Live Auctions To Forge Ahead in Hong Kong for October
By Lauren Long, Ariana Heffner
With most Covid-19 restrictions lifted in Hong Kong, several of the city’s major auction houses—namely Sotheby’s, Bonhams, and China Guardian Hong Kong—are staging their usual annual October sales in person. While social distancing measures are still in place, the live auctions will spur some excitement for the city’s art scene for the upcoming extended long weekend.
Sotheby’s will present its marquee sales of art, wine, jewellery, and watches from October 3–9. The preview exhibitions return to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, however, the auctions themselves will instead be held at the house’s gallery in Admiralty.
The first evening sale of the season, Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art Evening Sale, presents 15 lots on October 5 led by two oil-on-canvases by Belgian painter Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merprès (1880–1958) depicting his usual portrayals of Balinese women, the undated Two Women Dancing in the Garden and Balinese Maidens in the Garden, estimated to reach HKD 2.2–3.8 million (USD 283,860–490,300) and HKD 2–3 million (USD 258,060–387,090), respectively. Both were last sold in Singapore, with the former purchased through Sotheby’s in March 1999, and the latter through Christie’s in May 1998. Meanwhile, Sudjana Kerton’s fresh to the market figurative canvas Indonesian Village Life is expected to fetch HKD 1.8–2.8 million (USD 232,250–361,280).
Immediately following this on the same night, the Modern Art Evening Sale, with 26 lots, once again spotlights Sanyu. The late French-Chinese modernist’s vertical oil-on-masonite Nu (1950–60s) in this sale, of a nude woman in yellow, closely resembles his other, slightly larger Nu (1965) sold by the house last year, which made HKD 198 million (USD 25.2 million). The current lot, with undisclosed estimates, was purchased from Christie’s Hong Kong’s The Yageo Foundation Collection Sale in October 2004. Christie’s currently holds the auction record for Sanyu, with HKD 303 million (USD 38.7 million) achieved in Hong Kong in November 2019 with Five Nudes (1950s). Auction mainstay Wu Guanzhong’s landscape, Scenery of Northern China (1973), is the other premium lot being offered with undisclosed estimates. The large-scale oil-on-board was purchased via Christie’s Hong Kong in May 2007 for HKD 31.7 million (USD 4 million).
Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale on October 6, comprised of 39 lots, highlights Gerhard Richter’s large-scale oil-on-canvas abstraction Abstraktes Bild (649-2) (1987), which is the highest estimated Western contemporary work to arrive in Asia at HKD 120–140 million (USD 15.5–18 million). A similar, slightly larger Abstraktes Bild (1989) made GBP 19.6 million (USD 32.5 million) at Christie’s London in February 2014. Additionally, a portion of the proceeds from ten of the lots in the sale, from the collection of Natalie Chan Chu and Lawrence Chu—such as Georg Baselitz’s painting Ein Werktätiger (The Worker) (1967) depicting abstracted figures, estimated at HKD 4.5–6 million (USD 580,000–775,000)—will go towards the nonprofit Chu Foundation for its artist residency program at Tateyama, Japan, slated to begin in 2021.
On October 8, the house’s Fine Chinese Paintings sale will feature 138 lots, led by Wu Guangzhong’s ink-and-color-on-paper Chongqing, The Mountain City (1979), which is expected to make HKD 22–30 million (USD 2.84–3.87 million). From the collection of the prominent, late French-Chinese artist Chu Teh-Chun, who was a life-long friend of Wu’s, this is among three other landscapes by Wu in this sale also previously owned by Chu.
At Bonhams, the Southeast Asian Modern and Contemporary Art sale of 30 lots on October 6 at its saleroom in Admiralty features Georgette Chen’s rare, fresh to the market portrait, The Sam Sui Worker (1961), estimated between HKD 1.2–1.8 million (USD 154,830–232,250). The sale was originally scheduled for July.
China Guardian Hong Kong will also return to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from October 8–10 for its first major auction series of 2020. Its Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art sale of 173 lots on October 10 will include a themed section “Faces in the Era,” featuring figurative paintings by 33 artists such as Yun Gee’s Portrait of Woman in Chair (1940). Depicting the artist’s first wife, the French aristocrat Paule de Reuss, the painting is expected to make HKD 2.5–4 million (USD 322,600–516,100). Another highlight of the sale is a pair of bronze sculptures by a Hong Kong favorite, the Taiwanese artist Ju Ming, Taichi Series: Cloud Hands, Stomp (1996–99), which the house is hoping to achieve for HKD 9.6–15 million (USD 1.23–1.93 million).
Lauren Long is news and web editor at ArtAsiaPacific; Ariana Heffner is an editorial intern.
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