On Tuesday night in Hong Kong, Phillips held a modern and contemporary art sale that brought in a hammer total of HKD 370.4 million ($47.5 million) and a grand total, with premiums, of HKD 454.6 ($58.2 million). Staged in collaboration with the Chinese auction house Poly, it well exceeded its pre-sale low estimate of HKD 294.6 million ($37.8 million), which is calculated without the buyer’s premiums included.
The sale saw 50 of the 52 works on offer sell, with six lots withdrawn before the start of the sale. The result is on par with the first Phillips-Poly evening sale, which made $50 million for a smaller cache of 29 lots in December 2020. Five of the lots offered in the sale, including those by Auguste Rodin and David Hockney, were guaranteed. Together, the lots had a collective low estimate of HKD 42.9 million ($5.5 million), accounting for 15 percent of the sale’s low estimated total.
Phillips executives have said the collaboration with their Bejing-based partner Poly is a move to reach more buyers in mainland China. The results from the Phillips-Poly series of sales demonstrate the pan-Asian market’s ascent as a dominant buying region, one largely unscathed by the pandemic setback. “It was clear that Asia’s importance in the global art market continues to grow exponentially,” Jonathan Crockett, Phillips’s chairman of Asia, said in a statement.
Tuesday’s sale featured works by Yoshitomo Nara, Yayoi Kusama, and Matthew Wong, all of whom have become staples in marquee Asian auctions. But the sale also brought records for seven artists with rising markets—Javier Calleja, Scott Kahn, Izumi Kato, Robert Nava, Billie Zangewa, Godwin Champs Namuyimba and Susumu Kamijo—signaling strong demand for emerging artists.
The sale’s top lot was Gerhard Richter’s vibrant abstract canvas Kerzenschein (Candle-light) from 1984. Two bidders—represented by Scott Nussbaum, Phillips senior international specialist of 20th century and contemporary art, and a Bejing client on the phone with Phillips regional director of China Wenjia Zhang—vied for the work. It hammered for HKD 86 million ($11 million), going to Wenja’s client for a final price of HKD 102 million ($13 million with premium).
Next up was Yayoi Kusama’s pink-and-white-patterned canvas INFINITY-NETS (OPRT) from 2004. The work attracted two bidders from Hong Kong. The hammer fell within its estimate at HKD $18.5 million ($2.4 million, with a final price of $2.9 million).
Also among the top sellers was the late market darling Matthew Wong’s Far Away Eyes (2017). After a nearly 10-minute bidding war between clients on the phone with specialists based in Hong Kong and Bejing, the orange-hued landscape scene hammered at HKD 17.3 million ($2.2 million), double the HKD 8 million ($1 million) low estimate. It went for a final price of $2.7 million to a buyer on the phone with Phillips head of contemporary art in Hong Kong, Isaure de Viel Castel. While the painting may have exceeded expectations, it still is well below the artist’s auction record of $4.8 million set at Phillips Hong Kong in 2020.
Emerging artists attracted attention from international bidders. The sale’s opening lot, South African painter Cinga Samson’s Ivory V (2018), drew bids from London, Bejing, Hong Kong, and online. It eventually sold for $HK 2.5 million ($323,000) to the same buyer of the Richter, 10 times the $32,000 low estimate. Salman Toor’s East Village Iqbak Bano (2018) sold for HKD 4,5 million ($582,000) after a protracted bidding battle between clients Bejing, Hong Kong, and online. The sale comes ahead of Toor’s first museum show in China, opening at M Woods in Bejing in 2022.