Roleco Fine Art


Christie’s repeat sales in Contemporary Chinese Art


Nearly two months after Sotheby’s, it was Christie’s turn to host the fall sale of Contemporary Asian art in Hong Kong. Whereas Sotheby’s added considerable appeal to its sale with part 2 of Ullens collection, Christie’s strategy relied on a mixed supply with Korean, Indonesian and Japanese artists together with an opening sale of a private collection.

A private collection cantaining known works where 13 of 14 lots had been previously acquired at auctions between 2006 and 2008. This provided a good opportunity to gauge the new price levels being practised in Contemporary Chinese art. However with only 8 of the 14 lots sold towards the higher level of the estimate, the sale was a relative failure for the auctioner. One old Yue Minjun (1991) fetched 20 million HK$ compared to 18 million it generated in 2007. “The massacre of Chios” (see above) sold for HK$ 28.5 million after some enthusiastic bidding and the artist’s 4th best ever auction result. In other well known works it seems that Christies’s estimate of 25% increase over 4 years was far too optimistic.

Older artists like CHU Teh-Chun and ZAO Wou-ki sold with much more success like there was a new trend in the market. These artworks are abstract so collectors were perhaps looking for something away from the cynical realism or recognising the older artists. All the non-Chinese pieces reached past their low estimates.

With 24 of the total 57 lots having already been sold at auction and only 4 of these 24 previous sales dating back beyond 2006, Christie’s had made a very different tactical choice to Sotheby’s by opting for works tha the market was already familiar with. This strategy was nearly riskier than expected with the slow start narrowly escaping a failure. However, and fortunately, the second part of sale was saved by the good results of the Post-War artists. Christie’s had hoped to generate new records forr Contemporary artists but five of the evenings best results came from artists who are today over 90!

Next year we will know if this trend will continue or not.


Daniel Brostrom