the sale’s $8 million total estimate.

“We are witnessing a growing interest and a greater level of appreciation of Western contemporary art among Asian collectors,” Seoul Auction CEO Jun Lee said.

“We have seen rapidly increasing interest in Western contemporary art within the past couple of years amongst collectors in mainland China, and we believe that China is a highly significant market with vast potential for this category.”

While the global financial downturn has failed to dull Chinese collectors’ appetite for classical Chinese art, jewels and rare artifacts, Chinese and Asian contemporary art, which was one of the hottest segments of the market pre-crisis, has yet to return to its record-breaking heyday.

Quality works by renowned Western artists, however, have seen intense bidding in Asia, with Seoul Auction selling a painting by British contemporary artist Damien Hirst for a record $2.22 million last year.

This year, Indiana’s 1.8 meter (5 ft 11 in) sculpture, the first “Eight” from his number series to ever be offered at auction, is one of the star lots, and carries an estimate price of $490,000-$580,000.

Auctionees expect that figure will be well exceeded as the number 8 is considered lucky and auspicious by many Chinese.

Indiana is well known in Asia, with sculptures, including several from the “LOVE” series, adorning streets and buildings in Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore.

Chagall’s “Le Bouquet” is another work that has never appeared in auction, and there is also a sculpture by minimalist Donald Judd (estimated price $1.6 million-$2.2 million) and a piece by influential designer Ron Arad (estimated price $110,000-160,000) on offer.

Highlights of the Chinese art section include influential artist Wang Yidong’s painting “Girl and Peaches” (estimated price $400,000-$500,000) and a wooden sculpture by Zhu Ming (estimated price $170,000-$210,000).

The sale will also include a special session of limited edition works by distinguished artists including a ceramic plate by Picasso, a Marilyn Monroe painting by Warhol, a signature blue painting by Yves Klein and works by Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons.

Editing by Sugita Katyal

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