Art Market

A $33-million Sanyu painting pushed Sotheby’s modern art sale in Hong Kong to a total of $107 million.

Justin Kamp
Jul 9, 2020 4:44PM, via Sotheby’s

The sale on Wednesday in Sotheby’s salesroom in Hong Kong. Photo courtesy Sotheby’s.

Less than two weeks after Sotheby’s marathon virtual auction brought in $363.2 million across three separate categories, the auction house’s sale of modern art in Hong Kong on Wednesday night achieved its second-highest total ever in the category, raking in HK$826 million (US$107 million) in sales.

The auction, which marked the first marquee sale of the year at the firm’s Hong Kong location, achieved a near-perfect sell-through rate, with all but one of the 35 lots finding buyers. The sale also saw four new auction records for artists Chu Teh-Chun, Guan Zilan, Pang Jiun, and Chen Ting-Shih.

Sanyu, Quatre Nus, 1950s. Sold for HK$258,341,000 (US$33.3 mill). Courtesy Sotheby’s.

Top lots

  • French-Chinese artist Sanyu’s 1950s masterwork Quatre nus racked up 21 bids before selling for HK$225 million (US$29 million), or HK$258 million (US$33.3 million) with fees. While the piece didn’t achieve its pre-sale estimate of HK$250 million ($32.2 million), it still managed to become the late artist’s second-highest ever auction price behind his comparable 1950s work Five Nudes, which achieved HK$303.9 million (US$38.8 million) at Christie’s in November 2019.

Zao Wou-Ki, 20.03.60, 1960. Sold for HK$114,827,000 (US$14.8 million). Courtesy Sotheby’s.

  • Zao Wou-Ki’s recent market dominance continued when his seminal “Hurricane Period” work 20.03.60 (1960) soared past its high estimate of HK$85 million (US$10.9 million) to achieve HK$114.8 million (US$14.8 million). The work was one of seven Zao pieces to appear at the auction, all of which sold for a combined total of HK$318.5 million ($41 million).
  • Chu Teh-Chun’s monumental abstract pentaptyque Les éléments confédérés (1983–84) sold for HK$113.6 million (US$14.6 million) after a rapid-fire four-way bidding war, shattering the high estimate of HK$500,000 (US$64,514) by a factor of more than 200 and achieving a new auction record for the late Chinese-French painter.
  • Guan Zilan’s 1930s work Portrait of a Young Girl nearly doubled its high estimate of HK$5 million (US$645,140) to sell for HK$9.7 million (US$1.2 million), a new auction record for the painter.

Chu Teh-Chun, Les Éléments Confédérés, 1983–84. Sold for HK$113,688,000 (US$1). Courtesy Sotheby’s.

After the sale, Sotheby’s Head of Modern Asian Art, Vinci Chang, said in a statement:

The stellar result of tonight’s sale is testament to the market’s undiminished appetite for top quality masterpieces. Clients who were not able to join us in person this season were enthusiastically bidding on the telephones—translating into an exceptionally strong auction total, with some stand-out individual results, and new auction records for a number of artists including for Chu Teh-Chun—a fitting tribute in the year that marks the centenary of the artist’s birth.
Justin Kamp
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019