Phillips Leads Spring Auctions in Hong Kong With $12.6 M. Basquiat Painting

The recent results of Christie’s and Phillips modern and contemporary evening auctions in Hong Kong provided additional data indicating a shift in the art market after several years of blockbuster estate sales and high-profile consignments.

The sales included plenty of guarantees and several works by artists whose momentum has cooled amid higher interest rates, ongoing geopolitical conflict, and concerns over the upcoming US national election.

While Phillips’ spring evening sale in Hong Kong had only 24 lots, the auction house managed to ride the ongoing wave of demand for Jean-Michel Basquiat by selling Native Carrying Some Guns, Bibles, Amorites on Safari for HK$99 million or U$12.6 million, the highest amount for the season across all the auction houses and categories in Hong Kong. The work carried an estimate of HK$90 million to HK$120 million.

Phillips was also the only auction house to consign a work by Banksy. The popular street artist was absent from this past New York spring auction season but The Leopard and Lamb sold at Phillips Hong Kong on May 31 for HK$36.8 million or $4.7 million on an estimate of HK$18 million to $28 million.

Phillips said its Modern and Contemporary art spring sales in Hong were 22 percent higher compared to last season, with works by Zao Wou-Ki, Yoshitomo Nara, Yayoi Kusama, and Andy Warhol accounting for six out of the top ten lots.

Christie’s said in a press release that its Asia Spring auctions on May 28 and 29 generated a total of HK$963 million ($124 million), with “close to 90% sold by lot and by value and over 40% of lots sold over high estimate.” However, last year Christie’s spring auctions in Hong Kong generated HK$1.24 billion ($159 million), indicating a drop of 22 percent in sales including fees.

Other declines included the number of works which sold for above HK$10 million ($1.3 million) compared to last year (22 for 2024, versus 36 for 2023). There were also fewer lots (81 in 2024; 88 in 2023) in this year’s 20th and 21st Century evening sales compared to the 20th/21st Century and Post-Millennium evening sales, as well as more works that did not sell (14 in 2024; 12 in 2023).

A bright yellow acrylic and silkscreen Flowers painting from 1965 by Andy Warhol was the top lot, at HK$66.625 million with fees ($8.5million USD), on an estimate of (HK $62.8 million – HK $92.8 million). Other top sellers included Zao Wou-Ki’s 10.01.68 for HK $63.175 million, or approximately $8.13 million (estimate of HK$68 million to HK$ 98 million), Yayoi Kusama’s 83-inch tall sculpture Pumpkin (2012) for HK $48.775 million, or $6.28 million (estimate of HK$40 million to HK$60 million), and Rene Magritte’s 1944 painting of a rose L’Invitation au voyage for HK $42.725 million or just under $5.5 million (estimate of HK$28 million to HK$38 million).

Eight of the top ten lots across Christie’s four sales on May 28 and May 29 had guarantees, with the exception of Yoshitomo Nara’s Portrait of AE (2009) and Rock You! (2006).

It’s worth noting that Paul Cezanne’s La Montagne Sainte-Victoire vue des Lauves (circa 1902-1906) sold for HK$22.16 million or $4.5 million, on an estimate of HK$20 million to HK$30 million. That figure was a drop from when the consignor purchased the work in June 2014 from Christie’s in London for £3.55 million or about $6 million.

The selling price for Zao Wou-Ki’s 10.01.68 was also lower than when it previously appeared at auction at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in November 2018, when it sold for HK$68.9 million or $8.8 million, as the lead lot for a sale of Abstract artworks in the house’s Brushwork series.

Breakout results included a Salvo for HK$3.2 million (estimate HK$1 million to HK$1.5 million), a Marina Perez Simao painting for HK$2.1 million (estimate of HK$700,000 to HK$1.2 million), and a Ben Sledsen work for HK$1.6 million (estimate of HK$200,000 to HK$400,000). Works by Michaela Yearwood-Dan, Miriam Cahn, Lee Bae, Xia Yu, Katherine Bernhardt, and Sholto Blissett also sold above high estimates.

Christie’s said world auctions records were also set for Rhee Seundja, Nguyen Tu Nghiem, Skygolpe, Ay-o, Sholto Blissett, Jeong Young-do, Son Dong-Hyun, Daniel Correa Mejia, Jeon Hyun-Sun and Kim Su-Yeon.

Notably, two works by Nicholas Party did not sell (one had an estimate of HK$22 million to HK$28 million, or $2.8 million to $3.6 million), as well as a Wayne Thiebaud (estimate of HK$30 million to HK$40 million, or $3.8 million to $5.1 million), which had the third highest estimate of the house’s 21st Century sale.

Christie’s also officially announced at the end of its sales that it would hold its inaugural auctions at its new Asia Pacific headquarters at The Henderson building in Central district on September 26 and September 27, starting with sales of 20th and 21st Century art.

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