Art Market

A Gerhard Richter painting became the most expensive work by a Western artist sold at an Asian auction.

Justin Kamp
Oct 7, 2020 9:07PM, via Sotheby's

Gerhard Richter's Abstraktes Bild [649-2], 1987. Courtesy Sotheby's

Gerhard Richter became the most expensive Western artist to sell at an Asian auction when his 1987 abstract painting Abstraktes Bild (649-2) sold for HK$214.6 million (US$27.6 million) at Sotheby’s live-streamed Hong Kong sale of contemporary art, which took place on October 6th. The painting, representative of Richter’s textured, multi-colored abstract style, sold to the Pola Museum of Art in Hakone, Japan.

The auction achieved HK$684.1 million (US$88.2 million), breaking the auction record for contemporary art at Sotheby’s in Asia, with a sell-through rate of 92 percent by lot. The auction was part of a series of six sales of modern and contemporary art held at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, which all together achieved HK$1.67 billion (US$215.4 million). The sales also marked the Asian debut of Sotheby’s multi-camera live streamed auction format, which saw its global debut this summer.

Yuki Terase, head of contemporary art at Sotheby’s Asia, said in a press release:

2020 has been a year of change and resilience. Debuting the first live streamed auction in New York in June was a defining moment in Sotheby’s history, and tonight we made history again, adopting the pioneering format for the first time in Asia. Tonight’s star lot was Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bilder (649-2), which sold for the highest price ever achieved for any Western artwork sold at auction in Asia [...] We are furthermore extremely delighted to have witnessed intense bidding from our London and New York phone banks for tonight’s Asian highlights across the board, reflecting global interest and commitment in the genre which will drive Asia’s artistic talents to new heights.

The sale is the most recent development in a successful year at auction for the German artist. This past July saw his 1994 painting Abstraktes Bild (801-3) sell for $3.6 million at Phillips. According to Artsy data, since 2014, Richter has consistently been among the platform’s top 30 most in-demand artists.

Further Reading: Revisiting Gerhard Richter’s Rare Early Works

Further Reading: Titus Kaphar and Amoako Boafo Works Star in Phillips’s Sold-Out Virtual Evening Auction

Justin Kamp
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