The gavel is silent, and the final tally is in: Sotheby’s sold 3.21 billion Hong Kong dollars (US$412.4 million) worth of wine, art, antiques, jewelry and watches in this year’s autumn sales in Hong Kong. The city became the world’s third-most important auction hub last year, after New York and London, and its sales are closely watched as a gauge of how Asia’s affluent classes are doing amid economic uncertainty and rattled markets. This year’s total exceeds last autumn’s HK$3 billion haul but falls short of the HK$3.5 billion Sotheby’s raked in during its April spring sales. China in particular has emerged as a major force on the art market, as the country’s rich buy ancient works that Western collectors are relinquishing, and snap up art by their own regional stars.
Zao Wou Ki’s ’10.1.68? (shown above) sold for HK$69 million. View photosThe biggest lot sold during the week was a 15th-century vase that went for HK$168.7 million. Other top lots include an ink painting by modern artist Zhang Daqian, for HK$46.6 million, and “10.1.68” by Zao Wou-Ki, an abstract painter, which sold for HK$69 million. But buyers are becoming more discerning and focusing in on the top lots, often leaving the lesser-known works untouched. Just under half of the items at Sotheby’s Chinese ceramics sale were left unsold, and about one-fifth of the lots offered at the Chinese contemporary-art sale failed to find buyers.
In Hong Kong, Sotheby’s and Christie’s group their big sales into twice-yearly, weeklong events, unlike other major auction centers where sales occur throughout the year. Christie’s starts its Hong Kong autumn sales on Nov. 25.