• Market
  • Jun 04, 2024

Phillips Hong Kong Finds Bright Spots in the Spring 2024 Sales

Auctioneer Danielle So selling lot 149, Zao Wou-Ki, 25.11. 81. Courtesy Phillips Hong Kong. 

In contrast to the trepidation seen at Christie’s Hong Kong, Phillips Hong Kong regained some momentum amid a slowing art market. The 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening and Day Sales, held from May 31 to June 1 at the West Kowloon Cultural District headquarters across from M+, generated HKD 296 million (USD 37.9 million) in sales, up 22 percent from the October 2023 total of HKD 243 million (USD 31 million). Compared to Phillips’s launch in the new space in late March 2023, last week’s sale marked a 50-percent decline from the total 12 months ago of HKD 472.5 million (USD 60.2 million). 

JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT, Native Carrying Some Guns, Bibles, Amorites on Safari, 1982, acrylic and oil stick on canvas on wood supports, 183 × 183 cm. Courtesy Phillips Hong Kong. 

The Evening Sale on May 31 highlighted Jean-Michel Basquiat’s bitterly sardonic colonial caricatures in Native Carrying Some Guns, Bibles, Amorites on Safari (1982), which realized HKD 99 million (USD 12.7 million), edging out another Basquiat painting, Campaign (1984), which sold for USD 10 million at Sotheby’s New York on May 13. The sale of the lot at Phillips comprised 47 percent of the night’s total sale of HKD 210 million (USD 26.9 million). 

BANKSY, The Leopard and Lamb, 2016, acrylic on ply, in artist’s frame, 148 × 172 cm. Courtesy Phillips Hong Kong. 

Notorious street artist Banksy’s acrylic painting The Leopard and Lamb (2016), an alley scene loaded with biblical symbolism, summoned HKD 36.7 million (USD 4.7 million), exceeding its high estimate of HKD 28 million (USD 3.58 million). The first lot of the night, Japanese artist Teppei Takeda’s abstract portrait Painting of Painting 026 (2019), rendered in bold white, black, and red brushstrokes, took home HKD 1.8 million (USD 236,000), a six-fold increase from the house’s estimate. Meanwhile, abstractions by millennial painters Lucy Bull and Lauren Quin both beat their high estimates. Only one lot remained unsold—a Zao Wou-Ki from 1997—among the 24 available items after two works were withdrawn, including a 2016 Gerhard Richter abstraction. 

ZAO WOU-KI, 25.11.81, 1981, oil on canvas, 81 × 100 cm. Courtesy Phillips Hong Kong. 

Sustained interest continued at the 20th Century & Contemporary Day Sale on June 1. Zao Wou-Ki dominated the chart with his abstraction of algal colors 25.11.81 (1981) at HKD 12 million (USD 1.5 million), above its estimation of HKD 10 million (USD 1.28 million). Several artworks’ sale prices multiplied from their estimates, including American pop artist Kenny Scharf’s re-enactment of The Flintstones characters in Coffee Klatch (2004) for HKD 2.2 million (USD 276,000), above and beyond its estimate of HKD 600,000 (USD 77,000). Japanese artist Sadamasa Motonaga’s abstract geometrical clouds in Right Left Red (1970) climbed to HKD 1.9 million (USD 244,000), almost four times its estimate of HKD 500,000 (USD 64,000). Among the 107 lots, only 10 went unsold, yielding a turnover approaching 91 percent. Against expectations, the shrinking market did not deter collectors’ enthusiasm.

While Christie’s and Sotheby’s maintain their duopoly with HKD 2 billion (USD 255 million) sold in auctions in Hong Kong in the first half of 2024, Phillips maintains a consistent third place, with 13 percent of the total market sales— even during the market’s recession where new opportunities emerged along with a few risks. With the sales from the first half of 2024 largely wrapped up, the next season will be crucial in determining the market’s bigger trends.

Alex Yiu is associate editor at ArtAsiaPacific.

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