Among collectors, Sotheby’s spring auction in Hong Kong is one of the most highly anticipated events of the year. This year was particularly significant because it was the first time Western contemporary art was offered at the evening sale, held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
The five-day event raked in a grand total of HK$3.17 billion.
Sotheby’s President and CEO Tad Smith said of the auction’s success: “Outstanding results in our traditional categories of Chinese ceramics and paintings were joined by records across a range of collecting fields including western contemporary art and jewellery, affirming Hong Kong as an anchor of the global art market.”
Here are some of the most remarkable items sold at the spring auction.
Mao by Andy Warhol
Mao is an iconic painting of an iconic leader, rendered by an equally iconic artist in his own right – American pop art pioneer Andy Warhol. It’s little wonder, then, that all eyes were on Mao at the spring auction. A private Asian collector bought the piece for HK$98.5 million, setting a record for any Western contemporary artwork ever sold at auction in Asia. The painting was expected to fetch HK$115 million.
The painting was created in 1973, a year after the historic moment when US President Nixon visited China and Chairman Mao.
Lush Mountains in Misty Gleam by Zhang Daqian
In the Fine Chinese Paintings category, Lush Mountains in Misty Gleam by late Chinese artist Zhang Daqian was the top seller, going for more than HK$31 million. Painted in 1967, the medium is splashed ink and colour on gold paper. The artist’s distinctive splashed-colour style (pocai) can be partly attributed to eye problems he experienced later in his career when his eyesight started deteriorating.
Fancy intense blue diamond ring
Another record setter in its respective category, this fancy intense blue diamond ring was snapped up for HK$37.2 million. The ring, set in white gold, boasts an emerald-cut, 3.13-carat blue diamond flanked by two step-cut diamonds and an oval band encrusted with circular-cut diamonds.
Dry-Lacquer Head of Avalokitesvara, Tang Dynasty
This sculpture of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, an important Buddhist figure, went for HK$21.7 million. This extremely rare item was made using a dry-lacquer technique during the High Tang period, likely during the reign of Emperor Xuanzang (712-756). This particular piece is in near-pristine condition.
Explosion 64-1, Shimamoto Shozo
This colourfully chaotic oil on canvas painting by late Japanese artist Shimamoto Shozo sold for HK$20.5 million. The painting was created in 1964 using the artist’s signature ‘bottle crash’ method, in which glass bottles filled with paint are hurled at large canvases. As said best by the artist himself: “Even if my method seems shocking and violent – crushing bottles and shooting cannons at the canvas … I’m just working on creating beauty.”
Xuande Fish Pond lobed bowl
This fine china set a new auction record for early Ming porcelain when it sold for HK$229 million. It’s safe to bet that the buyer probably won’t be using it to serve up fried noodles. The tranquil scene depicts four fish swimming past lotus flowers: a carp, mandarin fish and two kinds of bream, all set in a beautiful cobalt blue.
The Macallan in Lalique – The Legacy Collection
For whisky collectors, The Lalique Legacy Collection is highly coveted. The collection features a set of six crystal decanters filled with The Macallan’s rarest single malts, aged 50 to 65 years old, plus six rare miniature bottles and six pairs of Lalique Macallan glasses. This exclusive, limited edition collection went for HK$7.7 million, setting a record for any lot of whisky ever sold at auction.
Text: Emily Petsko